An emerging leader making her mark

Olga Joensuu

Project Engineer

Olga has spent the past six years refining her skills and knowledge in civil construction, or problem solving as she likes to put it. She has worked on complex and challenging projects in both Finland and New Zealand, and is currently working on the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Rebuild (NCTIR) project.

For Olga, engineering is about using analytical skills and past experience to solve problems. If you don’t yet have that experience, she says you must ask the right questions and connect with experienced team members to find a solution.

It is her most recent experience, working on the NCTIR project for Brian Perry Civil, which has truly defined her as a leader. “I was craving a new challenge,” she says. “My project was closing out in Christchurch and I was looking for something new and different to sink my teeth into.”

The opportunity for Olga to work on something new came sooner than expected, and before she knew it she was on her way to Kaikōura to assist with the earthquake recovery efforts at Ohau Point. “I relocated at the end of August. There was a huge pressure to get State Highway 1 open for the public and the locals before Christmas that same year. My job was to take my team that I hadn’t yet met, to a site I had never been, to complete 201 bored piles, with half of these required to be complete in a few months’ time,” she says.

While the NCTIR project brought many challenges including poor ground conditions, extreme weather events, tight site conditions and limited access to materials—one of Olga’s sites was even located under a massive, active slip— she and the Ohau Point team successfully completed all 201 piles.

“At first I doubted my ability to lead an unknown crew in a construction technique that was new to me, but even with multiple setbacks along the way, I proved myself wrong.

"There is no underestimating what some willpower, the right attitude and a good team can do,”
says Olga.


There is no underestimating what some willpower, the right attitude and a good team can do.

Her good work at Ohau Point was recognised by the wider NCTIR team, and Olga was promoted from Site Engineer to Project Engineer. She has been working as part of the Main North Line Railway team, managing piling work and rail bridge repairs.

In this new role, Olga finds herself having to make decisions for and directing crew members 10 to 20 years older: an environment, she says, she has learnt to be comfortable in. “I realised that the more I am willing to ask questions and demonstrate a willingness to learn from my team who have a wealth of experience, the more comfortable they are with me giving them direction," she says.
As a young project engineer, Olga has not only held her own, but asserted herself as a natural leader.

"I've found that to be a great leader in any construction field, everything revolves around good communication. I actively encourage my team to communicate openly by brainstorming, sharing their opinions and delivering feedback."

Olga was honoured at the 2018 Z People Awards, which is run by Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ) at its annual conference. A runner-up for the Emerging Leader Award, Olga says it was an honour to be one of the 10 finalists let alone be awarded as runner-up. 

I firmly believe that anyone in the industry who believes in themselves and has the confidence to do whatever they sets their mind to, can achieve great things.