The challenge of transitioning from student to the working world - with Theodore Carlos

Theodore Carlos is a structural engineer for AECOM in Auckland. In 2016 he was a winner in the student category at the ACE Awards and last year was part of the award’s judging panel. We caught up with Theodore to chat about the early years of his career and the challenge of transitioning from being a student to the working world. 


Theodore Carlos

Theodore Carlos

Theodore, what convinced you to embark on a structural engineering career?  

During my high school days, I was very keen on woodwork and metalwork, and that inspired me to consider engineering as a career. Those two disciplines are quite similar to engineering, where a client comes to you with a problem, and you set about finding a solution. During my first year at university, I wasn't sure about which type of engineering I wanted to specialise in, but I did know that my passion was around solving problems. I realised that structural engineering lets me do this on a much larger scale. In the end, I settled on structural, and have never regretted that decision.  

I've started to get into the sustainable aspect of engineering and am a member of the New Zealand Green Building Council, where we focus on the implementation of sustainable and green building practices. At AECOM, we encourage clients to consider including sustainability options into their building designs, but not everyone is open to these suggestions - at the moment. We have the engineering expertise at AECOM to include sustainability options into the design, but there is some way to go before it becomes the norm. 

Did you enjoy your time at university?  

Some parts were good and others...not so much. You get to see your friends every day, and your social life can be enjoyable; however, study and exams are a bit different. They are an essential part of university life, but exam times can be extremely stressful!   

What do you remember about your move from university into the work environment?  

It wasn't too tough, and most engineering students I imagine would say the same. We have to complete 800 hours of practical work to complete an engineering degree, so we already have the work experience before we leave uni.  

I was already familiar with the vast difference that exists between the theory you learn at university and its practical application in the workplace.  

In 2016 you won the ACE New Zealand Student Award. Did it help your career?  

The award recognises people for their vision and the quality of report writing. This translates well into the work you do in the engineering profession. It was a massive boost to my confidence in my ability to write reports.  

Last year you were on the judging panel for the Student Award. Tell us more! 

It was fascinating to be part of the judging panel.   

The experience was still relatively fresh in my mind, and I was excited to see how the submissions had changed in the three years since I completed my entry.   

Being on the marking side provided a few challenges as I found some of the reports were a little difficult to get my head around. The reasons for this were probably twofold. Sometimes the writing was not particularly clear, while some entries focused on a part of the industry that I wasn't so familiar with, these took a little more time to understand. Quite a few of the entrants had produced very impressive reports, and they subsequently became finalists in the category.   

It gave me an insight into the different engineering disciplines that are part of the industry, and I was able to get a glimpse of what various companies around New Zealand are doing. 

What effect has COVID-19 had on your work situation?  

Before the lockdown, AECOM was open to us working from home. I find the atmosphere of working remotely more relaxing, but it has its challenges in setting up your online networks and agreeing on meeting times!  

Working from home is probably not something I'd focus on in the future. I do miss things like the café culture that comes from working in an office which allows me to socialise with my workmates! The other thing I find reassuring from working in an office is knowing that support is just a desk away. If there are questions that need an immediate answer, you can be reasonably sure there will be someone in the office who can help out.    

What do you do for fun?   

I have always kept my interest in building furniture. I also like fixing things and sometimes going to my old high school to use their much larger workshops. I also enjoy tinkering with my car.  

Connect with Theodore on LinkedIn