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Lighting the way for future Pacific engineers

Lighting the way for future Pacific engineers

  • 29 Aug 2022
Sina photo

(Picture caption: Dr Sina Cotter Tait has recently been elected a fellow of Engineering New Zealand.)

Recently elected fellow of Engineering New Zealand – Te Ao Rangihau, Dr Sina Cotter Tait sees her role as one that shines a light on the path she has walked, for other Pacific people to follow.  

A graduate from the University of Canterbury (UC) with a BE(Hons), Sina has since earned an MBA with Distinction and a PhD in construction management.

She has spent her more-than-20-year career working as a civil engineer specialising in contracts, technical documentation, design management, relationship management and governance.

Currently, the chartered civil engineer is the director of her own consultancy, while also serving as a director for several organisations associated with infrastructure.

Sina says being nominated for a fellowship is what meant the most to her.

“A group of people whose work I admire, and who I respect greatly, took the time and effort to nominate me – that’s the real honour,” she adds.

“I was very relieved that I didn’t let them down.”

Sina explains fellowships are restricted to 10 percent of Engineering New Zealand’s  membership, and it is recognised as a significant milestone not everyone achieves.

“Currently our rules state that our governing board president, deputy and vice presidents all must be fellows, so it also opens a path for some roles.  

“However, there are many, many engineers who do excellent work and who are equally deserving, who are not recognised in this way for various reasons.  

“It is good to keep it real - it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all.”

She says in engineering, women are still very much in the minority, while Māori and Pacific people together can be counted on one hand.  

“Being part of that tiny minority is significant for me.”  

Sina is quite possibly the first Pacific person to be elected a Fellow, however, not all members record their ethnicity so Engineering New Zealand cannot confirm this.

“However, with very few women in engineering, and even fewer Pacific people, it is likely that I am.”

Sina says it is up to her and her peers in engineering to light the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

“I was talking with two young wāhine Māori studying engineering yesterday about growing the numbers of Māori and Pacific and women in engineering, and how we can light the pathways that we’ve walked for others to find and follow.  

“I’ve been blessed to have Pacific friends and family who have uplifted me in the spirit of collective community benefit, and in turn I see my role as using my unusual networks, to uplift others, to shine a light on the paths I’ve walked, to hold the door open, and to invite other Pacific people into the spaces where I’ve been able to go.”  

In early September, Sina is graduating from UC marking the end of the long chapter in her life of postgraduate education, as well as stepping down from a school board, which marks the end of eight years in school governance.

However, she is already looking to the next challenge of becoming a chartered director and continuing to pave the way for the next generation of Pacific and Māori engineers.