An online quiz led Mathew Waghorn to engineering

ACE New Zealand 2018 Student Award winner Mathew Waghorn talks to us about the benefits of winning the award and what life's like as a recent engineering graduate. 

What prompted you to enter the awards?

At the time, I was completing my degree at the University of Canterbury; an email circulated that pointed out the benefits of entering the ACE New Zealand Student Award. Entries were based on the report that I had just completed, so I approached one of the staff members at the University, and she helped point me in the right direction as far as the entry process was concerned.

What did it mean to you to win the student award?

It boosted my confidence and showed me that the report writing that I had been doing at varsity was of a reasonable standard. It was awesome to be able to attend the ACE conference in Hamilton and understand the value of these types of events in a professional world.

How has winning the award helped your career?

It was gratifying that my work colleagues acknowledged my success, and it's a bonus to have the award on my CV.

What convinced you to take on engineering?

When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. To identify a direction for a future career, I completed an online quiz which involved answering one hundred questions. Nine out of the top 10 career paths that were identified came from the engineering sector, and so I did a little more research before deciding that engineering was the path that I would follow.

What was your first year of study like at University?

After leaving high school, I had taken a couple of gap years, so my first few weeks at uni were about learning how to study all over again. It was a significant change from what I had been doing, a real step-up in terms of workload and the quality of information that you were learning.

What is your role at GHD?

I am a graduate transportation engineer. A lot of the work I do is on road safety, especially on designs for the roading network in North and South Canterbury. I am also doing a bit of pavement design, and that is a significant focus of a master's thesis that I am completing at the moment. I am also working hard on adding project management to my skill set.

What's the best part of your role at GHD?

It is the people I work alongside. We have a great bunch of new graduates who get on well together, and the intermediate and senior engineers are also great to work with. The company has certainly done well in recruiting a great bunch of people who make working at GHD very enjoyable.

What are some of the challenges you face daily?

At the moment, it's all about learning. There are a lot of things that aren't taught at uni; they are the things that you can only learn on the job. Those skills include decision-making processes and how things are done in the real world. At the moment, learning something new is a daily challenge.

Are you finding that urban design is changing rapidly at the moment?

Yes definitely. The most valuable way of keeping up with the changes are the many courses and conferences that help you understand the intricacies of the latest design options. There are many new challenges in designing for the ever-changing world, particularly around multi-use spaces and how we make the most from the limited space that is available in our towns and cities.

What would you say to anyone who is thinking about entering the ACE New Zealand Awards?

Well, you have to write the report for your uni studies, so it's just another step in that process. If you are fortunate enough to be a winner, I am sure you will find it an amazing experience. So I say, go for it.

What do you do for fun?

I used to race mountain bikes (cross country) for New Zealand (thus the gap years between high school and university). I used to train between 10 - 17 times per week depending on the week (10 - 25 hours)! I raced two world championships and around 15 or 20 world cup series races. These days I just ride for fun after work and in the weekends (lost a lot of fitness through uni!) and yeah, I bike 10 kilometres to work and back every day normally.

I also love to ski and play cricket. 

Next steps 

Apply for the 2020 Student Award