I was born in the Waikato and at the age of two my family moved to Whanganui where I have lived ever since. I have loved growing up in Whanganui.
I went to two different country schools before going to Whanganui Girls’ College for my secondary schooling where I was given the role of the head girl in my final year. During school I danced jazz and contemporary and swam, taking first or second place at all school swimming events.
I also had a part-time job as a lifeguard and earned a Silver level for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I graduated from high school at the end of 2018.
What are you currently studying?
I am currently studying a diploma in Civil Engineering through the New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology (NZIHT). I’m a part-time student and attend three to five-day block courses for my papers in either Palmerston North, Hamilton, Auckland or Christchurch.
The diploma is composed of 12 compulsory courses and four electives. These courses cover different topics, including report writing, geotechnical engineering, management, structures, land surveying, highway engineering and more. I have done two papers so far and am currently in my second semester.
Although I am just starting out and have only taken the pre-requisite papers, I can see that the coursework is going to get more challenging, but also more enjoyable as I start to learn about aspects more relevant to what I am doing at work. And the NZIHT tutors are helpful and very nice and approachable, which is beneficial especially being part-time and having limited time to ask for help in person, though email is always available.
How has working while studying helped you with your studies and work?
Working while studying sounds daunting… well, that was what I thought at first, but as weird as it sounds, sometimes the block courses are like mini holidays from work and work is a much-needed break from study. Somehow it just works.
During downtimes at work, I always have some reading or assignment work to do, and the knowledge in my office is never-ending. Working under a Principal Bridge Engineer and Civil Structures Asset Manager, I have had guided hands-on experiences with borehole logs, measuring soil resistance with a Scala Penetrometer and analysing the data, watching how the results are prepared. This proved beneficial when I attended my first Geotechnical Engineering 1 Block Course, where the word Scala Penetrometer didn’t put my brain into high alert.
What has your time at WSP involved so far?
My first day at WSP was in January 2019. I walked into a set up of three computers and a massive empty, clean desk. Two weeks down the line I drove the office pool car to Wellington on my own and attended our Cadet Induction, which was held for all 24 Cadets from around the country who started in 2019.
I have been in steel cap boots walking along South Beach looking for wildlife. I’ve observed the sealing of a pathway and checked metal reinforcing for the concrete structures before the concrete was poured. I’ve tested the hardness of the soil underneath an under construction retaining wall and levelled a weigh pit. I have sat on a riverbank watching because I didn’t have long enough gumboots on to go in. And most recently I spent two days in waders climbing after an Ecologist through a swamp.
I have loved every experience, and I look forward to the many more to come.
Listing wildlife and plants in a swamp with an Ecologist to determine if the area could be established as a wetland.
Why did you join the WSP Cadetship Programme?
I wasn’t sure what to do after school, so my teacher introduced me to my now boss. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know what the meeting was meant for, but we ended up discussing what I like and wanted to do. I knew I wanted to pursue Civil Engineering, but I wasn’t sold on the university life or having to move to either Auckland or Christchurch to study.
It was a good meeting, and I walked out knowing what I wanted to do, just not how. I went for an interview for a Cadetship at another company and left not feeling sold on the company. A few weeks later I heard that WSP was looking at having a Cadet in Whanganui, so I applied. At my interview I walked around the office with the Principal Geotechnical Engineer, and he showed me drawings and landscapes, and I fell in love with it all. Three months later I walked in the doors as an employee.
How has the programme been so far?
The programme has been good. WSP has been supporting me; any travel is done with WSP vehicles with no cost to me, and when I flew to Christchurch they paid for my flight, accommodation and food for the duration of the course.
I don’t feel pressured at work. If I am struggling with something, there are always people who will help me. I really think that it has benefitted me so far, and it is letting me make my own place in the company, no matter how small!
What is a normal work day like for you?
I work 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday in the office or out on site. Mondays involve office meetings and sometimes team meetings to determine our workloads. My workload is usually determined day to day.
My manager oversees structures in our region, so I often have jobs like importing structure information into spreadsheets, measuring widths of roads over bridges or researching when structures were constructed and identifying which are nearing their life expectancy. I may be tasked with adding information to inspection reports or publishing reviewed reports.
I have also done a few CAD drawings for restorations of damaged structures, and like the person who asked me to do the drawing said, “You must start somewhere, and everything is a learning experience.” Looking back, I have learned a lot and what is everyday stuff now I would have looked at blankly a few months ago.
During quiet times I get some study in, but it is mainly a home thing. My office isn’t strict on this, but my thought is that if I can fill in downtime with study, it is better than just sitting doing nothing.
My days are all different. I do anything and everything really.
Helping with a bridge inspection.
What are the block courses like?
Block courses can range from anywhere between two to four days each time with two to three blocks for a semester (it varies depending on the course). For instance, my Geotechnical Engineering 1 course was composed of two blocks that were two and a half days each plus an exam at the end, making the course a total of six days over the semester.
When I have block courses, I work the days around the courses, including the half days. I am fortunate enough to be able to travel just an hour to the Palmerston North venue, but when I had to go to Christchurch I had to fly, which made for a longer period spent travelling as flights only go at certain times.
My normal day when I have a block course is waking at 6.00 am and leaving the house by 7.15 am to drive to Palmerston North before starting the course (usually) at 8.30 am. There are short breaks and a lunch hour during the course, and the day typically ends at 5.00 pm. Some courses don’t involve exams. But if they do, then exams start at 9.00 am and are three hours long. Exams usually account for 50 percent of the course mark.
What is the culture like at WSP?
WSP is a cool place. The idea of being part of such a large, international company is crazy! Everyone is nice and knowledgeable and willing to talk about what they know, which is awesome for someone not only new to the company but also new to the business and type of work.
Professionally, WSP has provided me with a future career progression path. Personally, WSP has helped me grow and mature into a young adult in a professional and driven environment. My colleagues are focused and work hard to achieve to the highest of their abilities and aim to keep employees and clients happy. WSP is an awesome company to be part of.
What are you involved with outside of your role?
I am involved with our young professionals group, Pathways, which has facilitated meetings with two of the managers in my office to discuss who they are and what they did to get to where they are now. Pathways has also arranged Skype discussions about projects WSP is involved with, from the littlest right up to the biggest project. I also attended a heritage month event in town, which highlighted the earthquake strengthening of Whanganui’s War Memorial Hall. I saw how the work was undergone in such a strategic way that I walked straight past a wall that had never been there before the strengthening without noticing the addition.
I’ve also attended two after-work social events. The first was the rifle range shooting competition, where I surprised all the guys with my skills. The second was a curling competition between WSP, partners and clients. My team came in third. Both activities were in a relaxed environment and really helped me be more myself around my work colleagues, and I think this has helped my work-life considerably.
Curling during the office curling competition.
What are your plans for the future?
I have the option of completing my diploma in either three or four years. I would then like to obtain a degree eventually, but I am still unsure whether I will pursue this straight after finishing the diploma. I think I will apply for a study award grant to continue being financially supported by WSP for my studies.
I can see myself working here for years to come. I would like to move around a bit between the different offices. But I still have a bug for traveling, so sometime in the next five to ten years I would like to travel overseas and explore the world while I am still young.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about pursuing a Diploma in Civil Engineering?
The diploma in Civil Engineering involves a large range of topics; some topics you will favour over others, and that’s normal. I think the diploma is a perfect starting point, and it can be done almost anywhere. So, my advice is stick at it. Easy is boring; if a paper is easy, then aim for 100 percent. Don’t just accept that you’ll pass with what you know already. Rather push yourself, and when you come out with the diploma you’ll have the focused, determined mindset that makes an Engineer.
Cadet Induction 2019