Relocating to the Waikato region in New Zealand in 2022, Senior Project Manager Nicola Tocker is working with clients in one of the most dynamic and expansive regions.
Following the opening of the Waikato Expressway – Hamilton section Nicola is positioned within a key growth corridor over the coming decades, where she is working with clients supporting key housing, education, transport, town centres, open space, and key infrastructure across the region.
Nicola, tell us a bit about your background in Project Management.
I graduated from Waikato University in 2010 and immediately took off to Perth – I got a business development admin role with the Tetra Tech team in Perth where my eyes were opened to the consulting world! I worked with some incredible people in Western Australia, and this remains one of my all-time favourite stages of my life and career. I learned a lot there and finished up as a Graduate Project Manager in 2012.
Like most young Kiwis – Europe was beckoning, so I headed to London in 2013 and I was so fortunate to work on the Battersea Power Station project bid with Mace Construction which was a ‘monster’ infrastructure project. When my Visa expired, I returned to New Zealand and joined the Tetra Tech team in Auckland as an Assistant Project Manager. Over the next few years, I studied while working full time, completing my Diploma in Construction Management. I had an awesome manager in Tom Hartnett. He has taught me a lot, championed my progression, and always made sure the workplace was fun and that always thought big picture.
During my 5 years with Tetra Tech Coffey in Auckland, I worked on a range of residential, commercial and government projects. I worked really hard and got lots of support from the Tetra Tech Coffey team, and was promoted first to Project Manager, and then to Senior Project Manager during these years.
I switched it up from Tetra Tech Coffey for about ~1.5 years in order to diversify my experience and knowledge, but personal circumstances meant a shift down to the Waikato region and so it is great to be with the Tetra Tech team again.
The Waikato region is one of the fastest growing regions in New Zealand, this must be exciting location for you as a Project Manager?
Following the opening of the Waikato Expressway Hamilton section, accessibility to this area has opened exponentially. The whole region has a real energy about it with the city centre being redeveloped and revitalised. The cost and availability of land is far more attractive than Auckland, and accessibility is bringing industry and business to the area. There are so many significant projects in the pipeline, it is a super exciting place to be.
“Nicola is a highly capable project manager with a history of managing complex projects of all sizes and complexity. We are so excited to have her return to Tetra Tech Coffey, bringing a wealth of experience to our clients in the fast-growing Waikato region.”
– Alice Chaplin, General Manager New Zealand.
Project management can be challenging. How do you manage the more challenging aspects of your work?
Great question! I think when it comes down to it, project management is generally all about communication. I am direct and transparent in my style – as there is no point hiding issues and challenges from the team or from your client. Developing and fostering a good relationship with the client, the design team and the contractor from the outset makes challenging conversations a little easier when they need to occur as the trust and respect is already there. After all, we are all working towards a shared goal!
Consenting timeframes in New Zealand have made it ‘interesting’ and challenging in that it is something you cannot really control. That is quite difficult (and often frustrating) to get your head around and it’s kind of like, well how long is a piece of string as to when your consent will come out, which obviously impacts the build. The way I approach it is to be as efficient and detailed as possible in getting that consent application in as early as you can to give yourselves the best chance to push it through.
What are some of you the favourite projects you’ve worked on?
I have worked on lots of cool projects but the one that always stands out, and I have a soft spot for is ‘135 Albert Street, Auckland’ which was Council’s HQ project. This was the re-clad and remediation of a 32-level tower in the middle of inner-city Auckland. It was a ‘live site’, which meant we needed to ensure the building could remain 100% operational, we were working at significant heights, and it was quite political to boot! Access was very difficult; we used a helicopter to lift the hanging scaffold materials up to the roof of the building.
There were so many complications to this building and the project, but we just had an amazing project team – a great builder and design team and we worked together well. Over three years (2016 – 2019) we became a tight knit crew, finishing ahead of program and budget, which is always the PM’s dream!
What excites you about the work you are currently doing?
Currently I am looking to build our project base and team here in Waikato, it is great meeting new people in the industry and exploring new avenues and what different cities are doing! I have been working out of our Tauranga office also, another place which has some exciting growth happening, which we will be a part of!
New Zealand is really embracing renewable energy and sustainability as part of all facets of building practices. Being able to be part of the design process is exciting because we can influence and lend our expertise to projects which can help a client achieve more from this area.
While not always as glamorous as a new build; retrofitting and repurposing old buildings is important and obviously super sustainable as well – some of the transformations are amazing and so rewarding!
Connect with Nicola at Nicola.Tocker@tetratech.com