Forensics in engineering - with Devina Shedde

Devina Shedde fell in love with art history and old monuments from a young age. So much so that she studied engineering and art history at the University of Auckland. Devina is one of our 2020 ACE New Zealand Student Award winners. We caught up with her to find out more.

Devina Shedde

Devina, what made you apply for the award?  

I had seen it advertised and a colleague of mine encouraged me to apply. He read my draft submission and thought it was worthy of entry.  

You undertook an internship at AECOM. How was it? 

It was great. The ability to meet and be around other consultants was a great learning and networking experience. I loved being on-site meeting the other contractors and getting to see the actual buildings and structures. As an engineer, you do have a lot of desk time, so getting out in the field is exciting.  

As part of the internship experience, you get a 'buddy' who helps you get settled into the workplace. You also get exposed to a range of professional practices which give you a true taste of what it's like to work at a large consulting firm.  

I worked on the Hairini - Mt Maunganui Realignment Detailed Design project, which saw the relocation and realignment of one of the two main transmission lines that powers the Mount.  

I also worked on incorporating the design of the new line into the as-built CAD model to perform structural analysis checks to ensure the detailed design complied with load and clearance criteria.  

Devina and friends on her travels

Why did you study engineering and art history?  

I enjoyed studying physics when I was younger because I liked how it explained how the world works, and from there it was a natural progression into engineering. My love of art history was introduced to me by an amazing teacher in Year Two, who taught us stories about ancient Egyptian history.  

I also loved Classical Studies - in high school, my class went on a field trip to France, Italy and Greece, and seeing all the ancient architecture was amazing from both the engineering and art history perspectives. Pictures in a book is one thing, but going there and seeing it in the flesh is another. It was wonderful!  

At Epsom Girls Grammar, our teachers encouraged us into STEM subjects, so when I went to university, I felt prepared and excited about studying engineering. In 2015, I believe we had one of the highest proportions of females in the first year cohort that the University of Auckland had seen at that point in time. Don't quote me on that - but it was a higher number than usual. 

Last year I decided to do a part of my Arts degree in Montreal. I went over there for four months over winter. It was probably one of the best times of my life. I got to combine my love of travelling with study, and I made some amazing, life-long friends. I also learnt how to ski, which I probably should have learnt in New Zealand given we have access to so many mountains!  

What are you up to now 

I am working for a small consulting firm in downtown Auckland.  

One project I've worked on recently was on the Kerikeri Mission House, which was built in 1822. We assessed the structure to see how it stacked up against today's building and engineering standards. It was amazing to be a part of the project and to get immersed in the history of the building. 

I feel like the work I do now is like forensics within engineering. We uncover things about the buildings that have been there for decades, sometimes centuries, which is very interesting in terms of seeing what earlier construction methods and building designs were like. 

Devina on her travels

What do you like to do outside of work? 

I love to travel. My first big trip overseas was with a friend for five weeks backpacking across Europe. We visited a bunch of places, and my favourite one was Barcelona. More recently, after my exchange semester ended, I made it to Cuba, which was a bucket list travel experience.  

I've also picked up my guitar more often these days, especially during the lockdown. 

What's your advice for any student thinking about applying for the ACE New Zealand Student Award? 

Do it! I think that being able to write proficiently and articulate yourself is crucial both inside and outside of your professional career, and applying for the ACE Student Award is a great way to challenge yourself and hone those skills. 

Connect with Devina on LinkedIn

Next steps 

Devina will be awarded the Student Award at the ACE Awards. Details about the awards to come.