How did you get into engineering?
From a pretty young age, I was keen on machines. The other day I showed a video of one of my machines to my parents and they were reminiscing about how my favourite game when I was a kid was called “The Incredible Machine”. Basically, it’s a computer game that’s sort of like mousetrap. You’ve got an end goal with all this equipment, and you need to set it up so a bowling ball lands on a cat to scare it, or something like that. I loved that, I also spent a lot of time out in the shed making and pulling things apart.
At school, I was keen on maths and physics … so mechanical engineering is a way of mixing my academic and practical interests.
What do you enjoy most about mechanical engineering?
I like the challenge it brings. You’ve got a goal and you’ve got to find a way of getting there using your skills, practically thinking through things and doing a few calculations on the side to make sure you’ve got a good option.
At the end of the day, whatever you’re designing is being produced and you get to see it in operation … that’s always a nice feeling.
I like how it lets me be practical … I do like a bit of workshop time.
What engineering experience did you have before you came to Caliber?
First off, in Uni I was lucky enough to get a position in an undergraduate research scholarship program to help out with some biomimicry research, which I really loved.
After Uni, and a bit of a prolonged job hunt, I ended up at Ford as a corrosion test engineer. It wasn’t my preferred position at the start, but it was still a really good introduction to what mechanical engineering is. It was a nice split between computer time and workshop time. I ended up quite enjoying it. I was running full vehicle corrosion tests on the Ford Everest. It was exciting. I was working on cars that were planned to come out in three- or four-years time. I got to drive some pretty cool cars too.
I left Ford to go into something a bit broader … I didn’t really want to be in a niche role at the start of my career. My next job was for a company called Smedley’s Engineers in Melbourne. They are heavy vehicle consultants. It’s a small business, so my job involved a whole lot of everything … time in the office, out measuring trucks, doing CAD modelling and FEA. I had a hand in everything … even out on the track, testing trucks every now and then.
A goal for me was to work towards being a design engineer … so I was lucky for Caliber to take me on when I came to New Zealand.
What makes working for Caliber different from the other engineering companies you’ve worked for?
The biggest thing is the way they treat their people. The variety of work is also really good, which was a real draw card … but what surprised me a great deal was how much they care for their workers and how much effort they put into that. I guess we’re their product and that’s why they want to do that … at the end of the day, if we’re happy then we’re going to be doing a good job. It’s very unique … We go to the pub once a month for a team meeting—who does that!? I’m used to a team dinner a couple of times a year or something. The way they treat the team isn’t very common.
What does a typical day of a Caliber engineer look like? How has that changed through the Covid-19 period?
A Caliber engineer has to be pretty independent. Although we have a wide network to call on if we have trouble with anything, but you’ve got to be on top of your game.
For me, I get to work nice and early to beat the Auckland traffic. I like to start early so I finish mid-afternoon and get a bit of exercise and sunshine, especially in the Winter.
During the Covid period, my bedroom has been my office. I start work about 8am and work until whenever I’m not efficient. I go for multiple walks through the day to split things up. I keep my lunch and morning tea breaks to try and keep some routine in my day.
The client I’ve been working with is using Microsoft Teams, like we do at Caliber. That was a good show of how you can work remotely effectively. Because they’re on the same system, I can call them up, share screens, show them what I’m working through. I was VPNing into their network, so I could bring up their SolidWorks data exactly as if I was working onsite and could work through things really effectively with their engineers. I think they were happy with the results of that.
The big thing to take away from this lockdown period is how you can work differently. These are things that people have been putting off for years! It can be effective!
Is there a particular project that’s been a highlight of your career?
Not one that comes to my mind. I have enjoyed a lot of the work I have done. Particularly if it’s something that involves a good problem, or that’s never been done before. I like cutting edge things … pushing boundaries. I try to do that in everything I do. I can’t pin it to an individual project.
What does your dream project involve?
I am quite enjoying all this sustainability work I’ve been doing with Colin. Ever since I learnt sustainability was a thing in University … it opened my mind and I’ve been really keen to include it in my work and how I go about my engineering.
I’d like a cutting edge design project, including sustainability, that would be pretty good!
I’m pretty happy that JP wanted to run with this Caliber Sustainability Working Group. Initially it was going to be a side project with Colin, but now it’s grown. I hope this picks up in other companies too. But this is a good start. Many people think that as an individual you can’t do anything, but you can … you’ve just got to pick where you can have your best influence. We’re on our way to influencing a big group of engineers, and that’s come from an idea that Colin and I had… it’s a nice feeling.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Outside of work I’m always busy, I enjoy a lot of time with friends and family.
In the past, I’ve done more travel than most people will probably do in their lives … I went nuts after I finished Uni and had all this money! Photography is one of my passions that has weaved its way into this. It’s nice to take photos and document travels. The photo above is taken at the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
I like a bit of fresh air … walks, tramps, bike rides, camping. I’ve done a few road trips, tenting around Australia and New Zealand. I went up to Cape Reinga earlier this year and enjoyed the not-a-cloud-in-the-sky weather NZ put on. Cooking also keeps me entertained … cooking anything really. Since the middle of last year I’ve been perfecting my sourdough.