Chrismagne - or Chris to his friends, always wanted to be a chef. From his earliest days he remembers loving being in the kitchen preparing food. At school he took food technology and thought he was on a culinary career path. Even when his school counselor (who had no doubt noticed Chris’ exceptional scores for maths and physics) suggested engineering, he replied “I’m not really a car’s sort of guy.”.

However, with a bit more information on what engineering could involve (not just cars!), the idea started to take hold. 

Chris grew up in the Cook Islands, but his cousin and older brothers were in New Zealand. When his cousin, who worked at AUT, also suggested engineering, Chris agreed. It was meant to be.


It doesn’t get more different than this

When Chris first arrived in Auckland, he remembers looking down Queen St and thinking – wow, there are so many cars, the buildings are so high and where are all the palm trees? Coming from an idyllic childhood in the Cook Islands, he grew up being able to see from one side of the Island to the other. When you stepped out the door you knew almost everyone you saw -family member, friend, cousin. Arriving in a big city filled with unfamiliar faces was a shock.


Chris describes it as “a crazy roller coaster of events; arriving to a new country, a new learning institution and living away from home for the first time. However, having his cousin on campus at AUT was a great help and made the transition a lot easier. 


Merging theory with real life

Studying mechanical engineering at AUT, Chris loved the hands-on learning environment. He enjoyed putting the theory into practice and seeing how it translated in the real world. “Funny” he says, “I never thought I’d have any use for all that calculus I did at school, but it turns out my teachers did know a thing or two, because I use it all the time!”.

Even with plenty of practical experience through his degree, Chris said there was a very steep learning curve on his first job in a sheet metal company. “More than anything, I learnt a lot about the gap between design and reality of executing it.” He says this is a lesson that continues to serve him well. As an engineer, it’s one thing to do a theoretical design and quite another to really understand how it will be used. Creating a design that will work for the architect and the builder means you need to draw on your experience and practical knowledge as well as the calculations you learnt in school.


An opportunity to create the future

After some time at the sheet metal company, Chris was ready to expand his skill set. He spotted an advertisement in Seek for Brevity and was thinking about applying. His Dad was visiting at the time and told him there are no seismic engineers in the Cook Islands and for this reason he should apply! Following a chat with Matt Bishop, Chris was really impressed with the company, their drive to embrace the future and the approach they were taking to get there. He was especially impressed with the work that had gone into Prenguin and the potential this held for the future of engineering. The culture at Brevity felt like a good fit for Chris, “I lIke to challenge and test myself and I could see the culture of Brevity encouraged this.”


What do you love about the job? 

“So much!” is the emphatic reply. Chris says he loves using what he learnt in his studies. He loves that each day is never the same. There are new programmes to learn, new projects to do and lots to learn from others in the organisation. He also values the people he works with. The team is really helpful. Each person has their own strengths and is always happy to help others. “If I have a racking question, I ask Phoenix or Sia, if it’s suspended ceilings, Sury is the go-to…” He respects that everyone in the team has different ways of working and there is always something new to learn.


Beyond engineering

When he’s not at work, Chris can often be found kicking around a soccer ball. Having represented the Cook Islands in the Football World Cup Qualifier in 2015 in Apia, Samoa, Chris has some serious skills, but he’s far too humble to say so! And while his career is in engineering, Chris has not given up on his love of cooking. Just like work, he’s always keen to push himself and try out new things. He has a lucky family who get to benefit from his amazing culinary skills on a regular basis.