Monday, 27 June 2016

1973 to 1976

Ministry of Transport - Wellington

Such was the enthusiasm for the job displayed by Wayne that as they had a vacancy I thought I'd apply.
Back then it was the hand-written pre-word processing era and looking back at my oldest personal file recently- there it was in my very average handwriting, my job application. No experience, an unfinished NZCE and 19 years old.
I got interviewed by the two Senior Traffic Engineers and I must have had something because I got the nod. I never expected to do better than anyone already in the workforce but there you have it, the only job I applied for I got. I've always considered myself exceptionally lucky to get that break.

I have no photos from this time but the picture below was taken in 1964. Of note are:

Front row second from the left John Toomath , next to him Ross Palmer and on the far right Carne Clissold.''

Back row second from left Tony Francis (now Road Safety Co-ordinator at Hurinui) and third from the left Bob Gibson.

John and Carne were the ones that interviewed me and Ross Palmer was the Chief Traffic Engineer when I started.

Wayne Pettersson became my first manager, second lucky break, looking back, an excellent boss whose influence on my style of people management in later jobs would have to be undeniable, in a good way. Very patient teacher,  let you make mistakes (how else can you learn) and that very important lesson, it's not that you made a mistake (crap happens) its how you fix it that counts.
Never asked me to do something I knew he couldn't or wouldn't do himself. I learnt a lot from him and really enjoyed the trust. I consider him a personal friend to this day and probably my single biggest career "influence".

There was also a research side of the business so I got to help out on some pretty interesting projects for them as well. I remember doing a study on pole crashes in the South Island as well as helping put together  "The Metric Parking Dimensions " with Simon Robson - a document to this day imbedded in many district schemes - even if they don't know how old it is - car dimensions have not changed  much really.

There was an English ex-Police officer on the team, John Williams, and through him I learnt how to handbrake turn the office V8 Belmont's, write on the back of signs with paint in stick form, avoid getting run over on surveys that necessitated walking down the centre of the road or while literally nailing traffic counter tubes at the side of the Johnsonville motorway.

There were really a lot of interesting characters working in HQ at that time perhaps the one worthy of special mention is Chris Bishop. We nicknamed him "crash-biffit" for his propensity to fall from his motorcycle on the way to work. This was because his bikes, which were massively powerful for the time only had two throttle settings  "closed" or "wide-open" with this applying in urban areas as well as the open road - his dedication to road safety was unshakable if a total dichotomy to his actual behaviour. He was throughly likeable and I learnt a lot from him mainly about what to avoid in life like drugs and the occult. Pretty sure there was a time he was growing seedlings of questionable legality on the windowsill on level 10 MoT HQ.  Also best if you were on a work trip that you didn't let him drive. He travelled extensively and had a special love for Nepal - tragically long after leaving the LTSA he was killed in Nepal in 2011  riding his bike with his new wife. Link to Stuff article Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, Cal Singh, Bill Frith

I also spent a lot of time then working with Wayne on heavy vehicle dimensions especially those that were outside the normal dimension limits - a line of work I would be involved in for at least another 15 years as it transpired. One thing I would say looking back is despite being core government the team was incredibly client centric and client sympathetic  - there were some real characters in the heavy vehicle industry who were very smart and outstandingly knowledgeable.

Having said that it was HQ and I wanted to get out to the "coal face" and when an opportunity presented itself to move to a region, Auckland, I took it on transfer, mid 20's single and mobile and having finished my NZCE I was qualified.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Dear diary .........the beginning

Where to start when to start ?

Wind back the clock to 1973 a bright eye and bushy tailed 19 year old youngster is looking for a job in Wellington having finished high school and completed one year full time studying Civil Engineering at the Wellington Polytech.

The vocational guidance people organised interviews with a number of government departments, at that time known for their excellent career path structure and more importantly broad training opportunities.

The obvious candidates for someone on a civil path would have to have been the Ministry of Works, with lesser opportunities at the rest of them.

As it happened by good fortune I was sent to see the MoT at that time on The Terrace, ten floors up straddling the Wellington fault line.

There I was introduced by a very enthusiastic young man Wayne Petersson to a field I had never heard of "Traffic Engineering" - one of the civil disciplines but not one covered extensively in NZ at that time.