Powerco keeps the lights on and gas flowing to over 1.1 million residential and commercial customers in the North Island.
They own and maintain the infrastructure; the lines, cables, and pipes, that deliver electricity and natural gas to our communities right across te Ika a Māui.
Taranaki are known for their expertise and experience in energy, and Powerco is no exception to this, playing a key role in New Zealand’s low-emissions journey.
The energy sector is becoming increasingly digital, and there's no indication that the high demand for technical roles will slow down anytime soon. Powerco attracts highly qualified staff from around New Zealand and the world, who enjoy interesting work with plenty of opportunity to grow and develop, while getting to experience the like no other Taranaki lifestyle.
In 2021, the IT team was about 68 people, plus contractors, and they’re growing every day. Their roles include:
- Solution architects
- Integration developers
- Business analysts
- Network engineers
- Radio engineers (Powerco has a private radio network)
- Project managers skilled in Agile project delivery
- Cyber-security analysts
- Cloud Solutions Engineers
- GIS analysts and specialists
Powerco’s IT projects are future-focused, Chief Information Officer Brigitte Colombo says:
“What's exciting for us is making the electricity network intelligent. It's all about data and technology. The devices on the communications network run across the systems, and they collect and process that data and then feed it into other applications that help with real-time operational decisions or advanced and predictive analytics.”
There are also many opportunities for internal promotion, and scope to move across teams.
What does Powerco look for when hiring people?
Brigitte describes her ideal candidate as:
“Someone that has a curious mind, to probe and ask questions, and not just take things at face value, and who is able to learn quickly because the industry is one of constant change and improvement. The candidate must also possess good communication and collaboration skills, because there are not many IT roles where you can follow that stereotype of sitting in a dark room cutting code. You need to communicate and work in teams, with people.”
Scope for senior IT people to grow a career - Brigitte's Story
Brigitte Colombo is Powerco’s, Chief Information Officer. She’s responsible for the information and communications technology delivery and digital strategy. She is also responsible for a business service that does drawings management and data entry around Powerco's assets.
Brigitte enjoys the outdoors; she initially trained as a land surveyor, however, after completing a second degree in IT, she started her career in GIS as a developer.
“I was a developer, then a database administrator, then a Solution Architect before moving into management and leadership. I got married, had kids. For most of my professional career I was based in London.”
Brigitte's family moved from New Zealand to Australia when she was 16, but moving back to New Zealand was something she had always wanted to do. Her brother and mother moved to Taranaki, and they encouraged her to consider life in the region. On a summer visit home, the family decided the time was right to return home to New Zealand.
Brigitte got a role at Methanex, and stayed there for two and a half years. She says:
“I was offered three jobs in that time, so there's plenty of opportunities. And then this role came up at Powerco, which was CIO role, so I went for that and got it.”
The move has been great for her career.
“The work opportunities came along quite easily. And the other thing I liked was the diversity because it's smaller, you're not as highly specialized and do a broader range of things. I enjoy that. I can almost guarantee that if I had stayed in London, I wouldn't be in a CIO role.", she says.”
It's been a great move for her whole family. They make the most of the outdoors and are keen hikers and beachgoers, and the children are doing well at school. A real surprise was the MindPlus Programme for gifted learners, her daughter attended, something that you wouldn't always expect to be able to give to children in a small city like New Plymouth.
Forging ahead on the cyber frontier - Sreeshma
One of the fastest moving fields in the tech sector is cyber security and Sreeshma Velayudhan enjoys the challenge of working as an information security advisor for Powerco. Her role is to understand potential cyber threats, mitigate them, and educate the Powerco team about what can be done to keep the IT systems safe. She’s excited about the future and can’t wait to learn everything she can about cyber security.
IT professional Sreeshma has been working for Powerco for eight years, but Cyber Security is a new field for her.
“I graduated as an Information Technology Engineer in India and started my career as a Software Engineer. Since then, I have been working in the IT industry, mainly focused on technology and system support. I wanted to challenge myself and learn something totally different; I wanted to use the skills that I developed over these years in a new field and that’s when I decided to move to Cyber Security.”
In fact, cyber security is a new field for New Zealand. There aren’t many skilled people in this sector, so it offers great opportunities for people to retrain.
Powerco takes cyber security very seriously and is actively giving staff professional development upskill opportunities in this specialisation. Employees are encouraged to grow and develop and to try new roles.
“Powerco has a great set of values that creates a purpose and sense of commitment for us in the workplace. I have been working here for eight years, and I still have the same energy that I had on day 1. It’s something that I have never experienced with any other companies before.”
Powerco always encourages staff to upskill and explore new opportunities within the company. Powerco’s management is highly supportive of staff who want to change their role, develop, or retrain.
For those looking to move into cyber security, Sreeshma thinks that as a career there’s lots of scope.
“Cyber-attacks are on the rise around the world and the threat landscape is constantly evolving. Cyber Security professionals are in high demand globally, and New Zealand is struggling to find people with right skills. We are still maturing in this space and we have a great future for young professionals who want to upskill and start their career in a cyber security field.”
What about moving to Taranaki?
What’s that been like for Sreeshma and her family? Sreeshma had never heard of Taranaki or even New Zealand growing up in India. However, she knew that studying IT and Engineering could take her all over the world. Like many people who emigrate to Taranaki, the connection to the region came through her husband’s work. He is an Instrumentation Engineer working in the energy sector. The couple had jobs in Qatar; Sreeshma was working for Qatar airways and while she loved the job, the lifestyle left a lot of be desired.
“The weather in Qatar is hot and humid most of the time, and the temperature can rise to 50 degrees celsius in the summer months, making most outdoor activities unthinkable. It was not working for us as a family with a small child at that time. I found it hard to balance my work and personal life, especially when my daughter was born.”
They started looking at other opportunities focusing on her husband’s role as it was more specialised. He got a role at the New Plymouth-based company, Plant and Platform, as an Instrumentation Engineer.
“It was a risk coming over because we have no family in New Zealand.”
But Sreeshma was optimistic; “I thought, hey, if you don't take a risk now, then when are you going to?”.
The challenges were minor, such as getting used to the New Zealand accent.
“People have been accepting of our differences”.
Their family now has friends from all around the world, and they have become well settled, and they have even embraced some new kiwi culture as part of their day-to-day living and picked up some new traditions for their Indian – kiwi whānau.
“My kids are entirely Kiwis now as they are growing up here, and India has become foreign to them. So, there are a lot of things I am learning just for them. For example, baking is not my forte, but I try to do some basic baking then. It's so important for my girls. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". So, I am all set leading a Kiwi-Indian life here.”
The move has been amazing, and their family is thriving.