Leading the way

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CHANGEMAKER: Alyce Lysaght is leading the way in her chosen field of engineering.
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Former Ashburton College pupil Alyce Lysaght lives by the idea you can do anything, but not everything.

This has meant focusing on the change she can make within her passion and chosen career of engineering.

Today based in Wellington, Lysaght is a graduate water engineer at engineering consultancy firm WSP New Zealand. She is also a member of Engineering New Zealand’s governing board, and one of 25 leaders on the YWCA’s Y25 initiative championing the work of changemakers nationwide.

The 24-year-old’s career journey began in Year 13 at Ashburton College. While she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she left school, the subjects she had chosen to study happened to be prerequisites for engineering.

Lysaght said she enjoyed calculus and physics, and it was her physics teacher, Bryan Bell , who encouraged her to consider studying engineering.

With an interest in climate change, she considered engineering and working in natural resources could be a good fit.

At the time, she was also developing an interest in governance. She was Green House co-captain, and remembers the opportunities a school camp at Boyle River gave her to develop leadership skills and connect with like-minded people who wanted to do good in their community. She was also a member of the Ashburton Youth Council.

Lysaght was inspired by a speech from Student Volunteer Army founder and Canterbury University student Sam Johnson when she was college.

In her second year at Canterbury University, she became involved with the army. In 2020, she was involved in its nationwide pandemic response.

By her fourth and final year at the university, Lysaght became the organisation’s vice-president.

While at university, Lysaght also participated in a student-led, peer mentoring programme, was the representative for engineering students on the Māori Students’ Association, and established a podcast called Māori  in Engineering which features leading Māori  in the engineering world.

‘‘It is no secret that Māori  are under-represented across the engineering industry. For Māori  engineering students, it can be difficult to see how the values of Te Ao Māori  can be integrated into the industry,’’ she said.

Last year she put her name forward to join the board of Engineering New Zealand, an organisation dedicated to promoting the interests of the profession.

She was unsuccessful at being voted on in the February election.

But following this, it was recognised she had skills missing from the board table, so was voted on by the organisations’ governing board as an emerging director.

The one-year term, which is up for renewal in the middle of the year, has so far given her the opportunity to be a voice for young engineers, helping pave the way for others to step into governance.

‘‘I hope to be like a bridge between the young engineers and the board. I am used to being the youngest person in the room and advocating for those not at the table.’’

Last year featured another big role for Lysaght, she was one of 25 successful candidates chosen from more than 100 nominations for the nationwide Y 25 programme.

Y 25 was developed by the YWCA, to annually celebrate under 25-year-old female and genderfluid trail blazers.

‘‘My long-term career aspiration is to empower rangatahi to pursue engineering as a career, to believe in themselves and do what they set their minds to. Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua – if we take care of the land and take care of the people, we will take care of the future,’’ she said.