2024 ACE Awards Convenor Rebecca Jackson talks submissions

Environmental engineer, professional development mentor and coach, and 2024 ACE Awards convenor Rebecca Jackson talks about the consultant’s unique contribution and creating an award-winning entry.

What are the judges looking for in this year’s awards’ submissions? 

We want to see the consultant's unique contribution with the emphasis on what they have done and the special pieces they want to celebrate. We look at four different areas – technical expertise, creation of sustainable value, consulting experience, and client satisfaction - and we want to know what the consultant’s unique contribution is to each aspect. 

The consulting experience aspect is about the business of consulting – how the consultant was clever in their consulting work. Technical expertise is about innovation, elegance, and solving challenging problems. Creation of sustainable value is when the consultant goes above and beyond in one or more areas of risk, resilience, social, community, and environmental sustainability. We get written and verbal feedback from the client and stakeholders. We never speak to the entrant. 

You can enter the awards for any type of consulting activity so long as you can demonstrate excellence in those four key areas. Each year we are seeing more diverse entries, which I love. 

Do the judges have any tips about putting an entry together? 

A key message is that we are technical people so we like technical content. The best entries are those that clearly highlight what is special about the entry in the four key areas I mentioned earlier. Entries should be 20 pages or less, with any detailed technical information like drawings added in an appendix. And avoid marketing hype! 

Sharing the inputs from clients, contractors and other stakeholders in an entry is great for context but is not something we substantially consider in judging. Please focus all your effort on emphasising the great work you did, not the great work someone else did. 

And, if more than one consultant is named in the entry, we want to understand about each consultant’s relationship to the work submitted and what they contributed, especially if they’re ACE members. This is all outlined in the entry criteria. 

Has the nature of the entries changed over the years? 

In recent years, we have seen an increase in entries involving climate change response and sustainability, which I personally find fascinating and exciting because we can see how our members are having a global impact. We are also seeing an increase in clients and consultants partnering with mana whenua. 

Natural disasters, changes in government, climate change, a global pandemic and the rise of digital engineering have heavily shaped the nature of entries over the years.   

Do the recent changes in your working life benefit your role as convenor?  

I was an environmental engineer for Tonkin + Taylor for about twenty years before joining the Hamilton City Council Three Waters unit two years ago. The change has been an advantage for me in my role as convenor because it gives me perspective on what clients want and what’s happening (or not happening in the case of Three Waters) in a government space. In my spare time (ha-ha!), I work as a professional development coach and mentor. Being a coach also helps me in my convenor role because I need to be impartial, ask lots of questions and challenge the judges when needed to get robust outcomes from the judging process. 

Why do you keep coming back to judge the awards?  

A key reason I became a judge of the ACE Awards was because as judges we get to see the very best consulting in action. We see how New Zealand consultants are changing the world. It’s a very positive experience.  

I also love meeting up with the other judges. I love seeing how we each bring different opinions and perspectives, and it is this diverse thinking that makes the judging process so robust. 

I enjoy getting outside of my technical area too. I work in Three Waters but as convenor I get to read about what consultants are doing across the entire spectrum of consulting. This adds to my breadth of expertise and professional ability. I might learn about power plants, contaminated land, mechanical and industrial processes, software and much more – I'm learning about new things all the time.  

The other reason I chose to become a judge in 2016 was because there had never been any female judges (or convenors) prior. I felt I had a duty to lead the way.  

What might we expect in future ACE Awards? 

We might see more of an industry contribution aspect to the awards – where a consultant has made a cumulative contribution to the industry over several pieces of work – but we’re still expanding the guidance around this.

Connect with Rebecca Jackson on LinkedIn

Next steps

Entries for the 2024 ACE Awards close on 1 May. Click here to find out more about entering the awards.