Civil Engineer, Tonkin & Taylor
In a nutshell: Designing extensions to, and improvements of, landfills to meet environmental restrictions, including collection systems for gases and liquids.
Why? "I like working on real projects that get built rather than just theoretical or conceptual things. I particularly like seeing my work put into practice."
High school in the UK, Final year subjects: Maths, Physics
University in the UK: Master of Engineering, specialising in Civil Engineering with Study Abroad
I enjoyed maths and physics at school and my mother tried to persuade me to major in them at university. But I discovered engineering, and thought, no, that's the career for me, as it's much more practical and hands on.
My work helps us to dispose of our waste more responsibly. I work on the design of landfills, which involves design of stable slopes, filling plans to determine what order the landfill should be filled in, design of details to minimise vermin and wind-blown rubbish, and designing systems to collect the noxious liquid leachates and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Landfill work isn't glamorous but it's very important to get it right.
I got involved as the hands-on problem solver at a landfill site in Wellington and now I'm designing the next phase of the project. Being involved with the project from one stage to the next is very cool.
The original landfill was just an unlined rubbish dump but now it's much better – we collect the leachate and gas, and anything else that might escape is well contained. And [the landfill operators] get on really well their neighbours and there are hardly any complaints.
I've recently moved up to the Auckland office to get some more design experience in specific areas. There's still a lot of variety, and a mix of site and office work. And it's nice to get the opportunity to work alongside everyone in the team as well.
There are a variety of people in engineering. I think generally you want to be fairly practical minded, but you can either be the details person who knows the technical stuff or you can be the big picture thinker who sees the broader opportunities.
One of the main challenges of the job is communicating technical things to people in a non-technical way. Once you can justify your decision on site, people are more prepared to go along with it.
My skills as a civil engineer are quite broad. In the UK I worked on flood defence and water treatment projects, and my first job in New Zealand was for the Earthquake Commission (EQC) in the Bay of Islands.
Posted March 2012
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