Hear from... a Civil Engineer


…a Civil Engineer

Name: Nathan Sidwell
Studied: Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury (Australia)
Qualified in: 2010
Works for: AECOM

civil engineer Nathan Sidwell

“After college I headed to the University of Canterbury to study engineering...”

After college I headed to the University of Canterbury to study engineering, not knowing if tertiary study was for me. I was apprehensive about being able to meet the standard to get into the subsequent year and questioning if I would enjoy the civil engineering discipline. In the first semester I grew to really enjoy engineering study and found I was getting class average marks.

I passed my first year of engineering and noticed myself putting the hard yards in without realising and making a great group of mates along the way. I was well coached by the engineering school and lecturers as I progressed through my degree and my marks reflected the effort I put in and the enjoyment I gained from my study.

On 7 February 2011, I started my first full time engineering job with AECOM. Only two weeks later the big February earthquake hit and the engineering world in Christchurch became really exciting. The AECOM office quickly relocated and got back online.

I was assigned to assist one of the senior engineers in the transport team, Nick Bristed (also a Canterbury Graduate). Together we monitored the construction of the 4 Laning road works on State Highway 1 (Russley Road near Christchurch Airport). I personally undertook numerous tasks including:

  • Corresponding with the contractor on construction issues that would arise
  • Temporary Road marking design 
  • Draft progress reports
  • Assist engineers with pavement design

In 2012 I was seconded from AECOM into Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT). SCIRT is an alliance between 5 large contractors, CERA, CCC and NZTA to rebuild the earthquake damaged roads, pipes, pump stations, bridges and retaining walls. My first role within SCIRT was in the asset condition assessment team, for this I had several responsibilities:

  • Undertake desktop studies to scope the magnitude of the damage for the stormwater and roading networks.
  • Help manage the CCTV survey data of the damaged stormwater and wastewater pipes. 
  • Create and drive the quality standard of a pipe condition survey method using a pole camera.

Recently I have a new exciting role within SCIRT as a ‘Stormwater Design Engineer.’ My job is to look into assigned areas, understand the stormwater network and come up with conceptual rebuild options and costs. The next design stage is to design the rebuild of the damaged stormwater network done through hydraulic calculations and computer modelling.4

In two years at AECOM I have been exposed to a wide range of exciting projects and have been given a good variety of experience, enabling me to better understand various engineering disciplines and map out my future career path.

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