Engineering was never a dream job, until now

posted: 12:00 pm - 8th November 2017
Sifa Pole 2

The Waterview Tunnel Project is one of the most important infrastructure developments ever to take place in New Zealand and Sifa Pole, 28, was part of the team that helped construct the motorway ring route around Auckland city.

Sifa, an engineer who was born in Fiji and grew up in Tonga, migrated to New Zealand with his family at the age of seven.

Raised by Tongan parents, Sifa had many dreams as a child but engineering was not on the list.

“Engineering was not on my dream list growing up,” says Sifa.

“I’ve been brought up in a Pacific way, where parents always wanted their child to be a lawyer, a pilot or a doctor – all careers that Pacific parents expose us to, but engineering was never on the list.”

“….But I’m very happy with my choice.”

“I love my job and having oversight of what I do on a daily basis, but you still learn as you go.”

One of the most successful projects Sifa have worked on was helping install eight retaining walls when he worked on the Waterview Tunnel Project – the biggest tunnel in the southern hemisphere.

“The project truly was a challenge but also an innovative way to deal with Auckland’s congestion by creating a direct, time-saving link between the airport and the city.”

“I am now an engineer with Watercare Services Ltd, who I have worked for since 2014.”

Watercare is New Zealand's largest water and wastewater company, owned by the Auckland Council.

My job is optimizing the operation of the wastewater transmission network.”

Recently, Sifa has been promoted to an Operations Controller position in the Wastewater Transmission Unit.

“I want to expand my knowledge in the water sector and eventually move into more senior leadership roles within the company.”

At school, Sifa enjoyed physics and calculus and those subjects paved the way for his career today.”

“I don’t come from a family of engineers, with the exception of my first cousin Veronica Maka, who is a Chartered Electrical Engineer, and well known in the Pacific community. My older brother encouraged me to study engineering and here I am.”  

Aside from his professional career, Sifa is also the current president of the incorporated society South Pacific Professional Engineers for Excellence (SPPEEx), who focus on creating a flourishing Maori and Pacific Engineering profession.

“We help grow a community of Māori and Pacific engineers and promote the engineering profession in our communities, to support our career success and to increase diversity in engineering.”

“I also serve on the property committee of the Mangere-Otahuhu Methodist parish which aims to review the aging building assets owned by the parish and plan for the future management of these assets.”

Sifa advocates strongly for the importance of education.

“Practical experience is good, but it always pays to have a good solid educational background. Outside of theory, you apply engineering principles and technical insights.”

“I urge our Pacific youth who want to become future engineers to take on STEM-related subjects at school and follow through to tertiary learning.”

Sifa gained his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Auckland in 2012.

“I am fortunate in being pointed towards engineering as a career path by my family.”

“I have four brothers and two sisters and I’m the only engineer in the family,” smiles Sifa.

“I am responsible for 430 kilometres of trunk sewers, which are the large pipes that transport wastewater from the local wastewater network to the Rosedale Wastewater Treatment Plant, as being responsible for 66 wastewater pump stations around the North Shore.”

“I also manage maintenance projects for the big pipes, and I respond to operational issues affecting the wastewater network. Its quite a challenging but also a self-rewarding career.”

Aside from his busy schedule Sifa enjoys rugby.

He was the captain for the Patumahoe Premier Rugby team this year and was also a member of the Counties Manukau Bs Red team. Sifa also represented Tonga A rugby in 2015 during the World Rugby Pacific Challenge in Suva, Fiji.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples have eight Toloa tertiary scholarships on offer, each valued up to $25,000, available for Pacific students wanting to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Click here to find out more. Applications for the Toloa Scholarships close on Wednesday 15 November 2017.