GHD is an international engineering consultancy, meaning we provide technical advice to our clients, broadly in the sectors of water, energy, environment, property and buildings, and transport. To explain what “technical advice” means, consider the fact that every piece of infrastructure that is built goes through a number of phases between when the idea is borne to when it becomes operable.
Through each of these phases, we as the engineers provide input based on science/facts to our clients (typically governments or private developers) so that they can make informed decisions on where and how to spend their money. We also have non-engineers in our organisation to translate our engineer-speak to normal English and make sure that the people we’re building things for are happy with the work that is being proposed/done.
I’m a “Water Engineer” so I specifically work in the realm of water, wastewater and stormwater systems – think along the lines of pipes, pumps and PRVs (pressure reducing valves, mentioned here purely for the sake of alliteration). There is no typical day at work. Sometimes, I’m designing things, other times I’m monitoring things being constructed. Or, I’m writing a policy paper to change the way things are done in the longer term. No day is “usual”.
I was born in India and grew up in suburban Sydney, Australia. I had a pretty typical childhood of beaches in summer and roaming around Town Hall with my friends after school and during the holidays. I think my University years were really what formed my identity. I worked part-time all-year-round while studying so that I could save and travel overseas/go to gigs during semester breaks. Most of the part-time work I did was either tutoring (university or high school students) or retail (overtime rates during the Christmas period funded most of my overseas trips). I got an internship with GHD in my third year over the summer and that extended to a part-time job while studying in my final year. After graduation, I spent two months backpacking through Central and South America before commencing full-time work. Traveling made me realise that I was far too curious about the world to stay put at home. After returning, I spent a year working full-time at GHD Sydney before relocating to the Water team in Wellington. Being in New Zealand has been an incredible experience and Wellington is a truly beautiful city. Work-wise, the projects are similar but I’ve been more involved in design and construction monitoring here (much-needed experience for me) compared to Sydney where I did more high-level water infrastructure planning.
I think anyone can do my job. It doesn’t require specialist math skills or a deep understanding of dark matter. It requires you to pay attention to the world around you and be comfortable with thinking deeply about complex problems. It requires you to have resilience and patience when the answer is not apparent. You need to love problem-solving and be able to multi-task – that’s pretty much it.
An engineering degree requires you to be able to do some math and physics so that you can develop some appreciation of the science behind what we do but being an engineer is so much more than that.
I love solving problems together with my team. A lot of my work involves coming in on a Monday morning, finding out something has gone wrong and then realising as a young, inexperienced engineer, I have no idea how to fix it. So I reach out to the Senior Engineers in my team and propose a number of optimistic, borderline crazy solutions. They usually kindly and patiently explain to me why each idea would/would not work and then draw upon their own vast experience to share a story of how they’ve dealt with something similar in the past. Then, together we try to come up with a new solution for the problem at hand and off we go, on to the next. Real cop-show vibes.
Paperwork and bureaucracy. At least 40% of all work is filling out forms/getting approvals/paperwork. But the reality is, this is apparently true for most jobs at present. I think this is because a lot of industries are still transitioning from physical record-keeping to digital. This transition is complex as it involves the rebuilding of systems and processes. Until the new processes become fully established, individuals within organisations struggle to navigate between the old and new resulting in a bureaucratic mess. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel! I think once the transition is complete, we can all finally get back to doing our jobs.