Updating Results


  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Darrin Hillas

What I enjoy are the opportunities to contribute to smooth operation and maintenance of the electrical network.

What's your job about?

My employer, Powerco, manage the distribution networks for electricity and gas and I contribute by helping manage the electrical network. Powerco has electricity distribution networks in various North Island regions such as Taranaki, Palmerston North, Tauranga and more.

My graduate program has involved staying in a team for 3-6 months and then rotating to a new team. I have rotated through the protection team, asset fleet team, network transformation team and am currently in the planning team. A lot of jobs I completed in the protection rotation were assessing network device settings and ensuring automated responses operated correctly. For the asset fleet team, I helped update and write about our electrical assets in the Asset Management Plan (AMP).

During my time in network transformation, I completed two reports focused on research of low voltage monitoring and assessing low voltage data. This week for the planning team I modelled load flows on our network models for a project I’m currently working on. This project is about replacing a high voltage (33kV) cable that connects to a substation. I’m required to plan for this upgrade among a building reconstruction project inside the substation and third project regarding overhead lines that join into the substation. The load flow modelling is to check and help investigate how we can maintain supply to customers during construction work. I recently traveled to this substation in another town and discussed the three projects with other employees.

What's your background?

I grew up in Invercargill down in the south of New Zealand and attended James Hargest College. After finishing high school, I left to study engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. At the end of the general first year of engineering I decided to go down the path of electrical engineering. During my university years I landed two summer jobs as required by the university. My first summer job was with Nind Electrical Services where I assisted electricians renovating the R&R halls of residence in Christchurch. I also helped with a large industrial job building a large dairy rubberware facility. This practical experience was a great opportunity for me. The next summer I worked for the electricity distribution company PowerNet in Southland. I did some jobs such as analysing load flows and performance of the network.

I was offered my current job during my final year of university through a standard process of applications and interviews. I started early 2018 and I’ll continue to experience working with different teams throughout the rest of the graduate program.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, however they would need a background in the electricity sector and the ability to apply themselves to a team working environment. A lot can be learned on the job so a passion to develop yourself in the field would be required. It is also important to be open to new ways of approaching and solving problems and have a curious personality.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

Throughout the grad program I’ve worked in various teams learning how everything works and comes together giving me a greater appreciation of the industry and the challenges it faces. What I enjoy are the opportunities to contribute to smooth operation and maintenance of the electrical network. These moments are often thanks to learning on the job and working with team members. I also enjoy the time I’ve had to learn about technical aspects required for a distribution company to serve our customers as best we can.

What are the limitations of your job?

As a young engineer in the industry, there is much to learn. Spending more time than experienced engineers on learning means the company sees less return early on. A limitation with the grad program is that you’re constrained to projects that generally last half a year or less. Another limitation is that sometimes to get to the interesting work, you must complete dry tasks first. This requires perseverance but is often worth the effort.

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

  • Put your best effort into your studies, but also leave time for other interests. This is the easiest time you have for studying whatever you want, whether it be related to your degree or not.
  • Try and find real life applications of everything you learn. This is more important if there’s something boring in your lecture material, researching the real world applications will likely make it more interesting.
  • Make time for networking opportunities provided by the university.