Lessons from a Graduate Planner

Nate Saluni Blog Banner.png

Nathan Saluni (Nate) started at Woods as a Summer Intern before embarking on his final year of University. Four years later, he is now a Graduate Planner helping prepare resource consents on behalf of our clients. We asked Nate to tell us about what it’s like working at Woods and what he’s learned on the journey so far.

My first day is still firmly in my mind. I remember turning up in a suit and expecting everyone else to be wearing formal corporate attire… only to find out that Woods is much more of a smart casual workplace; I was very overdressed. It’s the only thing I wish I’d known before I started – the dress code!

After the summer internship programme ended, I stayed on to work part-time through my final year at university. Coming out of university, I was offered the opportunity to start working with Woods full-time as a Graduate Planner.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned while working at Woods so far:

1.     It doesn't have to be one or the other, it can be both.

In the years since I've spent most of my time helping prepare resource consents on behalf of our clients. Woods offers a complete and independent consultancy service where we help advise, prepare resource consents, and get them approved with Council as quickly as possible.

I love getting to work with a variety of clients. It’s an exciting challenge working with a client to find different solutions that create good outcomes for the public while still meeting the needs of our client. It doesn't have to be one or the other, it can be both.

2.     Working at Woods is like being part of a really hard working family

When I’m asked about the work culture at Woods, the way I describe it is kind of like a really hard-working family. It is a multi-disciplinary workplace, so we have surveyors, architects, engineers, and planners, all from different backgrounds working together on different projects all under one roof in this open plan environment. 

Because of this, we have a culture where you have the ability to rub shoulders with people from different professions and disciplines and still sit down at a lunch table together. Everyone just comes to know each other very well and it makes for a great working environment.

3.     The difference between being busy and productive

Something that my planning manager, Phil, told me early on when I started the job was that there is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Often you have these days where you feel like you've been very busy, but in reality you haven't been all that productive because you may have been bogged down in the day responding to emails.

For me, the key to productivity is winning the morning. It’s a bit cliché as a Planner, but I do like to plan out my day. I always seek to plan my day out at the start of each day to make sure I’m prioritizing the key tasks from the get-go and then allocating time for less critical jobs like checking emails later. It just makes everything else a little bit less distracting.

4.     You need two skill sets as a Planner: Technical and Interpersonal

Woods is very supportive of professional development. I’ve seen my skills develop twofold as a Planner – technically and interpersonally in terms of dealing with clients, council organisations, and people from other disciplines.

The planning team’s wealth of knowledge and experience from a variety of backgrounds have helped sharpen and refine my report writing skills. My planning manager, Phil, in particular, has been a huge support in terms of my professional growth by providing me with the flexibility to be innovative and proactive.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend multiple courses at the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) each year and I was given a significant growth opportunity to attend the National Planning Conference this year (before lockdown). As a planner, it’s important to meet and network with people across the industry.

5.     It's important to find a work-life balance (and a company that supports it).

Woods is very supportive of their staff in terms of creating a good work-life balance. It’s important we are productive at work and working hard while in the workplace, but they also make sure we make time to prioritise our hobbies and families. That support comes from the top – the directors and managers – and it helps us understand that they care about people, not just the bottom line.

Nathan Saluni - Graduate Planner