When Kurt McEwen added an interest-only paper to his main degree subject, he didn’t expect it to kick-start his career.
After studying mechanical engineering and working on a farm, Kurt had started a Bachelor of Applied Science at Otago.
“I had friends who were enjoying being at Otago and I enrolled to study energy management. I added a design paper for interest and liked it so much I switched my major to Design for Technology.
“I’d always enjoyed tinkering and drawing as a kid, but if I hadn’t thrown in that design paper I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Kurt is a specialist industrial designer with appliance manufacturer Fisher and Paykel.
During his degree he did an internship at the company. After graduating, he applied for an engineering position.
“I wasn’t fully qualified for the engineering job, but my experience and generalist applied degree got me onto the production team designing the equipment that makes the products.”
Kurt moved on to the product design team, and now collaborates with fellow designers and engineers to develop the look, feel and functionality of the company’s next generation of interfaces between products and users.
“My Otago course covered quite a spectrum from abstract and conceptual design thinking to pragmatic subjects such as physics, mathematics and manufacturing principles.
“Many of the methodologies we studied have helped in my day-to-day design decisions for Fisher and Paykel, things like ethnographic studies, research techniques, photographic research, surveys, and the skills of asking the right questions and making the right observations.”
Although Kurt was an undergraduate in his mid-20s, he found it easy to fit in with student life and his younger peers.
“For me, taking a break between high school and university was useful. When I found what I wanted to do I was ready for it. I’d also highly recommend taking a couple of interest papers apart from your degree subjects.”