Jo O’Brien has forged a successful and rewarding career at Tonkin, having worked her way up from a Civil Engineer role to being a key senior member of our Queensland team.
While Jo is originally from Adelaide, her love of travel has taken her on many adventures while also building her career. After finishing her Civil Engineering degree, Jo worked for another engineering consultancy for a few years, before her friend who worked at Tonkin recommended she join us.
“I had a friend from uni who was working at Tonkin, and I was working at another consultancy where I wasn’t really happy. My friend told me lots of amazing things about Tonkin and she worked in the stormwater team, which was an area I wanted to get some more experience in.”
Since initially joining Tonkin as a Project Engineer in the Adelaide stormwater team in 2010, Jo has worked in several of Tonkin’s offices around Australia. This has aligned well with her love of travel and trying new things, while also allowing her to build her experience and leadership skills. Only six years out of uni, Jo became the manager for one of Tonkin’s offices, and has undertaken key leadership roles within the business since. She’s now Leader – Local Government and Development Queensland and has been based in Tonkin’s Brisbane office since 2018.
Jo developed her leadership and business skills though a mix of on-the-job opportunities and formal training. In 2022, she took part in Tonkin’s Leadership Development Program – one of the company’s many training and development opportunities. Jo is also active among professional groups and associations and is currently President of IPWEAQ South East Queensland.
We asked Jo what she values in a workplace, and she highlighted that it’s important that she has a level of autonomy in her role.
“One of the key things for me is a reasonable amount of responsibility or autonomy to make decisions, whether that be project related, dealing with the team or how I choose to work – and to be backed up in my decisions. Tonkin provides that.”
Projects that make a real difference
When it comes to the types of projects that Jo likes working on most, she makes a point of telling us that while Tonkin has its fair share of big projects, it's often the smaller projects that she finds most rewarding.
“When you’re working in regional areas, you can see that difference that you can make to a community and deliver something that they really need, for example, improving people’s access to essential services – like water and safe roads,” Jo tells us with a big smile on her face.
“What I like most about Tonkin is the diversity of projects and the diversity of roles I’ve had the opportunity to undertake. Some of the more unique projects I’ve worked on have included designing a fish ladder to help fish travel up a weir, designing the relocation of a rodeo site and working on the planning for an ecological park. There are always different projects and different challenges, which keeps things interesting!”
Building a strong team
In addition to her professional and leadership skills, one of the things we love most about Jo is her enthusiasm for engaging her team and helping foster a fun work environment; if there’s a team building activity underway, you can trust that Jo will be there with bells on!
When we asked Jo what gets her excited about the future at Tonkin, her enthusiasm about the growth of Tonkin’s Queensland team was clear:
“Since we started our Brisbane CBD office, it’s seen exponential growth – we started with four people, and now we have more than forty people! Our growth is set to keep going into the future, particularly with the Brisbane 2032 Summer Olympics and the associated infrastructure in the pipeline. We’re well positioned to keep growing our team of civil and structural engineers in Queensland.”
Are you a civil engineeer ready to build a rewarding career with Tonkin like Jo? We’re always looking for great people to join our teams across Australia, and particularly in Tonkin’s Brisbane and Maroochydore / Sunshine Coast offices.