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People of Lincoln Agritech

Simon Pollock

Simon Pollock, Group Manager Environmental Research, had dreams of working for NASA. His career has been much more down-to-earth, but just as fascinating. 

As a child I always wanted to work at NASA. I don’t think I was too bothered about what I did there – astronaut definitely, but I would have been happy mopping the floors if I could be a part of it all!

In my teens I had an influential geography teacher who set me on my path. I also always liked the idea of consulting and helping others solve their problems.

A favourite movie of mine growing up was Dante’s Peak. After watching it again recently it occurred to me why I liked it – a group of scientists travelling to different places, conducting experiments in the natural world, lakes turning to acid – it had it all!

How did you get to have this job?

At university, I was steered towards geography, specifically hydrogeology. When I was growing up in Alexandra, water was a precious resource. Alexandra historically suffered from poor water quality, and I wanted to solve that. My master’s thesis was centred on Alexandra’s water quality, so I like to think that I contributed to the knowledge of the groundwater system there.

After graduating from the University of Otago, I worked at several consultancies and gained experience in a wide range of environmental science fields. Early on I was involved in a lot of oil and gas projects, working for companies such as BP, Chevron, and Mobil, and spent time in Taranaki working on large-scale remediation work.

Hydrogeology was always my calling though and I worked on several sites around the country drilling wells, testing water, testing aquifers, and generally getting as much hydrogeology exposure as I could. As I grew as a consultant I developed skills in project management, client relations, and mentoring and training junior staff. I really enjoyed working with the people in project teams and while I still enjoyed the science, I decided to take a management path – and here I am!

I know of many university graduates who end up in careers that don’t align with their studies and interests, but I’ve been very fortunate that that’s worked out for me. Working with talented people to solve difficult environmental problems is a dream career for me.

What does your job involve?

Day-to-day working with my team, project management, financial management. As part of the senior leadership team, I’m involved in discussions around strategy, business development and opportunities for Lincoln Agritech.

I enjoy the practical nature of environmental science. It can be a challenging field due to uncontrolled variables, but this allows for some interesting discussions to understand the processes that have contributed to a result. We have a fantastic environmental research team, and I really enjoy working with the high-calibre staff that we have.

How do you explain your job to your family?

I’m still not entirely sure my family has a firm grasp on what my job is! They know me as someone who is interested in water and water quality and that I occasionally go and do field work.

What motivates you?

I really enjoy helping other people. At work I help solve difficult environmental questions, but I’ve also volunteered for St John, and volunteered with VSA in Vanuatu for a year as well. A former colleague said to me the best thing you could do in your career is to help others be successful. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing others do well and so I try to live by that advice.

What is the best thing that’s ever happened to you?

Outside of marrying my wife and having two amazing children? My experience in Vanuatu was a key moment in my life. As is typical of many science-orientated people, I’m a bit introverted. But volunteering in Vanuatu in my early twenties gave me a whole new level of confidence, which is one reason I’m where I am today.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Greater appreciation of the 1990s disaster movie genre and the scientific careers they inspire!