Tag Archives: Engineer

The Unexpected Journey (Jen – Structural Engineer)

I am super excited to feature Jen on the blog today. I have some truly amazing friends who are also fellow engineers and I thought it would be fun to introduce some more of them to you – this way you get to see just how cool of adventures engineers get to have. One of my friends who fully exemplifies this adventurous spirit is Jen – a true traveling techie! She majored in civil engineering while at WPI - we were two peas in a pod at school…both very involved with student activities on campus. I think you’ll enjoy meeting her as much as I enjoy having her as a friend…take it away, Jen! 
Jen and Keith
Thus far in life I have made three life-changing decisions that have really helped form who I am today.
1) I said yes to marrying a great guy named Keith
2) I chose to go to WPI for undergrad and Cornell for graduate school
3) I said yes to the opportunity to leave my family and friends and live in New Zealand for 6 months
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I could write about all of these for a while! But as for the traveling aspect of this blog, I will focus on number 3-
I had these dreams as a college student of being able to have a job where I would go on these grand journies all over the world. When I became a structural engineer and started helping design buildings all over the greater DC area, I figured the traveling aspect would remain a dream, with the off-chance of getting to ride the train to NYC or Philadelphia for a meeting. So when I was asked by our office manager if I was willing to go New Zealand for 6 months to help our Christchurch satellite office assess the 2010 earthquake damage I practically screamed “yes!”…well, I said “yes! maybe!” and then went home and sat down with my brand new husband of 5 months, discussed some pros and cons, and agreed to go when he said “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity – go for it!” I hope every one can find at least one great friend or companion just as supportive and encouraging!
Keith and Jen Wedding Photo
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Thus began my journey to Middle Earth. For those who don’t know, or may have forgotten, Christchurch, New Zealand was shaken up by several large quakes starting in September 2010. When an aftershock occurred within the central city in February 2011, 185 people died and several buildings were severely damaged. Our job was to generally work with insurance companies and local engineers to assess the building damage and give a recommendation on how it should be repaired. The situation was quite a tragedy; however, I was glad to jump in to help with the process and be able learn and experience a lot along the way.
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Without further ado, here’s a few lessons learned and lovely photos from a traveling techie in New Zealand:
1. The plane ride over the south island is the best ever:
AKL to CHC Air New Zealand Flight

AKL to CHC Air New Zealand Flight

2. Never stay indoors for longer than necessary. My first weekend in Christchurch my colleagues were exhausted from the previous long weekend excursions, so I hopped in a car to explore the countryside solo.
The Hilltop Cafe on the drive to Akaroa

The Hilltop Cafe on the drive to Akaroa

3. Site visits are always full of fun back-stories. I was inspecting a storage unit in which several very nice cars were parked, when I asked the owner about the Rolls Royce he told me how the last time Queen Elizabeth was in town she rented the car from him! I resisted asking if I could take my photo in the drivers seat…but looking back on it, I don’t think he would have minded!
Car for a Queen

Car for a Queen

4. Go out of your comfort zone. New Zealand is quite the place to experience new adventures, and no one is there to read you a bunch of legal jargon warning of any dangers beforehand…
Not going to lie, I wasn't too excited to enter this crevice of Fox Glacier!

Not going to lie, I wasn’t too excited to enter this crevice of Fox Glacier!

Our glacier team continuing the climb out of the crevice

Our glacier team continuing the climb out of the crevice

First trap shooting experience and ended up winning the group competition!

First trap shooting experience and ended up winning the group competition!

I look so happy in this photo because I finally made it to the top of McKinnon's Pass on the Milford Trek; therefore, all m

I look so happy in this photo because I finally made it to the top of McKinnon’s Pass on the Milford Trek

5. Coffee is better outside of America. I will continually mess up saying “trim” and, or “skim” in reference to what milk.
Coffee works of art
6. Do as the locals do–obviously this means attempting to fall in love with concentrated yeast extract.
Inner office marmite versus vegemite challenge. As you may be able to tell, I didn't like either!

Inner office marmite versus vegemite challenge. As you may be able to tell, I didn’t like either!

7. Then reciprocate to the locals — teach them some of your American ways. Due to the large need of engineers and projects managers, Christchurch has had an influx of expats over the past few years. Our office quickly connected with some friends of some friends from America and obviously decided to throw together an American (er…Mexican?) tradition of a Cinco de Mayo party to our local friends.
Cinco de Mayo Party

Cinco de Mayo Party

8. Rock the work uniform, perhaps someday it will be a thing, or not… I completely understand what Erin wrote about in her previous post! Us engineers can end up in some pretty interesting (and dirty) places. The work uniform always protects us, and obviously makes for some fun and fashionable photos…
Gym floor inspection. I swear this bunny suit is going to be a thing someday

Gym floor inspection. I swear this bunny suit is going to be a thing someday

9. Become friends with your colleagues, they are your temporary family for a while. I could risk sounding quite cheesy and sentimental here, but the people I was working with and hanging out with for 6 months really made for a great experience. What’s the point of being on a great adventure if you don’t meet some great people along the way? Besides my first weekend I always had at least one colleague up for traveling, hiking, or just going out to brunch on Sunday.
NZ Family Photos

NZ Family Photos

10. Take a vacation after your big trip. Several colleagues had their significant others or family members visit during their NZ stay. My husband and I decided to meet in Hawaii after my NZ stint was done. Best choice ever. Traveling can take a toll on you, especially when you’re on the other side of the world from home. If you’ve been spending June through August in winter (remember NZ is in another hemisphere), it’s even more of a plus to take a vacation on a warm beach somewhere.
Haleakala Volcano Sunrise, yes those are clouds below us!

Haleakala Volcano Sunrise, yes those are clouds below us!

Phew, I could have kept going but I may have overdone this blog with an excessive amount of photos! Overall it was a great experience being able to work and learn, yet in a new place. I came back to DC with loads more knowledge on repair investigations and presentations and also learned a whole lot (maybe too much) about hiking (remember to always create an air pocket in when an avalanche occurs!) and the beauty that is New Zealand. Cheers mates!

I’m sure you’re all as thankful as I am that Jen decided to share this with us..told you she was cool! If you want to read more about her great adventures in New Zealand, check out her blog

Topsides Jack Up Video

Sometimes it’s hard to explain what we’re doing here in Korea and some of the crazy cool things that we’re getting to be a part of. This video is an example of one of those awesome things – in order to be transported to Russia, the Topsides had to be raised up in preparation to go on the barge that will that will take it there. A specialty contractor came in to do this for our project – it lifted the more than 42,000 Te Topsides that we work on every day up another ~20m. It was really interesting to watch this all come together – it was pretty remarkable to see it when it was finally lifted, too. To me, this is one of many reasons being an engineer is awesome – you don’t just get to see this on videos, but you get to see it in person and watch things happen that others may not think possible. I think that’s pretty darn cool. What do you think?

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