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Civil engineer

Civil engineer

Richard Greatrex, SKM

Earning: $45-55,000
In a nutshell: Designing roads and all of the other bits and pieces that go with a road.
Why? “I like seeing people build something that I’ve designed.”

Pathway Avondale College, Year 12/13: Physics, Chemistry, English, History, Calculus, Geography, Economics
University of Auckland: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Civil Engineering

“I had a short-list of possible careers – including the Armed Forces, the Police or being a lawyer –  that played to my strengths, but in the end it came down to lifestyle and engineering offered the best option,” says Richard.

He decided early on to study civil engineering rather than any of the other disciplines, and takes great satisfaction from seeing people build and use roads that he’s designed. “Recently I worked on a new motorway onramp configuration and drove down that same motorway two weeks later and it was all built. New signs were in place, the road had been resurfaced and marked, and all the traffic was flowing seamlessly – I barely noticed that I was driving through the area of the road that I had just sent out the drawings for. It had gone from lines on paper to asphalt, tarmac and metal.”

Another project he’s worked on recently was the newest stretch of State Highway 1 near Taupo. Building the 16km of high speed expressway was a really big project – four bridges, huge volumes of earth to be excavated, hundreds of signs, and many thousand metres of road markings. “This new bit of road takes 12 minutes off the travel time from Auckland to Wellington when there’s no congestion, and during the holidays it can cut an hour off people’s journey,” he says. “12 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but to a freight company whose business relies on using the roads, all those minutes add up to be pretty significant.”

There are lots of options for what Richard does next – going down a technical route, moving into a management role or getting into commercial strategy work. “Working out where roads are needed requires strategic thinking, the delivery of the road requires the project management skills and working out the details requires technical knowledge,” he says. “So I could really take any one of those three paths, and I haven’t decided which one yet.”

Posted October 2011