top of page


Emma Jay

Emma Jay is a Graduate Water Resources Engineer in our Auckland office. She talks about what made her choose engineering and what her work involves here at Riley.

Emma Jay.jpg

Tell us a bit about yourself, why did you want to become an Engineer?

I have always been environmentally minded and that has steered me on my career path. Before I became an Engineer I had completed my Bachelor of Science (Chemistry & Environmental Science) and had been working as a Lab Technician testing water quality. I really enjoyed this work but found I wanted to extend myself more to helping with solutions not just monitoring, so I decided to go back to University and do my Master of Engineering (Environmental).

Two of the papers that I really enjoyed were on water treatment and sustainability and risk. There was one assignment where I needed to do a lifecycle assessment and I really enjoyed being able to consider the whole picture, and what the more sustainable options were. It really reinforced what I wanted to focus on in engineering and why I was going down that path.

What is your current role and what do you enjoy about it?

Once I completed my Masters, I was offered a role at Riley as a Graduate Water Resources Engineer. In my role I have some great opportunities to look at the bigger picture and be part of some great solutions. It is important to me that you go to work each day, enjoy your work and projects, and have a sense of doing meaningful work and I feel like I have that in my current role.


I have recently worked on a project where I was helping design and build a reservoir that will service farming and agriculture in the region. It will have a positive impact on creating employment opportunities in a region where the younger age groups, especially females, have been impacted by a decline in the number of jobs available. For me, this is an example of why I became a Water Resources Engineer and what great engineering solutions can achieve.


The most rewarding part of my job is looking at the bigger picture, the purpose of the work that we are doing, and the outcome of helping people and communities. 

Emma 1.jpg

What is it like moving from university to working at Riley?

You still learn new things every day, like you do at University. There is continual on-the-job learning, whether it is learning from others in the team or doing your own research on a particular technical piece on a project. You also get to attend training and conferences, for example last year I went to the hydropower conference in Christchurch where I learnt lots of different aspects of water. There were a series of speakers networking events and it was great to listen to people so passionate about water. My favourite speaker talked about the new developments in hydro power and energy and educating the community on how it could look.

What does a typical day at work entail?

You get to plan your own day and I like to try and split my days out so I can focus on projects in bigger blocks of time.  You plan office work around any site visits you have, research that needs to be done, training, or anything else that may be going on. 


Every day is different, one day I could be flying in by helicopter to a remote site with a tramping pack full of equipment, sporting waders and in knee deep water monitor river volumes. The next I could be office based modelling or writing up reports.  


You are generally self-sufficient, but in our team everyone bounces ideas off each other regardless of what experience you have so you get to have some great conversations and exposure to a lot of different projects.  We also have weekly team meetings on a Monday, and we also just started doing ‘HEC-RAS’ catch ups, which is where we share tips and tricks of things that we have learnt along the way.


Sometimes you are asked to take on projects, or work alongside others on a project, but if you are interested in working on a particular project you are encouraged to put your hand up. 

Tell us about your team

I find them all really smart. It is a cool thing to come into work and be surrounded by people that are inspiring. Everyone is different, some are quiet, some are more outgoing but everyone is really approachable and happy to share their thoughts.


Each year we have university students join our team for the summer. I have been able to work alongside them and you learn what they are interested in and try to tailor their work to that. Sometimes we work alongside each other on a project and other times we are both learning and doing research on our work.   


We also work with our other discipline teams, for example if you are designing a dam, you often need a lot of geotechnical information about the soil conditions, so you will get to work with the other staff.

What would you tell someone about working at Riley?

I think the key cool thing about Riley is that you are given a lot of responsibility and lots of variety in everything you do.  I have been challenged in my time working here and I really enjoy it, I always want to be learning rather than staying stagnant.  There is an opportunity to work on different projects and learn something new every day, with a great supporting team around you.

bottom of page