A Day in the Life of a RBG Graduate

Making the transition from education to practice can be both challenging and rewarding. Graduation hat in hand you’re excited at the thought of joining the workforce until it dawns on you, where do I start? Am I adequately prepared for what’s next? Over the past 40 years we’ve supported hundreds of graduates on this journey. Some of our most influential business leaders joined RBG as graduates and remain with us today. We recognise that graduate engineers are the future of our company and build relationships that last decades.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic where human interaction has changed is the graduate experience presenting a whole new set of challenges? We asked two of our young graduate engineers, Melody Hong and Leo Anderson from RBG New Zealand’s Structures team, what their experience has been joining RBG in recent years and what advice they would give to future generations of students who are interested in building a career in the industry.

What did you expect when you joined RBG as a graduate engineer? Did your experience meet your expectations?

“Most young engineers would anticipate leading a remarkable project and leaving their names in history books, I am no exception. Yet, it is quite an unrealistic expectation for a graduate who just came out of university with limited experience but maximum bravery. Carrying such a dream, I’m conscious I’ll need years of experience on various projects and solid skill sets. I joined RBG and expected myself to be quickly trained up with numerous projects, continuously developing my technical skills by implying the theoretical to the application. Now, looking back at the past 6 months since I started my graduate role, I’ve participated in the design process of various commercial, civil defence, residential and temporary work projects under the supervision of experienced and intelligent engineers. RBG brought me such adequate experiences and pieces of training in a half year, it’s beyond expectations.” – Melody

“I joined RBG because I wanted to work for a company with interesting high-profile projects and an international outreach, that at the same time isn’t too large that I become a number on a spreadsheet instead of an individual. My expectations for these things have most certainly been met. On top of that, I have been given more responsibility and autonomy with my work, which makes for a more satisfying workday and helps me develop faster.” – Leo


What does a typical day as a graduate engineer at RBG involve?

“As a Graduate Engineer, I’m usually focusing on one to two projects at a time. So, in a typical day, I’ll be undertaking analysis and design work for these projects and coordinating my results with the wider team. There are also a lot of opportunities for internal training, so I typically spend several hours per week upskilling.” – Leo


What opportunities have you enjoyed since joining RBG?

“Since joining RBG I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to sit next to the brilliant engineers and ask as many questions as I want; opportunities to explore various projects from scale and type-wise; opportunities to engage with clients and sub-contractors and build solid relationships; opportunities to go to the site, touch and smell newly poured concrete.” – Melody

“I have enjoyed having autonomy over my career, as I feel like I have a large say in the direction my career takes, and I feel like an individual here. Also, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of design projects that keeps work interesting.” – Leo


What is the most rewarding part of entering the workforce as an engineer?

“The most rewarding part of entering the workforce as an Engineer would be that the effort you put in for a project is being recognised and valued by co-workers/project leaders and the company. In the interim, submitting deliverables within the deadline.” – Melody

“Completing design packages can be very rewarding. You spend weeks or months working as part of a team on a large complex project and are responsible for some of the design. As the project is wrapping up, it’s incredibly satisfying to see all your hard work pay off, and how your design fits into the overall project.” – Leo


What are some of the most valuable skills you’ve developed so far?

“The skill of applying theoretical knowledge to real life. Not calculating the numbers or deriving equations but using qualitative understanding to design the building elements.” – Melody

“How to consider all aspects of design and construction. At university, they usually give us a well-constrained brief and we design some structure to meet these straightforward requirements. Learning how to do this is vital, but there are a lot more factors influencing real-life project work, such as constructability, cost, material supply, and coordination with your team and other consultants. While I still have a lot to learn, this bigger-picture view and understanding of projects has been incredibly valuable to learn since leaving university.” – Leo


Do you feel your studies adequately prepared you for a position as a graduate engineer?

“All the engineering students at the University of Canterbury (UC) in New Zealand need to take a communication portfolio course. This course evaluates your communication skill in writing, speaking, and drawing perspectives. Reports will be marked from the format, grammar, frame, and reference style aspects. I found this course very annoying when I was in university. But after a few months of work, I realised the communication portfolio course is positively reflected in my reports and client engagement in my daily work.  I’m very grateful how UC highlighted the communication skills in our degree, it’s very useful in the industry.” – Melody

“Honestly, yes. We study a lot of different things during our four-year degree, and while there are a lot of things we’ll never use in the workforce, I’ve been surprised at how much of my degree I am actually using. This is both what I’ve learned directly at university, such as how to design a beam and present calculations, and the indirect skills that I’ve developed over the course of my studies, such as teamwork, communication, and developing a problem-solving mindset.” – Leo


What advice would you give graduates starting out in the industry?

“When you’ve just graduated from university with an honoured four-year degree you might find yourself sitting at the peak of the Dunning-Kruger curve. After a couple of days/weeks in the industry, you might feel down and think “Why are there so many things I don’t know!?” That’s ok, you are in a transition period. It takes time to build your library of experiences and skills. Take your time and enjoy your journey.” – Melody

Melody Hong
Graduate Engineer
Wellington NZ

Leo Anderson
Graduate Engineer
Auckland NZ

Graduates that are still with us today, now as members of our senior leadership team, include Chris Potter, David Seel, Dylan Walmsley, Gavin McAulay, Grant Weir, Jason Beutel, Jason Langer, John Ward, Scott Wheeler, Simon Cloherty and RBG’s first employee Andrew Linder.

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