Penny Kneebone

Company: Tonkin + Taylor New Zealand

Job title: Chief Executive

About Penny 

I’m an environmental scientist and have been working in professional services consultancies in the United States and Aotearoa since 2000. I love the work we get to do together as consultants for our clients, communities and the environment, particularly the intermingling of engineering, environmental, design, sustainability and social thinking that our companies of all sizes enable and the bringing together of different minds and lived experience to tackle problems that matter.

I have a PhD in Environmental Engineering Science (Caltech) and a real interest in how we can build better, more inclusive consulting businesses, large and small, and how our sector can best contribute to a thriving Aotearoa.

I know I have a long way to travel in elevating the importance of Te Ao Māori in our sector. I have started the haerenga with the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Tikanga Māori course and through working with and learning from colleagues.

I’m currently Chief Executive for Tonkin + Taylor New Zealand. One of many highlights in that role has been closer connection with the great work that ACE New Zealand is doing for its members and for our sector.

Pepeha or whakapapa/family history

Ko More Assynt te maunga
Ko Assynt te roto
Ko Breadalbane te waka
Ko Fraser te iwi
Ko Symons te hapu
Ko Kneebone te whanau
Ko Penny toku ingoa

The branch of my family I feel most closely connected to came to New Zealand from the Scottish highlands. I grew up near Hinuera in the Waikato with three older brothers. Twenty moves later, via Dunedin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Wellington and Invercargill, I now live in Tāmaki Makaurau with a small schnauzer who enjoys regular visits back to the farm.

What is your strategic vision for ACE New Zealand?

ACE New Zealand does fantastic work as the consultant’s champion, amplifying members’ voices, providing tools and support to boost the professionalism and profile of our sector, enabling members small to large to do our best work. I love the role ACE New Zealand plays in creating a rising tide for all members on issues that matter most. We’ve seen that with contract risk management, effective advocacy that cuts through the noise, diversity, wellbeing, and celebrating consulting at its best. ACE New Zealand has built a well-deserved reputation as a trusted, coherent, well-informed and thoughtful voice for our sector.

My vision for ACE New Zealand is to up the ante on making our sector the most attractive and inclusive place for Aotearoa’s top problem solvers, designers, connectors, communicators, creators and STEMM (STEM plus mātauranga) professionals. I see ACE New Zealand being an increasingly influential voice for members, engaging constructively on how our sector can contribute to the productivity of Aotearoa. I see ACE New Zealand serving all member companies, small to large, by staying focused on what matters most to members for a more efficient, effective, trusted, and thriving sector.

What strengths would you bring to the ACE Board?

A deep sense of purpose. I love the consulting sector and the special role consulting plays in enabling well-designed infrastructure that helps communities thrive and our environment flourish. As Chief Executive of a mid-size, employee-owned, environmental and engineering consultancy with deep roots in Aotearoa and a healthy desire to connect with the world, I feel a deep sense of purpose in being part of ACE New Zealand’s excellent work to create a strong engineering and consulting sector for us all.

A commitment to diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing. I am particularly committed to the ongoing effort to make our sector more inclusive for all, with a reputation for being the best professional services sector for excellent wellbeing through purpose-driven work. I’ve been on ACE New Zealand’s Mindspace steering committee, and I am Executive Sponsor for T+T’s Rainbow Committee.

A collaborative approach and experience managing short-term and long-term risk and opportunity.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

To me, true diversity and inclusion means full and deep contribution from everyone, from different perspectives, world views and lived experiences. Many of us have experienced aspects of being “other” through our careers and paid the mental and emotional tax required to navigate that. We know that non-diverse, non-inclusive work environments not only waste energy but also diminish the depth of contribution. The work we do in our sector is so much better, richer and more effective when it is grounded in different perspectives, world views and lived experiences. We know we do our very best work when we listen to all voices, look from many angles, and think with different minds and world views. Through the Diversity Agenda Accord, ACE New Zealand has done terrific work for our sector daylighting diversity, equity and inclusion – where we’ve come from, how far we have to go, and the wonderful opportunity ahead if we keep moving toward our sector being a place of true belonging for all.

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