STEM Student Stories

Are you thinking about a career in Science, technology, engineering or maths? Past students tell us more about working life within STEM.

Meet Samantha Park

Degree: University of Auckland- BE (Hons), Civil & Environmental

Company: Downer New Zealand

Role: Graduate Engineer

How did you end up in your current role?
Searching for internships in my second year of study, I discovered I liked the sound of contracting. I applied for my first internship at Downer and got the job. I enjoyed my summer so much I went back for my next internship, and also carried on working one day a week in my final year of study. And it was the next step in career to work as a Graduate Engineer at Downer following uni.

It was not what I thought I would be doing when I signed up to study engineering, however the further I got into my degree, the more I realised I couldn't wait to get out into the field and get hands on building the future infrastructure of our growing city.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?
Being a part of a variety of works. From a job as minor as asphalting a cul-de-sac (and seeing a stakeholder's joy) to as big as major works on key sections of Auckland's train network, I know that I'm contributing to Auckland's future.

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Even if you're unsure of what career you may see yourself in, just go for it! It's such a huge industry that there are endless possibilities in what you can get involved in so you're sure to find something you're passionate about.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

I have found that in the contracting business, there's so much space to move within the field that you don't need to worry too much what specific papers you take at Uni because you learn most of what you know on the job.

What you study doesn't define what you will do for the rest
of your life.

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?
Attempt to have an understanding of what some companies you may be interested in do so you can think of questions that aren't generic.

Be open to companies you think may not be for you because you never know if they may specialise in something that ends up being your passion.

Meet Brad Leuila

Degree: Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering

Company: Auckland Transport

Role: Graduate Engineering Project Manager

How did you end up in your current role?

After undertaking a summer internship with Auckland Transport in my final year, there was an opportunity for me to become a graduate and continue working with them.

I had no idea during university that I would become a project manager or work for Auckland transport.

I thought because of my degree I would work for an
electrical engineering company but now I am working with problems that involve civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. 

What are the key highlights of your role so far?
Working for Auckland Transport has been a massive learning curve and one of my highlights. I have learnt so much outside my specialisation and enjoy seeing the impact of my work on the community.

What is your one piece of advice for current students who are looking for a STEM career?

Be open-minded and learn from everyone you meet. Don't restrict yourself to your specialisation.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

I wish I had gone to more of the career expos, exposed myself to opportunities, and learned from people in the engineering space.

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Ask a lot of questions about each company and make connections with professionals but also other students.
 

Meet Tim Finucane

Degree: University of Auckland - Bachelors of Engineering (Hons) in Software Engineering

Company: ezyVet

Role: Intermediate Full Stack Developer/Software Engineer

How did you end up in your current role?

This is my first full-time role after completing my degree. After applying for several different positions, I eventually got invited to interview at ezyVet.

It can sometimes take months to get your first job after uni, but its not a reason to give up hope! The role is everything I expected and a good one for starting a career in programming.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

I've learned a lot through my peers about how to become a better programmer and work in a team, communicate effectively, and how to juggle different balls.

a good software engineer needs to be able to juggle!

What are your key pieces of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

  1. Become familiar with the standard industry practices including, peer reviews, agile, QA, etc. and try not to worry about individual programming languages. Prepare for a frustrating first few months; you need time to understand how the company and the software works.
  2. When applying for jobs, show off some personality. Every CV talks about programming knowledge, but you can distinguish yourself through hobbies, lifestyle, etc

If you get feedback after unsuccessful interviews, try to take it onboard. One of the most important things to demonstrate is a willingness to learn.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?
An essential trait in a great programmer is a 100% dedication to integrity. Don't compromise on good code, and don't compromise on safety. Always think about what could be better!

Realise that a lot of day-to-day work involves communicating with others and that you need to rely on others to get your job done. You'll regularly be working with product owners, testers, DevOps, and support - not to speak of all the other coders around you. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

What are your top tips for students to prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Remember to think about what the company can do for you. The hiring process is a two-way street and you should, like the company, think of whether they’re a fit for you.

Meet Shannie Su

Degree: Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Honours) at The University of Auckland

Company: Aurecon

Role: Transport Engineer

How did you end up in your current role?

Like many civil engineering students in their penultimate year of university, I spent most of my first semester finding the right graduate position. During my search, I applied for Aurecon and got the job.

I always wanted to be a Civil Engineer, but it wasn’t until the last year of my studies before I realised I wanted to work on Transport projects. The courses and my internship at NZ Transport Agency really helped with making the decision.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

I love working with others on multidisciplinary projects and seeing how all aspects of a project come together - and have been lucky to see this from both a designer and project manager point of view.

In addition, learning how to use and applying design software on projects has been fun, and seeing the projects you work on come to life is a definite highlight.

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Explore different specialisations! There are so many other fields of STEM – you have to do your research! One of the best ways to do that is by asking people in the industry what they do.
What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?
I wish I knew how to set myself apart from others, in particular by learning design software in my specialisation.

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

To maximise your time, try doing a bit of research on the companies that are attending. Find the ones you would like to work for and go to them first. Once you have visited them, walk around and see what else is there - You never know if something else will catch your eye!

Meet Brian Kasmara

Degree: Mechatronics

Company: Datacom

Role: Dynamics365 Technical Consultant

How did you end up in your current position?

After my second year of engineering, I made a plan to shift my career from Mechatronics to Software. I accepted a software internship from Summer of Tech to gain experience within this field and believe it was the most influential decision I made, eventually leading me to my current role.

What are the highlights of your role so far?

It’s great to get paid doing what I enjoy, which in turn helps me pay off a heavy student loan.
I am also given a lot of autonomy, which allows me a great deal of freedom and ensures my role remains enjoyable and stress-free.

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

I believe you need:

  • Initiative – This will teach you how to independently self-learn, a fundamental requirement in STEM. Read to expand knowledge, contribute to discussions to improve communication and thinking, and participate in projects to hone your craft.
  • Motivation – if asked, can you give a good reason why you want to work for the company? Knowing this will help assert the recruiter’s confidence in you as an employee.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

Take your time at university. Don’t stress, and don’t skip
out on variety. Expand your interests, join clubs, and enjoy your time.
Remember, university is one giant social network!

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Do extensive company research and a high-level review of relevant technical concepts. If you can effectively communicate your understanding of what skills companies look for, you will grab the recruiter’s attention.

Meet Jack Luo

Degree: Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons), University of Auckland

Company: Downer New Zealand

Role: Graduate Engineer at the Rotokauri Transport Hub Project, Hamilton

How did you end up in your current role?

I started my career at Downer NZ through the “Own Your Summer” internship programme at the Rotokauri Transport Hub Project in Hamilton.

I did not see myself becoming a contractor when I first started studying Civil Engineering. However, my internship made me realise I enjoyed working in a field where every day brings different challenges, allowing me to learn and develop myself constantly. After a great summer internship experience, I decided to join Downer as a Graduate Engineer.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

Starting as an intern and returning as a Graduate Engineer allowed me to see the Rotokauri Transport Hub project’s construction phase’s from the beginning to the end.

Witnessing it being built from the ground up showed me the positive impact our work brings to the public and local communities, providing a real sense of purpose to my role.

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Try different things both in and outside of university to find what you are passionate about.

Internships, part-time jobs and voluntary work are all great opportunities for you to gain insight into different organisations before you graduate,it might even point you towards career pathways that you haven’t imagined.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

Teamwork skills you learn at university will benefit you no matter what career path you choose. Skills such as communication, time management, planning, decision-making, and leadership skills are all essential.

I also wish I had attended more team events and activities whilst studying.

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Try to meet and connect with the representatives of different firms at the career expo. Ask a lot of questions to learn more about the types of works they do, their culture, values, and what attributes they look for in potential candidates.

Meet Sylvia Jung

Degree: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Company: Auckland Transport (AT)

Role: Graduate Engineer in the Road Safety Engineering team
 

How did you end up in your current position?

I wanted to be part of an organisation that worked on a diverse range of projects and could offer me exposure to a wide range of skills.

I didn’t know what exact field nor the kind of work I wanted
to do when nearing my final days of University, but I came across AT’s graduate programme, which offered flexibility to a wide range of disciplines and projects across the organisation.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

My role involves identifying and improving high-risk sites on Auckland’s road network, and for me, every day is a highlight!

The work I do is meaningful and impactful; through being part of the Road Safety Engineering team, I can impact people’s lives (literally).

What is your crucial piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Be open-minded and don’t restrict yourself to one thing. You’ll be surprised to see the range of roles that exist in the industry.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

That the specific papers you take at University aren’t as career defining as you may think. The work place was much more flexible than I first thought.

What are your top tips to help students prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Come prepared with questions you want to ask – the busy and loud environment may throw you off a bit! Also, make sure you carry out some research on the companies you wish to meet, their projects, company values etc. Take this opportunity to ask questions that aren’t on the company’s website!

Meet Pasindu Ratnayake

Degree: Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours at University of Auckland

Company: Downer

Role: Graduate Site Engineer at SH58 Safety Improvements Project in Wellington

How did you end up in your current role?

After completing a summer internship with Downer where I gained exposure to Civil Construction and Maintenance, I was then fortunate enough to secure a place on their Graduate Programme.

Their graduate programme allows me to continue exploring different areas of civil engineering through rotational placements across the company.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

My role allows me to put the theoretical concepts I learnt during my degree into practice. So far, I’ve enjoyed the following:

  • Problem-solving and planning.
  • Forming construction methodologies that aim to maximise efficiency and productivity.
  • Developing relationships internally, as well as with clients and subcontractors.

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

  • Be adaptable and willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

Take the time to identify your values and how
well they align with your potential future employers.

  • Identify how well your future employer can cater towards you achieving your career goals.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

  • The importance of taking part in external programmes and events, which cater towards both personal and career development.
  • The importance of being able to prioritise and manage time effectively.

Any top tips on how students should prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

  1. Identify whether there are any particular areas within the industry you are most interested in, then proceed to identify the companies which specialise in those areas.
  2. Talk to as many people as you can (industry experts, past students, graduates, interns) and get an understanding of what they do at work.
  3. If possible, evaluate your long term career vision as well as goals and see which company’s best suited for you.

Meet Ryan Mac Farlane

Degree: BCom Information Systems

Company: Datacom

Role: Graduate Software Developer

How did you end up in your current role?

I applied for the grad program on a whim and was thrilled when I got a response from the recruitment team! I wanted to get into analytics (part of me still does) but I am beyond happy with how things have turned out.

Wherever you start at Datacom you will learn things that
apply to other roles and tools.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

The company culture is amazing! Also, the hybrid style of working allows us to have a more flexible schedule.

What is your crucial piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Get involved while at UNI!

I wish more than anything that I was more proactive whilst
doing my undergrad.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

Although it’s important, your GPA isn’t everything! Soft skills are just as essential when you start working – you can learn these through part-time jobs, volunteering, signing up to clubs, attending workshops etc.

What are your top tips to help students prepare for the upcoming STEM career expo?

Be prepared with your questions, and don’t be afraid to come up and say hi!

Meet Jaynie Ng

Degree: Bachelor of Engineering, specialising in Mechatronics

Company: Honeywell

Role: Graduate Project Engineer

How did you end up in your current role?

I interned at Honeywell over the summer of 2019/2020. My role now is pretty different from what I studied, but my studies still have some relevance.

What are the key highlights of your role so far?

I’m lucky that I get to work on lots of big projects, including the City Rail Link – New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project ever!

What is your key piece of advice for current students who are looking for a career in STEM?

Keep an open mind when applying; there are so many different industries and career paths you can take within the world of STEM.

What do you wish you would have known whilst you were studying that you know now?

Your GPA isn’t all employers care about – they want to see that you’ve got some life and work skills as well. Join clubs and activities, not just because they’re fun, but you also gain experience like teamwork, time-management, leadership and project management.