It's almost the end of Student Volunteer Week but we're still going strong! We have a special feature on an ex-Student volunteer: Gina has graduated and she shares how important volunteering has been for her career
Gina is in her 3rd year out of uni! After finishing her BA/BE(Hons) conjoint at the University of Auckland specialising in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and majoring in Spanish, Gina continues volunteering with EWB as our Operations Coordinator.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! Could you talk us through your day-to-day work as a geotechnical engineer?
I'm working with WSP managing a range of projects including small design projects, and site investigation projects. I get to work with a diverse bunch of people including other engineers, geologists, and sub contractors.
Your job sounds exciting! Did you always know that you wanted to do this kind of work?
Well, it's interesting because I knew what I wanted to do in my long term career before I even knew what I was going to study at uni. I've always known that in the far future, I want to work in the not for profit industry. It was just a matter of figuring out which technical industry I wanted to join. After tossing up between a law degree and an engineering degree, I chose engineering for its practical problem solving aspects. Then, in my third year, I found EWB and it became the bridge between the technical engineering I've been learning about in class and my long term goal.
From there, how did you get involved with EWB more / what kind of things did you do with EWB / how did you get to do these cool things with ewb /
From that AGM, I learned about the technical placements that EWB did with the professionals. Of course, at the time, I was a 3rd year student and I didn't really have much technical experience to offer, so I wasn't about to be sent overseas on a project. But the lack of technical experience didn't put Matt, the Project Manager, off. When he asked if anyone could help out with logistics, I put my hand up. From there, Matt took me on board and guided me through a year and a half working remotely on the Wawan Project. Since the Wawan Project, I've been with the Risk and Operations Teams.
That's a long time to be volunteering for a single organisation! What are some of your highlights?
Jumping in the deep end with the Wawan project was definitely my highlight. The Wawan project looked at the existing assets on Ambrym island in Vanuatu and help the locals create a reliable rain water collection system. For this project, I was the Assistant Project Manager, helping Matt, and Kyle, our in-country volunteer. It's a highlight for me because I learned a lot about international development in working in the South Pacific. I also got the chance to speak about the lessons we learned at the annual Pacific Water Conference in Tonga!
That's so cool that you got some project management experience while a student! How has the experience with the Wawan project helped you with the rest of uni?
All the project management experience with Wawan showed me, more than ever, the importance of time management. Because I wanted to do the volunteering work, I had to make sure that I managed my time studying well as well. I think the collaborative team work of volunteering complemented the individual learning that we do at uni.
What about with working?
Volunteering exposed me to how professionals worked. This meant that I could see not only how Matt managed a project, but also how to talk to clients, how to send professional emails, and improved my interpersonal skills. One of the top skills I learned was how to get comfortable calling people! But more than the skills, the confidence in my own ability and the credibility of my opinions was my biggest take home.
Thank you so much for your time Gina! I hope we can all find work that leads us to our aspirations!
"I put my hand up"
-Gina Yukich, 2020