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Jess Orpwood

Jessica Orpwood



How long have you been at Aurecon?

1 year

Name of degree completed

Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering - BE(Hons) Civil

Notable projects that Jess has worked on

  • Avonhead Primary School - Strengthening, alterations, and new build
  • 36 Welles - Residential Apartments. 

Life motto / slogan to live by

The impossible is possible.

Jess Orpwood is a Graduate Structural Engineer and she has been working at Aurecon for one year. She initially chose to pursue a degree in Engineering at the University of Canterbury because she realised the value of an applied science degree in today’s work climate. On the second day of Jess’ intermediate year (which is the first year of Engineering at the University of Canterbury), an earthquake hit Canterbury.

“After the devastating earthquake, I realised how much the city needs structural engineers. At the end of my intermediate year, I chose to major in structural engineering and I am currently working on completing my Masters of Studies in Earthquake Engineering, while working full time with the help of Aurecon,” says Jess.

Jess says that completing a degree in Engineering can be tough and intimidating.

“I’m passionate about sharing knowledge. Whether it’s with my friends, fellow colleagues or younger students, it’s great to be able to share what you are learning. Obtaining a degree in engineering, however, is no easy feat and a degree in this industry requires a number of late nights, long hours as well as many tests and assignments,” says Jess.

With the benefit of hindsight, Jess would advise students to focus on the “why” behind the lectures.

“Lecturers are there to help you and you should use this time to its fullest advantage. Understand the concepts of the modules that you are being taught in your course and make sure you ask a lot of questions. If you’re confused or need clarity about a subject or discussion point, then there’s probably someone else who is also wondering about it,” says Jess.

Today, Jess spends most of her time analysing and designing building structures at Aurecon. One of the things that she found most surprising is the amount of work that goes into building design.

“While studying, you learn about the problem solving skills that are needed to design a building. As a graduate at a consulting engineering firm, however, you work with architectural parameters which is a whole new, exciting challenge. The best part is seeing your client’s ideas and your design being built and coming to life. It is extremely rewarding and makes all the hours and work worthwhile,” says Jess.

Another aspect of her job that Jess finds exciting and challenging is working with such a variety of disciplines. As a management, specialist technical services and engineering consultancy, Aurecon is able to expose graduates to a number of disciplines and markets during their first few years as engineers.

“While studying, you learn about your chosen discipline, but there is so much to learn while working in the field. Work experience has taught me about everything from geotechnical studies and fire services to acoustics, façade engineering and working with architects. All of these aspects need to be incorporated into building design,” says Jess.

“There are also various design stages that need to be completed, such as the concept design, developed design and detailed design. The concept design is where you work closely with the architect and client to map out the building layout and main structural elements. Developed design takes the design further to confirm the sizes of elements. Detailed design is where you complete the final design and all connections before the design goes for tender/construction. It’s been rewarding to be able to be a part of building design throughout all these stages,” says Jess.

One of the most important lessons that Jess learned early in her career is the value of building strong relationships with people in your industry through networking.

“Young engineers need to put themselves out there and build relationships with people in the industry. Being able to communicate with people is an important skill that you need to acquire as an engineer. This might make you uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes,” says Jess.

A good day for Jess is being able to meet deadlines and being happy with the output for the client.

“The proudest moment in my career so far is seeing LVL (laminated veneer lumber) portal frames being erected on my first project. I really enjoy what I do and I have great project leaders who inspire me. It doesn’t take a lot of motivation to get up and go to work in the morning if you love your job, so graduates should focus on finding careers that they are passionate about,” concludes Jess.

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