Dave engineered his way to success by studying while working

Gloved hands hold a pile of soil and a notebook full of soil colours, in front of a science fridge that contains different types of soil samples

Find out how combining study with work led Dave Pollard to a successful career in roading.

Destroying samples worth thousands all part of a day's work

Ever enjoyed driving a car or riding a bike over a nice, smooth road? That good road is possible thanks to the work of geotechnical testing technicians like Dave Pollard.

Dave tests and analyses soil and concrete samples. His manager, Sheldon Bruce, explains:

"We test soils and the materials that go into the making of a road. We give engineers the information they need to be able to design and lay a road, or erect a building. We’re telling the engineers that they are getting the quality they need in that road."

The tests can vary a lot in their complexity, says Dave.

"Often the client will want multiple tests done on a single sample – one of those tests might involve destruction of the sample. You have to talk to the client about the best approach, and confirm with them before testing commences. 

"That one sample could have been come from deep drilling, and it could cost thousands to obtain a second sample."

Part-time study and work with Opus a good start

Dave combined part-time study for a New Zealand Certificate in Engineering (Civil Engineering) with work at engineering firm Opus.

Partway through this qualification he decided to open up his opportunities, so switched to the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE).

Working at engineering consultancy Opus while studying was a big help. "Opus helped me through the first few subjects – it was really good," says Dave.

Every day is a chance to learn

Opus employs people with a wide range of technical and scientific backgrounds, which Dave appreciates.

"It’s great to have mathematicians and statisticians and people with other skills available to support the technical staff," he says.

Future opportunities also look good at Opus.

Sheldon says, "The interesting thing with NZDEs is that, depending on the quality of the person, they are not limited to technical roles – they could easily do my management role. They are not limited by their technical knowledge – it’s more a limitation of what they are prepared to commit to." 

While the NZDE qualification is all Dave needs for his current role, he could gain a Bachelor of Engineering Technology with further part-time study.

"Every day is a chance to learn," he says.


E2E, 'Industry Links Case Study: Geotechnical Testing Technician', October 2017, (www.engineeringe2e.org.nz).

Updated 4 Nov 2019