I’m Kit Lawrence, engineering geologist in the Christchurch office of AECOM (Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance).

My job is to provide geological and geotechnical advice and expertise to a wide range of clients for projects they are undertaking. This can include; geotechnical investigations to determine the likely ground conditions; evaluating geological and geotechnical risks such as liquefaction, settlement, and slope stability; concept, preliminary, and detailed design of new foundations, pavements, retaining walls, and mitigation to identified hazards.

The best thing about my job is that I’m constantly having to learn new things. Whether it be a new form of analysis, a type of investigation I haven’t done yet, dealing with clients and people in different ways, or improving the way I do simple things, I am always learning.

The hardest part? The projects I work on often come with very tight deadlines and are rarely negotiable. This can cause a bit of stress at times, and can mean working long hours, but is all part of the challenge and definitely helps develop good organisational skills!

Inter-personal skills form a big part of my job, alongside having the technical skills and background necessary for the role. At the end of the day, my job is as part of a team and working effectively within that team to achieve great results for our clients.

There are two distinct parts of my job; one is the work environment of being part of a large global consultancy, and the other is working as an engineering geologist. You will enjoy consultancy if you are interested in working in a changing industry, on a wide range of projects, working as part of a team, and applying your technical knowledge to help create projects. You will enjoy engineering geology if you like to mix office work with field work, have an interest in geology, have good communication skills to help when managing site works, enjoy variety in your work and don’t mind getting dirty.

Kit Lawrence, livin' the dream!

Kit Lawrence, livin’ the dream!

I got into engineering geology through the course of my study, rather than actively pursuing it from the start. Growing up, I always enjoyed geology and found I was reasonably good at it, along with other sciences and maths. At The University of Waikato, I took some introductory papers along with physics and maths – this was a really broad spread of topics because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Then as I progressed, I found more types of engineering within geology and I found a topic I really enjoyed studying. Towards the end of my degree I heard about engineering geology and geotechnical engineering and thought it sounded like a good way to apply the skills I had learnt, and to develop other skills in a similar field.

It’s quite hard to define a ‘typical’ day, because it really depends on the type and stage of project I’m working on. Most commonly, my day might include a small amount of project management, some form of analysis or assessment, report writing, and – depending on the stage of a project – organising and undertaking site work. But there are also times when I am doing proposal development, talking with clients, undertaking long periods of varied site work, and working with other teams within AECOM.

My work hours are generally 8:00am to 5:00pm, but depending on the particular project this can change. For example, I worked for six months in Saudi Arabia, working ten hours a day, six days a week!

Probably the coolest thing about Saudi Arabia was getting to know some of the local guys who were helping us get around. Eventually one of them took me and a colleague back to his place to meet his family for lunch. It was a really strange experience as his family didn’t speak any English and he only spoke a few words of English. With the few words of Arabic we had learnt we managed to have a conversation and an absolutely huge lunch.

If you’d like a job like this, my advice is to get a reasonably broad knowledge. There are so many different types of work in this field so it’s good to have at least a basic understanding of the type of investigation, testing, design and parameters you might be using. And be prepared to work in a team and build strong professional relationships – this is a key part of life in a consultancy within the engineering and construction industry.