1977 - 1981
Not many eleven year old boys could say that they had driven the two biggest earth moving machines in the country. While still at primary school, Brendan Sheehan did just that and already knew that when he grew up, he wanted to be an engineer.
Achieving that aim took guts and determination, especially as with a less than glowing academic record, Brendan wasn’t encouraged to aim for it at school. His attitude in class had always been “Why learn Shakespeare, when you want to be an engineer?” Luckily, his mother did encourage his ambitions and wanted to know how he was going to achieve them and this was all the incentive he needed.
One of four brothers who attended St Peter’s College as boarders, Brendan made lifelong friends at school. He integrated well and soon got involved with camps and sports and loved all outdoor activities. Brendan’s Dad had been a builder, but sadly, had died when Brendan was just eight. Family friends with a big earth moving company provided a strong role model for the young Brendan and his interest in engineering grew from that. At school, the boarding experience taught him how to get along with others and be tolerant with different types of people – a life skill that has proved useful in his career and life in general.
From St Peter’s, Brendan moved on to SIT in Invercargill to study for a Diploma in Civil Engineering and a job at the Ministry of Works was the first step in achieving his goal. Experiencing the world of work meant that he could develop both his practical and theoretical skills and despite having a serious accident he followed his ambition. An OE with class mates from St Peter’s lasted for four years. He based himself in London and took advantage of the building boom there and when a financial blip meant that work dried up he went off travelling again and manged to visit large parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, USA and Canada.
Returning to New Zealand in 1991, Brendan undertook further studies to enable him to progress his career and enrolled at Canterbury University in 1993 to study for a Civil Engineering degree as a mature student. This involved mastering Year 12 maths, which he’d never quite managed to master at school. His degree then led to work with a company who at that time, were doing repairs to large dams. They employed international consultants to oversee the work and suddenly Brendan discovered a whole new side of engineering that he knew nothing about but wanted to embrace. His next step was to enrol at Virginia Tech in the U.S.A. to study for a Master’s Degree specialising in dams and he then spent nine months gaining work experience working in San Francisco with a firm of international consultants.
Back in New Zealand with a new qualification and greater experience, he was able to work for an electricity company on big dams and by 2007 he was ready to go it alone and set up Mount Aurum Engineering Consultants Ltd. in Wanaka, which provides civil and dam engineering expertise across a wide variety of projects.
Brendan sources and works on projects in both Australia and New Zealand including dams, hydro-electric power schemes, town water supplies and large irrigation developments. Brendan works with a wide variety of consultants who are engaged to support design and implementation of these projects.
Reflecting on his choice of career, Brendan recommends any type of engineering as a stimulating environment for young people to work in. It demands not only mathematical skills but also well-developed people skills and he says that even after doing ten years of training he’s still learning.
Brendan named his company after Mount Aurum, the highest mountain visible from his Skippers Canyon crib. This is where he continues to enjoy the great outdoors with his wife and four year old daughter.