Opportunities aplenty in Aotearoa
“There is this idea among some overseas Kiwi that you go home to New Zealand when your career is over, and that’s not true at all.” Travis Harris left New Zealand for his OE back in 2011. Ten years later he returned home to discover New Zealand has changed quite a lot.
A structural engineer, Travis worked in the Netherlands for three years and in Texas, USA for another seven. When he initially started to think about returning home, he believed it could negatively affect his career.
“From a personal perspective I was quite keen to come home but my biggest hesitation was having my career stalling and not having a role in New Zealand that would match the type of work, and the excitement and fulfillment I was getting from my job in Texas.”
After graduating from university in New Zealand Travis had worked for Kiwi company Holmes Consulting, and while still in Texas he had the opportunity to have lunch with his old boss Hamish Nevile.
“It wasn’t a recruitment conversation, just a catch up but I told him that we were thinking about coming home. He told me what was happening at Holmes and discussed some projects that were coming up. It totally changed my expectations of what was available back in New Zealand. All of a sudden I realised my ideas of the market, the opportunities, the salaries etc were all ten years old. That one conversation made me realise how wrong my assumptions had been.”
In April Travis and his partner landed back on Kiwi soil. After taking up a Team Leader, Civil Structures position at Holmes Consulting, Travis says he’s impressed at how much the engineering industry has changed.
“I think the industry as a whole has definitely matured in New Zealand. There is recognition as a country that we need to do something about our infrastructure, and that’s really important and also provides a lot of opportunities. I’ve always respected Holmes as a company, and to come back and see the projects they are working on and see the culture and sense of team is really exciting.”
The other thing Travis says he’s looking forward to is the future opportunities his new job holds.
New Zealand is a small country and we need to improve the infrastructure because good infrastructure improves the quality of people’s lives, but at the same time we need to do that in a way that ensures the country remains a beautiful place, balancing those two things moving forward is an exciting challenge.”
Travis says his offshore experience has given him valuable experience and knowledge to bring to his new role in Aotearoa.
“The world is becoming more and more connected, no matter where you work you end up working with different cultures, different ways of thinking etc. So having that offshore experience, working with different people, seeing things done a different way, I think that definitely provides a lot of value when you return.”
And that’s a sentiment echoed by his boss, CEO of Holmes Consulting, Hamish Neville.
“Kiwi are always open to learning from others and are agile enough as a nation to rapidly implement this thinking to the New Zealand context. One of the key things I see in those returning is what international best practice and thinking looks like from a sustainability and ‘engineering for climate change’ perspective.”
Travis says he’s really grateful he kept in touch with his colleagues at Holmes Consulting and wants other offshore Kiwi to realise how important those connections back to New Zealand can be. He wants to encourage other offshore Kiwi to not be afraid to reach out and connect with those in their industries in New Zealand.
“Don’t let your previous expectations of New Zealand govern your decisions, I had a warped view of what the engineering and professional industry was like, but once I started talking to people I started to get quite excited about the opportunities.”