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John Holland

  • #1 in Construction & property services
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Ali Bulbul

Any candidate with a proactive attitude willing to get the best out of others will go a long way to achieving success in my role.

What's your job about?

John Holland is a Tier 1 Australasian infrastructure, building rail and transport business. As a site engineer, I am primarily responsible for the procurement, quality assurance (QA), coordination and delivery of works.

Currently based in Wellington (NZ) working in Rail Services (minor works) where I am responsible for the site and quality deliverables of multiple projects. Current day in the life would typically involve completing/review and closing out QA , various inspections on the progress of works however most of my day centres on the planning, procurement, coordinating and closeout of works (i.e.: civil and rail specific).

At a recent school’s outreach event in Wellington, I took it upon myself to engage with both school leavers and their teachers to highlight the projects we were working on, upcoming opportunities in NZ and the ethos John Holland stands for. It was encouraging to see these students ask questions about the company and express their interests and goals to pursue a potential career in construction. Schools outreach and community engagement is a key focus of mine as I want to contribute to John Holland’s growing efforts of creating strong pathways and networks for the next generation!

What's your background?

Eldest child of three, mixed raced (Kashmiri Indian/Samoan/NZ European). I grew up in Auckland before moving to Sydney in my late teens. My educational experience has spanned five cities across three countries (including a semester exchange to Munich Germany as an undergraduate student at the Australian National University in Canberra). I credit the opportunity to live in various places as it is enabled me to connect and develop strong relationships with a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds.

A dear friend of mine was working for John Holland (as a graduate engineer) at the time I applied and was discussing with her (back in late March 2020) my desire to learn more about the company and their scope in rail (which is the sole discipline the business specialises in the NZ market). My desire to become one of the first NZ graduates in the business and help shape the culture of the company outside of Australia encouraged me to apply. Two years on, I can confidently say that I did everything to make this graduate program indeed “my own.” In a site engineering role throughout this time (track and civil), I also had an interesting rotation for four months this year (April – August) in the Auckland office of JH focusing on Project Controls (shout out to Dipak who is a brilliant manager and all-round awesome person).

My involvement in the business’ inclusion and diversity space (namely as a committee member on the Celebrate Women Network) has inspired me (as an ally) to do my part in creating an empowering environment for all women in the construction industry. There’s fantastic work being done in this space and can’t wait to continue help champion the voices of both my female and male ally peers.

On a personal front, I want to thank my dear friend Abidah (fellow NZ John Holland graduate during 2021) who not only was a key support for me during our time together on site but also introduced me to my now partner of almost 18 months, both of whom have been strong constants of support and incredible women in my life ever since. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely! Engineering is renowned for being a discipline where an eye for detail is required and that is certainly a key hallmark of performing the job. I would say interpersonal (“soft”) skills are just as (if not more) important as the heart of all my work involves around communication, leadership and management of people. Ironically, the detail mentioned earlier probably makes up only 50% of my day-to-day job and the rest is leveraging on the strengths of others to achieve the goal at hand. Any candidate with a proactive attitude willing to get the best out of others will go a long way to achieving success in my role.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

Despite the workload, the challenge and responsibility of being in charge to help plan, deliver and closeout key packages of work that will make a different to the everyday lives of the community (i.e.: installation of e-Ticketing Validators across Wellington) motivates me. John Holland is an emerging contractor in the NZ construction landscape so being able help build those relationships with new clients to diversify our pipeline of work (outside of solely rail) is encouraging to bolstering our future stocks and growth in the country. Despite being a smaller team here in Wellington (Rail Services), what I personally enjoy is the unique range of work on offer (unlike on big projects) in that I am always working on multiple projects at the same time which can make prioritising deliverables tricky but offers an exciting challenge as well.

What are the limitations of your job?

All the above! Construction is demanding and taxing. To be honest, one key limitation of working in this industry is trying to find the balance between competing priorities and the resources required to complete the work. It is a rewarding challenge (as mentioned above) but in terms of my role specifically (Site Engineer), the requirement to juggle multiple deadlines, tasks and be a conduit to both the subcontractors and senior engineers is not a limitation as such but requires me to manage my time well.

I would recommend anyone considering a career as an engineer in construction to weigh up the impact this career would have on your work life balance because despite the long hours and endless number of weekends and night shifts, the reward is incredibly validating to see the difference it makes to others. No doubt improvements have been made to redress the work life imbalance however there is still some way to go for those based on site. Finally, I did not set out to study engineering to work in construction, but I am glad this industry has encouraged me to think beyond what I thought I was capable of. Each to their own, if you’re unsure as to whether you think it is for you that’s fine, just give it a go and you never know where your career might end up!

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

Just a short 3.5 years since graduating university (July 2019), my first piece of advice would be to not think of success and career progression in terms of job title or status. Secondly, to prioritise making time  for friends and family. Work will always be there tomorrow; it is not going to define you so discuss with your line manager at the start of a job/rotation your expectations in terms of work hours. Thirdly (and most importantly), express yourself and try to be the best version of you That is what people are going to love the most. Finally, remember to look after the most important person in the room – YOU!