ACCIONA Graduate Profile

Meet ACCIONA at the CDES Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Expo!

Thomas Alexander

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Civil Engineering 

Did your career plans change as you studied?
Not a whole lot, coming from a rural background I knew a bit about the construction side of engineering but very little about design. Growing up I loved watching diggers and cranes, but didn’t know a lot about the science behind what they did. So after my first year of general engineering study, I chased an onsite construction job and loved it! But I did have a lot of technical questions from the building site that I could answer during study that year.

This kept building so the following summer I could apply a bit more intuition out on the building site, get a list of more curly technical questions then return to study to answer them the next year. This continued through my third and fourth years. At times I did wonder what work in a design firm would be like, but I couldn’t imagine myself in a desk based job, so five years ago I started full time as a construction engineer and haven’t looked back!

For someone who is unsure of which path you’d like to take - I’d encourage you to take as many opportunities as early as you can during study. All jobs will offer their challenges and upsets and you will never be happy if you aren’t chasing what you enjoy. Find a job that suits your interests and expertise, chase it and push yourself to learn and improve every day!

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years’ time?
I want to see the opening of our current project - the Puhoi to Warkworth Motorway in October 2021. Beyond that I’m excited to see what opportunities Acciona can offer in NZ or abroad. I have recently become the Section Manager for the southern tie-in of the project. I hope to build on this into a Construction or Project Manager role one day.

How valuable was your internship OR work experience for you as a student? How did this help you fine-tune where you wanted to head?
The opportunity to get three summers of work experience, in potentially three different businesses or areas of the industry, is invaluable. Never again in your career will you ever get an opportunity to work for a business for 3-4 months, with no long term commitment or bond.

A lot of my classmates only chased work experience for their final summer which really limited their options and knowledge of the job market when applying for graduate positions. Not only does work experience prepare you for your post-graduation career, it allows you to see what we learn at university applied in the real world. I am a practical person, and without seeing the theories applied to real world examples. I really struggled to grasp the theory side of study. Chasing work the following summer that was relative to the papers we were covering during the year made study a whole lot easier.

By the end of my third summer I had worked for 3 different contractors, of very different sizes, very different financial stabilities, in very different markets, and knew exactly what I wanted to chase for in a graduate role. With a bit of work experience behind me, opportunities came early and I had the choice of where I wanted to work too. Don’t be in a situation in your final year that you are “chasing for any offer”, without confidence that is the role you are after – it is unlikely to work out for you, your employer and your long term career goals. My encouragement is get work experience as early as you can in your study.