Sanja is one of our talented structural engineers who has performed the role of structural designer and manager on several projects. She joined us in January 2017, when she moved to New Zealand from her native Serbia.
She shares a bit about her background, experience and, given the time of year, how Christmas in Serbia differs from Christmas in New Zealand.
What did you do in Serbia before moving to New Zealand?
“I was a senior structural designer for 8 years for a company that delivered turnkey, predominantly industrial buildings, with our involvement starting at the structural design stage. As well as structural engineering, I was involved in pricing and tendering which gave me a good insight into costs and the economic side of construction.
“Serbia is quite a small country and my husband and I wanted to explore overseas. We love nature and wanted a better quality of life for our kids so decided to move to New Zealand. We haven’t looked back.”
What do you enjoy about being a structural engineer in NZ?
“I enjoy everything about my job but especially the physical evidence of my work. In Serbia I designed a building in almost every town in the country and I’m now starting to see buildings and sculptures I’ve worked on in Auckland and around New Zealand".
“I also love problem solving. I’m in my element when there are complexities and issues I can help solve. It’s a great feeling to solve a tricky problem and to see everyone happy.”
What’s the most memorable project you’ve worked on?
“In 2017 I worked on a sculpture by Michael Parekowhai called the ‘Elephant and the Trees’, which is on display in Te Papa. It was a completely new experience for me as I’d previously only engineered buildings.
“I suddenly found myself in an art studio full of laid back, creative people, which had a great vibe. It was a really tricky sculpture to design because it’s high and fragile. There were numerous structural restrictions because it needed to fit the artist’s vision. It was such a buzz to see the finished work on display at the museum.”
What, if any, are the key differences between structural engineering in Serbia versus New Zealand?
“It’s very similar – thankfully. The studio is set up the same way, communication is similar as are coordination, collaboration and the process of managing workflow.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“When I was at University my professor wrote KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) on the board. It was the first time I’d seen this acronym and it’s something I try to stick to in both my professional and personal life. It’s definitely a winner!”
What are the key differences between a Serbian and a New Zealand Christmas?
“In my family the two are very similar – the key difference being it’s summer here, whereas there’s always snow there. We put out cookies and carrots for Santa and it’s all about spending time with family.
“However, the vast majority of Serbians are Orthodox Christians so they celebrate Christmas on 7 January rather than 25 December. Celebrations begin on the evening of the 6 January so that’s a bit different.”
What are your top must see/do recommendations for people visiting Serbia?
“There is a beautiful historical building that is worth a visit: the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad. It was built in 17th century on the right bank of the Danube river. There are numerous forests and rivers in Serbia. The River Tara has awesome rafting so I’d recommend that to anyone looking to get out into nature.”