31 August 2015

Profile: Michelle Saldanha

Michelle Saldanha

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? 

Stephenson & Turner Architects and Engineers.

What tertiary qualifications do you hold? 

Bachelor of Architectural Studies from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW).

What professional memberships do you hold? 

I’m an Affiliate Member of IPENZ.

What is your current role and what does it involve? 

I’m a BIM manager and junior mechanical engineer. I champion BIM Management Plans for large projects, run observation stage on site and do design calculations.

How many hours do you work in the average working week? 

Recently married, I make sure I work my 40 hours a week. There are times when overtime is required but I try to make this the exception, not the rule. 

What is your current employment and personal situation? 

I was married in February and am studying part-time towards my Masters of Building Services Engineering with Sustainable Design.

I bought a house when I was 22 and have been DIY renovating ever since. 

Why did you decide on a career in engineering? 

While studying architecture at VUW I was working part time at Norman, Disney & Young Engineers and became interested in the calculation side of their job through my work with Revit. I was fortunate a senior mechanical engineer found my endless stream of questions more endearing than annoying! This ignited my drive to understand engineering systems. After moving to Stephenson & Turner, with the intention of getting more architecture exposure, I found the draw of the engineering division undeniable and jumped the fence.

How has your company supported you to balance your work and other commitments? 

  • Flexible work hours: I work 7.30am–4pm to fit in with my carpooling situation
  • My employer funds my study and allows me one day off a week to study during my study period (September–May each year)
  • My direct supervisor is ensuring I get a range of experiences from calculations to on-site management to complement my study.

What does the future hold for you professionally and privately? 

Professionally, I’m planning to become a certified Mechanical Engineer.

Personally, I’m planning to:

  • Invest in a new house and run our current house as a rental in the hopes of developing a portfolio of investment properties
  • Have a family
  • Continue to compete in the Summer Scorcher Triathlon Series.

What advice do you have for others who are seeking to work more flexibly or who are managing work and commitments? 

Be open and honest with your employer. This will help each party understand where the other is coming from and encourage them to work together to find a mutually beneficial way to reach their goals.

Be clear and concise about your goals.

Be proactive and don’t give up; initially, my proposals were overlooked.

Other Comments

My biggest struggle to date has been the decision to commit fully to engineering. It was going to take five years to become qualified if I studied part time. My husband and I aim to have children within this time, so it was a big decision to become a student again. Ultimately, we went ahead with my plans once work committed to expanding my practical engineering exposure in conjunction with my study. What this meant to me was that if/when I take time off to have children I won’t be without a) an engineering qualification and b) practical experience.

Thanks to Michelle for taking the time to give us an insight into her life.

Get in touch

To take part in an IPENZ profile, email diversity@ipenz.org.nz