WOMEN IN GEO | MEET THE POWERHOUSE
ENGINEERS KEEPING KIWIS’ LIGHTS ON
International Women’s Day takes place on Tuesday, March 8. There’s no better time to celebrate the progress wāhine are making around us, or have honest conversations about the work left to do.
We’re honoring the wonderful women at Mercury by diving deep on what it means to be making strides in the geothermal field. Nyssa Brewer (Ngatamariki Production Engineer) and Jamie Potter (Geothermal Reservoir Engineer) sat down with us to share their stories.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do at Mercury?
Nyssa: I'm the production engineer at the Ngatamariki power station, a geothermal power station north of Taupō. I’m the rep for projects that are happening on-site, the process safety champion and I also get involved with maintenance outages and troubleshooting of station issues.
Jamie: I’m a geothermal reservoir engineer for the Mokai geothermal field. My main purpose is to monitor the field, create production and injection strategies to improve generation from the field, and also sustainably manage it for the long term.
What made you want to become an engineer?
Nyssa: I grew up in Rotorua, so I've always been surrounded by the geothermal industry. At school, I really enjoyed science and math, but I didn’t even know engineering existed until my last year of high school. It seemed like a really good fit to put my skills into practice and a career.
Jamie: I've always enjoyed the problem of energy. It’s necessary for everything we do. But it’s also about wanting to do it sustainably, and wondering how we can power society for the next hundreds of years (and do it right). I liked that it had a noticeable impact; you can turn the light on and say ‘maybe I added to that just a little bit.’
What’s been your proudest moment so far in your role?
Nyssa: One was to plan and prepare for a repair on one of our pentane pressure vessels. A thorough plan and assessment of the controls required needed to be developed. I got to work with several great engineers and the vessel was repaired safely and ahead of plan. I learnt a lot while working on this project, which is something I love about engineering.
Jamie: Mercury's been really great in that they've given me a lot of opportunities, and it's helped progress my career and my growth. One thing that stands out to me is making the Ngatamariki Model. I looked at all the data we had from the field over the past 10 years and created a new model of the subsurface geothermal reservoir to understand the resource. Even now, three or four years after I’ve made it, it’s still showing to be accurate.
You’re currently taking part in the ‘Women in Geothermal’ Future Leaders programme. What’s been your biggest learning so far from this?
Nyssa: When you're getting into management and leadership, you don't have to know everything and you don't have to be the specialist. It’s about being a good people leader and learning how to motivate, manage and lead your team, and getting the best out of them. In general, I think women feel we need to be experts and know it all before we step up, but that’s not the case.
Jamie: It's been great to meet a group of women like me who are pushing the boundaries on what we do in geothermal and really active in excelling in their roles. They're around the world, and so there's different problems in different places and it's interesting getting that global knowledge.
What’s something you’d like to make an impact on in your career?
Nyssa: I want to encourage young women to get into STEM careers and be a role model or mentor for those that do. From my own experience, there were no role models for me to look up to and it wasn’t advertised as a possible career path. So I think getting the message out that there are options for girls who like math and science and physics and encouraging them into the field is really important.
Jamie: I definitely like feeling like I'm making a difference for the better. More sustainable electricity generation, knowing more technically about geothermal fields and inspiring other women to be whatever they want to be. Go for technical careers, go for the top positions and don’t feel held back. Passing that on to others is something that I can hopefully do within my lifetime.
Do you have any advice to offer women looking to get into the same industry?
Nyssa: Just be confident and to tackle any challenges that they see. If engineering or science is something you're interested in, jump in head first. There’s an avenue out there for everyone. Even in engineering, there are so many fields, there’s a space for everyone to fit into and enjoy.
Jamie: Communication is key. Geothermal is a small community and talking to people is a really useful way to know what the options are for career paths. In university, I’d see roles like civil or mechanical engineer, but I didn’t really know what happened in the actual workplace. Talking to people is the way to get involved.