Department of Engineering Science

Andrea Jarvis (nee Houltham)

Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Biomedical Engineering (BME) Class of 2004

Photograph of Andrea Jarvis

Chartered Professional Engineer (2011)
Holmes Consulting Group, Queenstown


When I finished my BE (Biomedical), I didn't really know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I had been offered a couple of jobs, one as a "Mathematical Specialist" for ESR in Christchurch and one as a programmer in Auckland. Neither really resonated, because all said and done, I really wanted to be an Engineer. Whilst applying for jobs, I had been to see a recruitment agent who described my skills as being unlike anything she'd seen before - but that she had also just received a job description through that was unlike anything she'd seen before, so she thought maybe it was a good match.

I was lined up for an interview with Innoflow Technologies, a company who designed, installed and serviced on-site wastewater systems (advanced septic tanks and sewage treatment systems). To be honest I had no idea what on-site wastewater was prior to walking into the interview, but thankfully that was just what the company wanted - someone with the skills to be able to learn their product, understand the biology behind it, understand engineering principles like hydraulics and be able to communicate. All skills I had learnt through BME.

I spent the next three years learning all I could about on-site wastewater, and getting to travel to some pretty remote places. I've spent time in places from the Wai-o-tahi Valley (inland from Opotiki) through to Great Barrier Island, Samoa, Golden Bay, Queenstown and many places in between. After those three years, I still wasn't sure if my (now somewhat specialised) skills would be transferable.

In October 2007 my husband and I decided to move to Queenstown and as Innoflow were solely Auckland-based, I started to look for work, and found that the contacts I had made in the civil engineering industry were very valuable and that my skills were respected. I moved to CPG New Zealand Ltd (then Duffill Watts) to be a civil/environmental engineer in their Queenstown office. The work with CPG was varied and interesting. The very first thing I did after moving to Queenstown was to jump on a plane back to Auckland, en route to the Kaipara District where I looked at water supplies for a number of small townships. I still had involvement in on-site wastewater projects, although from the consultants' side this time instead of the suppliers. I also became involved in Kawarau Falls Station, a $1 billion development on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

I have been involved with the project for over three years now, looking at all aspects of the infrastructure and contract management. The project has since gone into receivership, but stage one is being completed by the receivers, creating an interesting working environment that has had its challenges, but also its rewards. Through my involvement at Kawarau Falls Station, I made a number of contacts and as a result I have recently started a new job with Holmes Consulting Group, who are predominantly structural engineers but were interested in forming a small civil engineering unit with me. It's going to be an interesting time and I am looking forward to the challenge. I have recently been admitted as a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPE) in the civil/environmental field.

My career thus far hasn't been typical of an Engineering Science or Biomedical Engineering graduate, but the skills I learned and the knowledge I gained through the degree has given me a great base to work from. And at the end of the day, water in pipes isn't much different to blood flow in vessels... although I'm yet to find a pump as fit for purpose as a heart.