Profile: Keri Johnston
Engineering offers many opportunities. One of these opportunities is the ability to work flexibly. This case study is one of a series which showcases the diverse people working in engineering and their varied working arrangements.
Who do you work for?
Irricon Resource Solutions Limited, of which I am also a majority shareholder and director.
What tertiary qualifications do you hold?
A Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Natural Resources.
What professional memberships do you hold? What awards have you received?
I’m a Professional Member of IPENZ and a Chartered Professional Engineer.
With my business partner, Haidee McCabe, I was 2014 Supreme Winner of the Rural Women New Zealand Enterprising Rural Women Awards.
What is your current role and what does it involve?
I am primarily involved in managing water resources, both quantity and quality. This includes all aspects such as design, consenting and catchment management. I also do design and implementation of farm dairy effluent systems and onsite domestic wastewater systems.
How many hours do you work in the average working week?
It varies, but on average 25 hours a week.
What is your current employment and personal situation?
I am self-employed, and work mostly from home. My husband and I are also farming and live between Geraldine and Fairlie in South Canterbury. We have two daughters (Chelsea, 12, and Samara, 9) so working from home means the best of all worlds, which was the premise for setting up Irricon. We employ 10 staff located all over Canterbury and North Otago who also work mostly from home with flexible working hours.
Why did you decide on a career in engineering?
I was good at science and maths at school and absolutely hated the sight of blood, which ruled out anything medical! I also didn’t want to be stuck inside at a desk all day. Then one of the Natural Resource Engineering lecturers came to school at just the right time, and I was hooked. I knew it was what I wanted to do.
How has your company supported you to balance your work and other commitments?
We set up the company to make sure we could have work/life balance, but also stay working. Rural engineers aren’t that common; rural female engineers even rarer. We also wanted to work from home with flexible hours!
I’ve had the support of my old boss – an engineer in Timaru. He has continued to mentor me and has been a sounding board. For that, I’m extremely lucky.
What does the future hold for you professionally and privately?
The business is growing, which is exciting and scary all at the same time. I want to keep growing as an engineer. Fortunately, I’m well placed to do this.
Privately, the husband would like a bigger farm, so who knows where we might end up. But location doesn’t matter, which is another beauty of Irricon.
What advice do you have for others who are seeking to work more flexibly or who are managing work and commitments?
Don’t give up! You have every right to have a career and be a wife and mother too. It can be done.
Thanks to Keri for taking the time to give us an insight into her life.
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