Rising Stars


Rising Stars

Are you new to the water industry and feel you have potential and appetite to progress?

The Institute of Water’s Rising Stars programme brings together a collection of unique opportunities, designed to develop the skills and professional excellence of new industry talent.

Please note: The application window for Rising Stars 2019 has closed. Thank you to everyone who applied.


About Rising Stars

The Institute of Water is dedicated to supporting the careers of people working in the UK water utility sector and the Rising Stars programme is a key feature of our ongoing work to nurture rising talent in the water sector.

This tailor-made programme was originally developed in partnership with the industry magazine company, Utility Week, to celebrate and reward Institute of Water members who have demonstrated both the potential and an appetite to progress in the water industry. The programme is now stand-alone and sits solely within the Institute of Water.

Through an application process each year, we choose eight Institute of Water members who have shown both the potential and an appetite to progress within the water industry.

For the successfully selected Rising Stars, the programme brings together a collection of unique opportunities, designed to develop the skills and professional excellence of new talent. Rising Stars particularly focuses on providing professional development in the skills areas that are not traditionally tackled or made available to individuals.

For more information about the Rising Stars 2019 programme, go here.


2018 Rising Star, Fionn Boyle, Optimisation Project Engineer, Anglian Water, said:

“This programme has enabled me to explore parts of the industry I’d otherwise never get the chance to and those experiences are invaluable for my CPD.”

See what other Rising Stars have said about the programme here.


How to apply

Applicants must be:

  • An Individual Member of the Institute of Water.
  • At an early stage in your water sector career.

Applicants will need to complete a short application form and return this along with their CV and 1000 max words describing why they consider themselves a Rising Star to lee@instituteofwater.org.uk.

Download the application form here.


Meet our Rising Stars of 2018

Kirsty Ayres

Senior Engineer, WSP

Kirsty graduated from the University of Reading with a First Class (Hons) degree in Geography (Human and Physical). She joined Mouchel as a Graduate Engineer in 2011 and has been seconded into Thames Water working on several projects including Victorian Mains Replacement (VMR) and Bulk Metering. Now a Senior Engineer at WSP, Kirsty works within Thames Water’s Strategy Planning and Assurance (SPA) team focusing on maximising the value from Thames Water’s infrastructure investment programme.

Kirsty is an active member of the Institute of Water, having chaired the “Water Company Perspective” section of the Annual Conference in May 2017 and the South East Young Person’s Forum in November 2017. She also represented IWater at the Professional Engineering Institutes Event where young members from 35 engineering institutes discussed how their institutes could better serve their needs.

Kirsty’s message to the water industry:

Wellbeing is often the forgotten cousin of health and safety. Although deadlines are a matter of course in business, stress and overwork should not be. People are more likely to be productive if their tasks are achievable and they enjoy what they do. The water industry has made enormous strides in health and safety and while conversations on wellbeing are improving, there is a long way to go.

The industry also faces significant risk of a skills shortage with so many experienced people nearing retirement. This could overburden those left behind. Therefore water companies and the supply chain must work together now to share the valuable knowledge of their experienced staff with the younger generation to bridge that gap and ensure the industry has enough people with the relevant skills to keep pace and prevent further losses through stress related illness. We must never forget that people are our most valuable asset in the water industry.

Fionn Boyle

Optimisation Project Engineer, Anglian Water

Fionn’s career in the water industry began at sixteen, taking a summer job as a General Operative for Barhale Construction. At eighteen he decided to attend university whilst continuing to work for Barhale during his holidays. In 2013 he graduated from Coventry University with an honours degree in Biological and Forensic Sciences.

At this time Fionn was unsure of the direction his degree was to take him, so re-joined Barhale full-time as a Site Technician to gain more construction experience. He was later seconded into Anglian Water’s Innovation Team and progressed into the role of Innovation Projects Manager.

As part of that team, Fionn led numerous projects within Anglian Water’s Shop Window focussing on water distribution networks. His achievements were recognised this year at the 2017 Utility Week Star’s Awards with a short listing in the Shooting Star category.

Fionn recently joined the Optimisation Team where he is developing new approaches for supply system management through Anglian Water’s ‘Smart Water Systems’ project. Fionn is studying part-time for his masters in Water and Wastewater Engineering and is working towards chartership.

Fionn’s message to the water industry:

Innovation has been the defining theme of my career to date. It plays a pivotal role in exceeding targets and we will never see progress without it. Yet, being innovative seems to always be the hardest thing for us to do.

Large scale innovation projects and ‘disruptive’ technologies have their place in driving the industry forward. However, how often does a truly disruptive technology come along and how easy are they to implement?

I am great believer that significant progress can still be achieved through focussed, incremental innovation.

But for this to happen we need leaders who focus on nurturing a culture where our staff feel comfortable to challenge the norm; propose, develop and implement new ideas regardless of their role. We need staff to be courageous, unafraid of failure, actively coming forward with their ideas.

Once this culture is established and that next disruptive technology does come along, you will see that the once treacherous road to implementation has become vastly more efficient as whole businesses collaborate to support the innovation process as a collective.

Gee Tsang

Graduate Clean Water Modeller, WSP

Gee was first introduced to the Water Industry through numerous modules within his MSc in Environmental Engineering. Alongside his studies, he joined WSP (then Mouchel) as a technician in 2016 and currently fulfils the role of Graduate Clean Water Modeller within its Clean Water Modelling Team in Belfast. Gee is currently engaged with the construction and calibration of hydraulic models of the strategic water mains infrastructure to investigate the hydraulic performance and to identify system anomalies within networks.

This project includes analysis on the performance of strategic assets and their capacity to deliver the requisite level of service to the Client’s customers, now and over a 20 year planning horizon.

Gee’s message to the water industry:

Access to water is a fundamental human right yet water scarcity is an increasing problem globally. Climate change continues to be the dominant issue in today’s political and environmental agenda for many years to come. The severity of this, coupled with population growth and industrialisation, means there is an increasing risk to water supply deficits in the UK and worldwide.
Not only do infrastructure managers need to ensure customer serviceability, it is also essential to manage Earth’s most valuable resource economically and sustainably. To this end, it is vital that water companies in this industry collaborate and implement innovative solutions through best practice that address water supply and demand in order to improve resilience across the water sector.

Hayley Dyson

Trainee Legal Executive, Yorkshire Water

After graduating with a Law degree (LLB (Hons)) from Leeds Metropolitan University, Hayley began her career in the water industry with Yorkshire Water in 2011. Whilst working as a Developer Services Technician for three and a half years, Hayley gained a distinction in every module of her HNC in Civil Engineering to complement her role.

Hayley then worked as a Regulatory Analyst on Retail Competition for two years, whilst completing a qualification in Civil Engineering Law and Contract Management (NEC 3) with the Institute of Civil Engineering at Leeds University.

Hayley is currently in her dream job in the Commercial Legal Team, training to be a legal executive in the water industry, which fulfils Hayley’s two main career goals.

Hayley has taken every opportunity to experience the water industry from different perspectives, enhancing her commitment to a successful long-term career in the water industry, and continues to do so through the Rising Stars programme and by supporting WaterAid.

Hayley’s message to the water industry:

I initially joined Yorkshire Water because I care about and have an interest in public health, sanitation, regulation and helping others. My passion for the water industry has grown immensely each year, and the more I become involved in different aspects of the water industry, the more my interest and ambition to continue to work in the industry increases.

By supporting and learning about different parts of the industry, including: WaterAid; water and sewerage law; our regulators; the environment; and about the vast range of work that is carried out by different parts of the business, I have developed a great oversight of the water industry. As a member of the Institute of Water, I am able to develop my knowledge and network of contacts even further. I would highly recommend delving into an area of the industry that you may not yet know about, for your own development as well as to develop the industry and the way in which we work together.

Tom Swain

PN Daly Leakage Contract Manager, Severn Trent Water

Tom began his career in the water industry as an Industrial Placement student with Severn Trent Water back in 2013, managing a number of their Waste Water operational sites. Tom is an Environmental Science graduate from Nottingham Trent University where he received a First Class (Hons) degree and completed a Severn Trent supported thesis into ‘The effects of sewage treatment works upon receiving water courses’.

During his year in industry, Tom was successful in applying for Severn Trent’s Business Leadership Graduate Programme in 2015. Upon returning to Severn Trent, Tom has had a number of management and leadership roles including in Severn Trent’s Incident Control Centre, running teams of Quality Inspectors for the South West Region and as a Commercial Contracts Manager for Operational Front Line Contracts. Tom’s current role is as Network Optimisation Lead for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, managing teams optimising and strategically improving Severn Trent’s water infra network and asset base.

Tom’s message to the water industry:

This is a hugely exciting time for any young individual to enter into the water industry. With PR19 on the horizon, the fluctuating price of energy pushing water companies more towards self-generation and the possibility of the household market opening, there is a huge amount of change and possibility in the industry. This following on from the recent political elections bringing the possibility of the nationalisation of the water industry, as well as recent increasing fines from the regulator, it is an uncertain time for the industry. These new changes and challenges that the water industry faces into allows both business and individuals to leave a lasting legacy for their customers and the industry. There is a huge opportunity for businesses to self-innovate to meet the regulators changing directions and to create a water industry that the UK can be proud of.

Dr Ben Ward

Drinking Water Asset Manager, South West Water

Ben is a Chartered Civil Engineer who works for South West Water as their Drinking Water Asset Manager.

His career began as an Engineering Graduate at AECOM, who supported him through his continued academic studies; MSc (Urban Water) and EngD (Infrastructure Asset Management).

Following award of his Engineering Doctorate, Ben joined AECOM’s Leadership development programme which provided exposure and management experience across AECOM’s broad engineering operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

In returning to the Water Industry, Ben continued working for AECOM as an Associate Director in their asset management business before joining South West Water in April 2017. He now holds responsibility for developing their long-term drinking water asset management strategy and performance reporting across the South West and Bournemouth regions.

Ben’s message to the water industry:

The water industry is evolving… It is rising to the challenge of managing aging infrastructure, meeting improved environmental/water quality standards and providing a better and more resilient service to customer – despite an affordability challenge which is putting pressure on companies to reduce customer bills.

Data analytics coupled with mobile, sensory and automated technologies is making it possible for us to better understand and manage asset performance. We have successfully proven the ability to manage nearly all aspects of performance in real-time, and in some cases, even predict or prevent events from happening. I believe therefore, that if we want to continue meeting these challenges, we need to expand the deployment of such technologies across our asset base and support technology companies in the accelerated development of their new ideas.

Lisa Mckenzie

Strategy Manager, Veolia

Lisa graduated from Leeds University in 2010 with a masters in Architectural Engineering and achieved a training position as a pilot with the RAF. On commencement, the training was cut due to the government defence spend review so she decided to focus on her passion for the environment, starting Veolia Water’s graduate programme in 2011.

After moving around the UK with her four engineering placements, Lisa decided to stay in Edinburgh and successfully applied for the role of operational shift manager at Scotland’s largest Waste Water Treatment Plant, Seafield. Lisa spent two years as part of the operational shift team, then decided to apply her engineering knowledge to a business role and began a secondment as Strategic Projects Manager for the Veolia Water COO, a role which has now evolved into a permanent Strategy Manager role and Lisa is enjoying the challenge of applying her technical knowledge to a business focused environment.

Lisa’s message to the water industry:

I was lucky enough to represent IoW as a young member in the 21st Century Professional Engineering Institutions working group this year and I was struck by how much passion there was between us all to share our resources with each other. We wanted to share our knowledge, events, magazines, networking and mentoring opportunities and I felt that if we manage to continue this enthusiasm and generosity into our developing careers, both individuals and industry would benefit.

My message to the water industry is to always make the most of what I’d like to call generation E (E for Enthusiasm), because as the need for a circular economy deepens, the need for collaboration and bringing together global knowledge pools will grow stronger. I think subsidiary R&I and knowledge groups will grow dramatically in number and significance and I believe Generation E can accelerate the growth of these through the power of sharing.

Lydia Makin

Water Services Graduate , Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

Lydia graduated with a first class honours degree in BSc Environment and Development from the London School of Economics. Studying topics such as Climate Change, Environmental Economics, and Sustainable Development, Lydia developed her dedication to an array of environmental causes.

After graduating, Lydia worked for a lively start-up environmental consultancy where she was able to use her passion and knowledge of the environment to design educational games for numerous companies. Among others, Lydia worked with Sainsbury’s to design a food waste game and with Thames Water to design games and workshops which she delivered in over 40 schools to spread awareness around water scarcity in London and the importance of reducing consumption.

It was this love of working in the water sector which lead Lydia to the World Water Conference in Stockholm in 2015 and eventually a position on the Welsh Water Graduate Programme.

Lydia’s message to the water industry:

As a sector, the natural environment is intrinsic to all that we do. We are huge energy users and rely on numerous chemicals to ensure drinking water is safe. I am excited by steps towards renewable energy, catchment management and the IOW’s first environment conference, but we desperately need cultural changes within offices and pursue more adventurous steps forward in operations for the water industry to live up to its environmental responsibility.

I would like the sector to become more involved in international debates around water scarcity and climate change; to become carbon neutral; with zero tolerance to food waste at conferences and meetings; to ban the purchasing of unrecyclable materials like polystyrene in the canteens; to invest in electric vehicle fleets; harvest rain water to flush office toilets and carry out further public engagement campaigns aimed to reduce customer consumption and increase awareness of embedded energy in drinking water.