Construction’s in our Blood

Helen Sutherland

Pavement Quality Engineer

Helen Sutherland was a young girl in 1975 when she moved from Watford, England to New Zealand after her father John took up a job as a Project Manager with Fletcher Construction. Growing up she remembers many conversations over dinner about construction. “We often talked about the exciting projects Dad was working on at the time, and I always helped out with the DIY at home.”

“The projects I remember him doing included the Trentham Computer Centre, National Library of NZ, Wellington Hospital and a pair of external seismic strengthening walls on the Wellington Telephone Exchange.”

“Regrettably I didn’t get into construction until much later in my career. I started out in Information Technology but in 2012, while working for the Ministry of Justice, my role as Senior Business Advisor was disestablished along with so many others just before Christmas. I then decided to get a summer job as a labourer on a building site while looking for work.”

The drastic change in direction baffled many of Helen’s friends, while she absolutely thrived, doing a lot of things on-site already learned from her Dad. “I absolutely loved it.”

After a few months of following her dream on-site, Helen went back to the IT field to pay the bills but constantly thought about how she could get back into construction so studied for her National Certificate in Occupational H & S and started a Diploma in Construction Management.”

In 2015 she finally took a leap of faith applying for a job with Fletcher Construction as an HSEQ Administrator on the M2PP project. This move transformed her career. When the contract was completed, she transferred to Higgins in Palmerston North as an Office Manager on the NOC maintenance contract for the State Highways in the Manawatū-Whanganui region.  She also started studying the L5 Infrastructure Works for Projects.

“After three years commuting, I applied for my current role as Pavement Quality Engineer on PP2Ō where I manage the ordering, movement and compliance of aggregates and QA. My typical day is a mixed bag – 50% on-site and 50% office based – which is important for understanding how the physical works transform from plans to something tangible on the ground. I’m glad I pursued this path; I genuinely feel it’s where I belong.  It’s an exciting and challenging project and I’m part of a wonderful team.”