Peter Lisle

Geotechnical Engineer, Tonkin & Taylor

In a nutshell: Site investigations and testing.

Why? "I like the variety, getting outdoors, and the design work – it is really cool to see something you have worked on being built."

Pathway: Kaitaia College, Final year subjects: Calculus, Chemistry, Geography, Physics, Technology
University of Auckland: Bachelor of Engineering, specialising in Civil Engineering (Water Resources and Structural Engineering focus)

Earning: $45-55,000

I originally wanted to be a pilot in the RNZAF, but that didn't work out. So I decided to study engineering. I am good at maths and science and quite logically minded. I've always pictured myself as a project manager, or something similar, working on large infrastructure projects.

When I first started at Tonkin & Taylor I worked in the civil engineering group. Designing systems for managing stormwater was a big part of my work, along with construction monitoring, site inspections and landfill design. These projects use physics and maths – especially geometry – to estimate the catchment size, pipe size and the best places to locate the pipes. And you develop a kind of 'engineering common sense'.

I like the variety of activities in my job, the team focus and working with people. I also enjoy working outdoors when I'm gathering data or performing tests, or when I'm the onsite engineer's representative. In this role I'm responsible for making sure that the contractors build to the plan and for figuring out solutions for the construction crew if problems occur.

I'm now in the Geotechnical Group. We do a lot of work for the Earth Quake Commission (EQC), assessing damage from natural disasters such as landslips, flooding, earthquakes and volcanic events. I travel around the country examining landslips and designing solutions to fix the problem and reduce the risk of further damage to people or property.

I've also been involved with 'dynamic pile testing', which uses special equipment to measure the amount of weight that a foundation pile can carry. My role is to direct the crane driver and crew, and to analyse the computer data onsite.

There are opportunities to travel as the equipment is expensive and there is a niche market for this type of work. I've already been down to Dunedin and there's potential for a trip to the Pacific Islands as well.

From here I could go on to specialise in technical design work or in a particular area such in geotechnical, water resources or structural engineering. I could go into management engineering or other management roles. And I'm keen to work overseas after I gain a few more years of experience.

Posted October 2011

Follow this pathway:

Degree in Civil Engineering: Environmental, Geotechnical, Structural or Transport

Read the company profile