Maryam Razz moved to New Zealand from Iran seven years ago after feeling curious about other cultures and wanting to live somewhere different. She now works for Pedersen Read in Christchurch and is an ACE New Zealand Regional Chair for the Canterbury and West Coast regions. We caught up with Maryam recently to hear how nothing stops her from achieving her goals.
Maryam, why did you choose to move to New Zealand?
I've always been curious about other cultures and people's way of life outside of my country. Iran is stunning and beautiful, however its massively overcrowded as you can imagine and I wanted to get away and explore another culture. Somewhere smaller, quieter and with good access to nature. I love the outdoors and nature, so New Zealand is ideal for me!
Living in Christchurch suits me. It's not quite as high-spirited as some other big cities in New Zealand, but still has enough going on. Plus, access to the mountains and walks are impressive. Over the last few years, it has been amazing to see Christchurch change again into a vibrant and flourishing city after the quakes.
Frankly, I didn't know a lot about New Zealand before I moved here other than its natural beauty. I'm now feeling pretty settled.
My parents and the rest of my family still live in Trehan in Iran, where I grew up and are very supportive of my move and life decisions. I'm lucky, they've always been very responsive to what I've wanted to do.
I moved here in 2013 and spent most of the first two years travelling around the country and house hunting! I got to see pretty much all of the South Island, and almost all of the North.
Why did you apply to be an ACE New Zealand Regional Chair?
I was part of the ACE New Zealand Young Professionals Committee when I was approached about the Regional Chair role. In the beginning, I wasn't too sure how I'd fit into the role, but I soon found my way. The encouragement and support that I received from my boss Andrew Read and the rest of the team at Pedersen Read was so helpful and appreciated.
As a Regional Chair, I think of myself as the local eyes and ears for ACE. As an extroverted person, it's an excellent opportunity to communicate with other consultants and see what their challenges and struggles are in the industry. I occasionally get involved with high-level issues from other ACE New Zealand member firms, and I get to have discussions with Chief Executive Paul Evans and the board. It has opened the doors for some discussions I wouldn't usually be able to have.
I believe engineering is one of the best degrees for women - it's creative and technical - a fascinating balance of the two.
I am the type of person who likes to achieve something. Every day at work, I feel like I accomplish and learn something - that's the beauty of engineering.
I completed my studies in Trehan and then worked in industrial automation engineering. I was involved in the oil, gas, food, and water treatment plants back home but once I moved to New Zealand I realised that there wasn't a lot of scope for that type of work here, so I had to switch it up. Thankfully my employers at Pederson Read supported me 100% and encouraged me to retrain. I’m now involved with electrical services for commercial buildings like supermarkets.
I get to go out on-site regularly - it's a mix of being behind my computer writing reports and doing technical design, to meeting with clients and other consultants on the job site.
What are your highlights to date?
Personally, moving to New Zealand is a highlight. The fact that I packed up my life and moved to a country I knew no one in and knew little about astounds me. I would talk to people in cafes, on the train and at work and this was the way I made some wonderful friends!
You've studied for an MBA - tell us more!
While studying for your MBA might sound like an extreme way of getting a promotion, it also means it helps me get a broader picture of the business side of engineering and consulting. Plus, I'm interested in all facets of the industry - not just the technical side.
You've achieved a lot in your life, where does your desire to achieve come from?
I grew up with strength from my parents in a very open-minded and supportive family.
I learned you can't sit back and wait for things to happen. If you want things to happen, you have to be at the table where all voices matter.