Theo, a Kiwi farm boy from Matamata who was “bred to hate Auckland”, met city girl Sereen from Birmingham on his OE in London, where they worked at the same engineering company.

“Theo was the only guy under the age of 50,” laughs Sereen.

The couple stayed in London for three years before moving to New Zealand 18 months ago. They tied the knot in January this year.

They are both project engineers, working in industrial engineering designing process plants for the dairy, mining, oil and gas, water and wastewater industries. Sereen says her job involves the technical design of anything that moves or has product moving through it, like conveyors, pumps, chutes and so on.

“My job is to just to get things done,” she says, “making sure all disciplines on a project are talking, and filling in any gaps.”

Theo says project management involves taking responsibility for delivering the project on time and in budget. “Basically stressing out about the details that build up to project costs and schedule, like safety of the team, quality assurance, reporting and personnel,” he says.

It seems a far cry from the response Theo gave the careers advisor at Matamata College when asked what he intended to do once he’d finished school.

“I told him I was going to drive tractors in Western Australia,” says Theo. “He killed that dream and sent me to uni. By a process of elimination mechanical engineering stood out for me.”

Sereen was also encouraged by her school to take the engineering path.

“I always liked physics and maths and my physics teacher at school picked up on this and told me I should pursue engineering. He sent me on an automotive engineering week-long course and from there I was pretty much sold!”

They both qualified with degrees in mechanical engineering in universities on opposite sides of the globe.

Sereen is most motivated by positive feedback from happy clients.

“I get excited about developing relationships with clients, talking to them and understanding the problems they want solved.”

Theo agrees. He enjoys the challenge of stitching together a large number of variables to meet an overall goal.

And the worst bits?

“Engineers have no chat,” says Theo.

That aside, he has his ambitions set on running the biggest projects in New Zealand.

Sereen isn’t sure where she wants to end up in engineering. While she enjoys technical engineering, she prefers interfacing with the client.

“I’m still trying to figure out where I want to be in five years even. Maybe in a corporate role at the company,” she says.


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