In his position on the right wing for Tawa AFC, Wellington Capital Premier League Footballer of the Year Lewis Jackson is expected to see all the angles. His job as data quality engineer for Mills Albert requires much the same, but with less physical exertion and fewer knee injuries.
Lewis manages all of the data for sites and projects Mills Albert is working on, including the surveying side of the business. He’s also often out in the field, setting up base stations that allow GPS site and underground infrastructure maps to be viewed on the screens of high-tech excavators, and even flying a drone for a living as part of his surveying role.
“Most of my work is working with all the data that our field surveyor collects every day,” Lewis says. “I’ve just always liked numbers, since school. When I did civil engineering at polytechnic, I preferred that side of it.”
The data he works with ranges from site topography information and GPS maps to as-built records showing the locations and design of structures and fixtures Mills-Albert has built on sites. He’s also involved in supporting the tender and planning stages of projects, preparing inspection and test plans (ITPs) and quality documents for before a project starts.
Based on the Kapiti Coast in Paraparaumu but working as far north as Whanganui and south as Wellington and the Hutt Valley, the job sees Lewis working on a variety of projects.
“Each project is quite different in terms of what is required. We’re currently working on sub-divisions, so we have to make sure that as we’re moving forward with the project and we’re not missing records for any underground services before they get buried. That’s a key thing the field surveyor needs to keep on top of, and I need to make sure that he is doing all of it. So I collect the data quite often, and just keep on top of the as-builts so they don’t get on top of me.”
“The job this morning was a rock protection job, like a sea wall. It’s on the side of the harbour in Petone, so we’re building a rip rap, which is a wall on a 1:2 slope that basically protects the footpath and the road to stop it from eroding. We do a lot of that work in Lower Hutt too, along the Hutt River.”
The variety offered in his role and his work locations means Lewis is often tasked with using some cutting-edge tools.
That includes GPS base units and mapping technology, which can communicate with the eight GPS-enabled excavators Mills Albert has in its fleet to ensure the operators can dig and fill with maximum precision. The 3D site models uploaded to the excavators can show underground services and the gradient of the ground they are operating on, including how that gradient changes based on the cutting and filling they are doing as part of their work.
“Another site we have up in Whanganui is quite a large earthworks job. In total we’re moving around 80,000-90,000 cubic metres from the side of a hill that is over the top of a new road we’re building. It’s difficult for us to hand survey that one, so we use our drone to survey it monthly. That’s my favourite. It’s a cool piece of equipment, the drone.”
Lewis says the Phantom 4 RTK drone used by Mills Albert is an expensive piece of kit and a lot of fun to operate, even if the Wellington wind can make it challenging at times.
And yet, despite traveling around the lower North Island regularly for his job and working the long hours that sometimes accompany the civil industry, Lewis somehow finds the time to train and get himself game-ready for football on Saturday, while also looking after his one-year-old son at home.
“Mills Albert have been accommodating with anything I’ve wanted or needed to do, including with family. Just juggling everything in life, really. As long as the company knows what you need, then a decent work-life balance is definitely achievable.”
Lewis originally moved to Wellington from Dunedin in 2016 with aspirations of playing for Team Wellington in the New Zealand National League, and while he came close, a couple of knee injuries got in the way.
That hasn’t stopped him playing at a high level – Central League with Stop Out and more recently the Capital Premier League with Tawa where he was named player of the year at the 2022 Capital Football Awards in October – but over time his would-be professional football career has given way to a shift into a focus on the civil industry and a career he couldn’t be happier in.
“It’s a great industry and it’s treated me really well, including during those spells when I’ve had knee injuries from football,” he says.
“It has decent hours – which can be long but not always – and it’s quite family friendly. A really good environment overall.”