Product Development Engineer

Penelope Maxwell’s pathway is determined by the open-ended variety she sees in engineering.

Key facts

Career: Product development engineer at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Programme: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Specialisation: Engineering Science

"At high school, I knew I wanted to study engineering but wasn’t exactly sure which type was right for me, so I picked the University of Auckland. Their range of specialisations allowed me to learn more and keep my options open, and it was great to be in an environment where there’s so much research going on.

"We choose our specialisations at the end of our first year and at that point, I picked Engineering Science because I still wanted to do a bit of everything! It presented itself to me as providing skills that can be applied to many different industries, flexibility in elective papers, and a really interesting core programme.

"I took papers in Operations Research and Continuum Mechanics, so we got to work on a diverse variety of problems. My final year project used Computational Fluid Dynamics to investigate and visualise the mechanisms of babies breathing, and the impact of nasal high flow. The project was sponsored by Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, and meant I was able to apply what I’d learnt in previous years of study to help inform decisions and product development in the real world, which I found very rewarding.

"As a product development engineer at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, I get to see how the knowledge and ideas gained from theoretical calculations can be brought to life in a practical application. Working in a multi-disciplinary team also means that there’s plenty to learn in terms of range and depth, as we progress through different stages of a project.

"I definitely managed to keep myself busy through my years at university! I was a Women in Engineering Network leader for my final three years here. That gave me opportunities such as networking, organisational skills, and the chance to mentor younger students, which was valuable to my personal and professional development. I also joined Engineering Revue, and got to perform onstage and meet students from other specialisations.

"I wanted to study and work in engineering because it gives me the ability to influence a lot of people’s lives for the better – for me, success has always been about creating a positive impact on our world while being healthy and happy. Working at Fisher & Paykel straight out of university made this a reality, and while this may change, I see myself heading down the management track as I love supporting others to achieve their full potential."