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Sonja Toft

Manager Process Engineering Resource Recovery
I’m the Manager of a technical team of 14 wastewater engineers & technicians.
Industry
Water and Waste
Company
Urban Utilities
Job Level
Senior
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About me

  • International Experience

My heritage is Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. Both my parents were born overseas and came with their parents as refugees to Australia after the 2nd world war. My Russian grandma was a big influence in my life, particularly as a young adult and I learnt two really important life lessons from her – that family is number one and not to waste anything. 

I grew up an “army brat” – ie my dad was in the army so we moved around year to year. I have lived in most places in Australia, went to 7 different schools including a year of schooling in India & Pakistan. 

I was fortunate to finish my high schooling in the one school (Mt St Michaels, Ashgrove) and this is where I met my life long girlfriends, found my interest in engineering and got up to lots of fun! My girlfriends and I are all celebrating our 50th birthdays this year. While we are very lucky to still be close friends after 35 years, we have all had our ups & downs, our ins and outs and our time away and come back. Keeping this long friendship has take effort, understanding and compromise but they should give & bring you up as well as take.

About my role

  • Optimistic
  • Passionate
  • Practical
  • Thorough

This role manages a team of engineers who look after the operation and fine tuning of 27 wastewater treatment plants to make sure they run optimally – and meet the required environmental standards at minimal cost (based on chemicals, electricity & other costs). People think it sounds a bit ‘yucky’ working with wastewater (or sewage) but it’s such an interesting area and contributes so much to our quality of life.  

As a leader, this role is to motivate, provide direction and guidance and remove the hurdles and barriers to allow your team to do their best. While engineering can be a technical role, it's the connection to people and seeing them do their best that is a rewarding part of this role.

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Education

  • Chemical Engineering (hons)
  • PhD (Doctorate) School of Environmental Engineering, Griffith University
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute National des Sciences Appliquees, Toulouse, France
  • Chartered Engineer and Engineering Executive
  • Registered Professional Engineer of Qld

Awards

  • Australian Water Association “Infrastructure Project Innovation Award 2021/22” as part of team who delivered Anammox side stream project at Luggage Point Resource Recovery Centre.
  • Transformation of Process Engineering Team to be benchmarked as “Highly Performing Industry” standard – Effectiveness (as per Employee Effectiveness Survey)

Hobbies

  • Beach adventures
  • Camping

Pets

  • 1 Dog
  • 3 Guinea pigs

15 year old me!!

“Life will be full of ups and downs. But whether you’re having the best or worst day of your life, it will pass. (This is worth keeping in mind so you enjoy the good times and know that the bad times will always pass.) ”

My career journey

Curious to know how I got here? Here’s a snapshot of my career pathway.
  1. Completed a Postdoc in France in 2001
  2. Worked at Environmental Protection Agency for 6 years (had 2 kids)
  3. Worked at Redland Water as process engineer for 8 years
  4. Worked at Urban Utilities as Principal Process Engineer 2015
  5. Became Manager at Urban Utilities in 2017

My employer

Urban Utilities is one of the largest water distributor-retailers in Australia, supplying drinking water, recycled water and sewerage services to a population of more than 1.5 million in South East Queensland.