The day you get your degree, a world of opportunity opens up in front of you. It becomes a fundamental part of enabling your future.
Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou katoa.
On Tuesday 19 April, I had the privilege of addressing the University of Canterbury Faculty of Engineering and Forestry graduates. It took me back to my capping day, in the Christchurch Town Hall, in the year that the Centennial of the School of Engineering was celebrated – 1987!
Graduating is such a significant event in one’s life and a huge achievement – one that takes commitment and tenacity. It is one that you’re proud of, as are your family, friends and the university community. And, if you’re anything like me, in future years you will look back on the occasion with some great memories and appreciate the significance even more.
In my address were two key messages which resonate strongly with me, based on my experiences over the years:
- Build on your future
The day you get your degree, a world of opportunity opens up in front of you. It becomes a fundamental part of enabling your future. Feel privileged that you have had the opportunity for university study and feel proud that you earned your degree through hard work and commitment.
The key to a successful future is to build on your degree through further learning and development. And by that I mean a combination of learning in industry and investing time in study. Ongoing learning is critical in any professional environment and great organisations are learning organisations. I’ve certainly benefitted from such learning and development opportunities – particularly learning derived from experienced colleagues in the workplace, but also selected academic and experiential training.
It is your responsibility to use your qualification and the opportunity that it gives you along with your talents and knowledge and ongoing development to make a contribution to your chosen industry and community.
- Find a role that brings you fulfilment
Peruse roles that bring you enjoyment and reward, and take the opportunities to support that fulfilment throughout your career. This doesn’t mean it’ll be fun all the time, of course there will be days when you’d rather be out socialising or playing sport (or whatever takes your fancy – in my case, likely fishing), it’s about having balance. If you enjoy what you do, you will do it better and be more successful at it. So, I encourage you to make the most of the opportunities that arise, especially as these align to support what you enjoy.
In my role as a consulting engineer I enjoy a diverse range of activities and experiences. I love the people interaction – growing relationships and helping people develop. I am stimulated by solving tricky technical issues. I relish the thrill of being a part of bringing a major project to fruition – these facets of my career bring me satisfaction and enjoyment. These days I’m also able to balance my interests by giving back to the profession – such as through IPENZ or addressing graduates – it is hugely rewarding.
In closing, I passed on some valuable advice from one of my heroes, Sir Ron Carter, a New Zealand engineer honoured with a Knighthood and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Sir Ron was one of the founding partners of Beca and I am fortunate to have worked alongside him. Now in his early eighties, when recently asked what advice he would have given his teenage self, Sir Ron said:
“Strive for life balance. Extend your education and experience to the limit of your ability. Decide what you are good at and then set out to become better and better at it. When you are good at something and enjoy life success is straight ahead.”
I think that quote sums up very well the message I want to leave with you. My challenge to each of you now, whether you’ve recently graduated or not, is to take every opportunity your hard-earned degree gives you and make the best contribution to the profession you have chosen to be a part of – in that way you will create a positive legacy.