Fei Ren

Fei enjoyed New Zealand lifestyle when he visited as a tourist, and was looking for an industry-related programme that could boost his career opportunities.

Key facts: Master of Engineering Management
Role: Waste Specialist at Waste Management NZ

“Four years ago I came to New Zealand as a tourist. I traveled both North and the South Islands and I quite liked the lifestyle and also the scenery here. So I just wanted to come back and live here for good.

“After five to six years of work experience in Singapore and China I was thinking I'd need to choose a programme which was more practical and maybe more related to industry. I thought Auckland would have more job opportunities after I graduated so I was thinking it would be good if I came here to do my masters. My wife got a dependent visa, so she can also work here, so actually now she is at the University too. She's working in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences as a research assistant.

“I think I almost attended all the workshops the Graduate School of Engineering offers. So I still remember the leadership, resilience and faster reading skills. I think lots of the skills were quite practical and I learnt a lot. You have that interaction with the lecturer and some guest lecturers that are actually from industry — like CEOs and other professionals — so they are very knowledgeable. They can give their experience and during the sessions you can really learn a lot.

“I'm now a Waste Specialist at a landfill so parts of my degree did link to my real job. I remember in the last year we studied Advanced Topics in Project Management. So you have some communication focus, like learning more efficient communication and also project management. Now in my role I need to be in constant contact with people and manage a lot of accounts and we also have some small projects carrying on over time.

“Being a Waste Specialist is also being part Sales Specialist, so you need a half sales, half technical background. When I was in China working for a German company, I was also dealing with solid waste management, but in China they just use the incineration plants to get rid of the waste. In New Zealand it's more like a sustainable landfill. It's just a different method but the rationale behind it is quite similar so you need to be thinking more about sustainability here.

“Maybe 30 years ago landfills were just a place where you dump all the waste with nothing to protect [the land], so that pollutes the environment as the leaks can go into the underground water. This was really bad and they also released methane and greenhouse gases. But for example our landfill — a modern landfill — has a liner to protect the leakage that would otherwise pollute the environment, and we also have pipes that capture all the methane gas, which we capture and burn to convert it into energy.

“So the landfill we've got here just north of Auckland supplies 14,000 homes with electricity. After we burn this methane it becomes carbon dioxide, which we send to the greenhouse to cultivate fruit and vegetables. So this makes the landfill sustainable because the waste becomes energy, and we help Auckland to get rid of waste. This is sustainability from an engineering angle.”