How did you get into engineering?
I’ve always been into tinkering, pulling things apart to see how they’re made or how they work, and designing and making things or improving existing things. I was really into Lego as a kid. I had thought I might want to be a mechanic, but my parents encouraged me to set my sights a bit higher. So I studied engineering at polytech then university, then I landed a product design engineering job at Fisher & Paykel.
What do you enjoy most about mechanical engineering?
I particularly enjoy designing moving mechanisms and user interfaces. These are both quite interactive aspects of mechanical engineering, so that’s probably what I enjoy about them, that opportunity to interact. I also enjoy the problem solving aspect, for example figuring out how to get a bunch of things to fit together and work.
What engineering experience did you have before you came to Caliber?
Before my tertiary education I had home shed-level experience in making things and not really knowing how or why they worked (or didn’t work). So polytech and university were full of “oh, that’s why…” moments. Then during university I had a summer job in a product design office so I knew that’s where I wanted to start and hence sought out the Fisher & Paykel job. After that I felt I should broaden my horizons, so since then I’ve had several jobs which variously involved industrial machine design and more product design.
What makes working for Caliber different from the other engineering companies you’ve worked for?
Mostly the variety of projects. In a regular workplace it’s easy to get stuck in a pigeon hole of repeatedly doing what you’re good at and just getting incrementally slightly better at it. At Caliber we take on all aspects of mechanical engineering, usually for just one project at a time, so it’s a great opportunity to see and learn many different ways of designing many different things like structures, machines, and products. And we also have opportunities to pass on learnings and learn from each other.
What does a typical day of a Caliber engineer look like? How has that changed through the Covid-19 period?
Our point of difference is the seconded arrangement, so typically it would involve working in a client’s office, usually with some of their engineers and sometimes several Caliber engineers. I might be in that office for the whole day, or I might leave early to go to the monthly regional meeting where we get together and find out what’s happening within the company and on each other’s projects. Or I might pop out to visit a client about a new project or to check on how their secondment’s going.
Under lockdown we’ve been trying to replicate that level of contact with clients and each other as much as possible using remote tools like videoconferencing and chat. That was a bit of a steep learning curve and we’re mostly back into client’s offices now, but it showed that we can maintain a high level of contact when we’re physically remote. So that should help us service more remote clients who we haven’t worked with before because we couldn’t be on site.
Is there a particular project that’s been a highlight of your career?
I think the automated QA project I worked on for Rocklabs would be one. It was my favourite type of project, one with a target objective and no preconceived idea of how to achieve it, so I had fairly free rein to start from first principles and develop a practical, working solution.
What does your dream project involve?
Probably something with massive mechanical complexity and innovation. Designing something like the equivalent of Babbage’s Analytical Engine using modern 3D CAD—and building it—would be awesome.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I take the approach of being good, or at least average, at many things rather than being an expert at any one thing. That way there’s always room for learning and improvement, which is the interesting bit of any activity. So among other things I cycle, run, swim, scuba dive, mountain bike, tramp, snowboard, ride my motorbike, surf, fish, fix and improve my house…and build things. It’s hard to switch engineering off. I also brew my own beer from scratch and roast my own coffee.