Sifa Pole found a role that allows him to learn about Engineering’s wider context while growing his career.
Qualification: BE(Hons) in Civil Engineering
Role: Operations Controller at Watercare
"I chose Civil Engineering because of my friends and also because of my perception of what Engineering was. Coming from a Pacific Island background, no one tells you about the Engineering industry, so you're limited in what you know beforehand. All I knew at the time was you could be an Electrical Engineer or a Civil Engineer. I didn't know what a Mechanical Engineer did, nor did I know what Chemical and Materials Engineering was.
"My first job was as a Graduate Structural Engineer where I learned a lot about the design mentality and processes. For my next job, I was a Site Engineer on the Waterview Tunnel Project. I was a Site Engineer for just under two years. But I learnt a lot about construction and how things happen out on site. It's funny how you're an Engineer and you just think construction happens like magic. And then you watch it and you see it’s a lot harder than it seems.
"I ended up at Watercare because I wanted to do something different and didn't want to be bogged down in construction. A lot of the drive came because I wanted more exposure to not only the Engineering industry, but also the water industry. I'm glad I came because there's things I’ve learnt in Watercare that you won't learn anywhere else, such as how we tie into local government and how we tie into the New Zealand government itself. I've learnt a lot about utilities, level of service and other things that aren't just specific to Engineering. But at the same time, because I still do Engineering work, you stay on top of Engineering in your day-to-day activities, but you learn a whole lot more that you wouldn't learn anywhere else.
"On a normal day I check emails and check our asset monitoring system. I'll also have quite a few meetings as well throughout the day with not only external stakeholders, but internal Watercare stakeholders as well. Then I'd also be out on site to have a look at issues and projects we've got going on. I might need to meet out on site with our contractor or other people to try and sort out what we're going to do. Some of them might be meeting a contractor for a project that they're about to start for future growth or to replace an existing asset. The beauty of working at Watercare is there's so many roles you can take up and still be in the same organisation. I plan to be within Watercare for the long-term but doing something different. That will definitely help my career and expand my knowledge.
My aim to change the Engineering world is to better educate the Māori and Pacific community and raise awareness of the opportunities in the industry. For a lot of kids, I think they limit themselves early on in life, but if they see other members of the community in the industry, they can say "oh there's someone just like me, if they can do it then it must be achievable". So that's what I try and do, by showing kids that hey, we're just like you, you don't have to limit your mind.
"I plan to try and encourage the parents as well. That's where a lot of the issues come from, because Māori and Pacific Island parents sometimes don't know much about Engineering. So, if they can't pass knowledge on to their kids, their kids have to learn from scratch. At the end of the day, when you're at home, who runs the house? Mum and Dad. Their word is gospel in the house, so it's easier for kids to pursue Engineering if their parents buy into it as well.
"While I was studying, groups like Tuākana and SPIES helped me a lot. So what Tuākana does is it organises your tutorials. You get a tutor and they teach you, but the Tuākana programme also gives you the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people and also people of similar backgrounds, and I'll probably go a step further and say people with similar struggles as you as well. You can come together with them and share your experiences.
"South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Students (SPIES) also did the same in terms of bringing people together. Yes, they did a lot of the social stuff, but again it gave another platform for people to be around. If people were struggling with an assignment there would be people there. But my perks out of SPIES were, there was always someone who would remind me to start assignments on time. Sometimes you could start early, and then people would take over you, but it would give you a bit more push to be like ok I need to jump on to this."