Profile: Darren Fidler
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?
Jacobs New Zealand Ltd, based in the Christchurch office.
What tertiary qualifications do you hold?
I have a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Mathematics, a Master of Science in non-linear modelling and a PhD in Fire Engineering.
What professional memberships do you hold? What awards have you received?
I’m a Member of the Transportation Group (a subgroup of IPENZ) and sit on the committee for the NZ Modelling User Group.
What is your current role and what does it involve?
I sit in the NZ Transport Planning team with my focus being on transport modelling and economic analysis. I also look after the NZ graduate program, and lead the Christchurch office. My time is split fairly evenly between these roles, essentially problem solving in all of them, just different kinds of problems!
How many hours do you work in the average working week?
32 hours, Monday to Thursday.
What is your current employment and personal situation?
I work a four day week so that I can spend Fridays with my youngest two daughters (Isla and Cassie) while my wife Zoe is at work. This has also given me a bit more time to get involved in our local Redcliffs Residents Association, and Redcliffs School PTA, also assisting the school board with technical transport and economic issues.
Why did you decide on a career in engineering?
After working my way through school and university focusing on maths, I started lecturing maths to engineering students as part of my PhD studies. I found the application of maths interesting so when I started looking for work outside of academia, I wanted to work in applying mathematics. Transport modelling and economic analysis fits the bill.
How has your company supported you to balance your work and other commitments?
Jacobs have always been flexible with the hours that I work, with a significant amount of trust involved. I commit to getting the job done, and working extra hours when required, safe in the knowledge that no one will be watching the clock if I need to head off early some days. Juggling the roles I hold in a four day week has been surprisingly straightforward. My team, the graduates and clients are all used to me not being at work on Fridays (I’ve been doing this for more than two years now) and I can manage the workload and deadlines.
What does the future hold for you professionally and privately?
Professionally, I’ve been trying out a number of roles within Jacobs over the last decade from technical specialist to line management, from client management to project management. I’ve been fortunate enough to have these roles within Jacobs, and from Christchurch (although I spent my first four years with Jacobs based in our Auckland office). I’ve been fortunate enough to work on projects all over the world, without the requirement for too much travel, although I have spent reasonable periods of time in our Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne offices when it has added value to the project. I’d like to continue in this vein, trying out new things, meeting new people, learning new skills, particularly as the transport industry develops both in New Zealand and globally. I’m keen to stay at the forefront of this development.
Personally, with three young children, and my wife building up a photography business, I’m keen to support my family in any way I can. At the moment, I feel like I’ve got the right balance of providing them with time and food on the table!
What advice do you have for others who are seeking to work more flexibly or who are managing work and commitments?
Plan it (with your family, your team and your clients), and then do it. A huge number of friends and colleagues have said to me that they wish they could work a four day week. If you’re willing to take a 20 per cent pay cut, it’s surprisingly easy. I’ve found the time with my family and within my local community has been worth it. You can’t buy that back once the kids have grown up.
Thanks to Darren for taking the time to give us an insight into his life.
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