For Pearl Campomanes moving to New Zealand from the Philippines at the age of 17 was both a cultural and environmental shock.
Pearl grew up in the Tarlac province of the Philippines, where temperatures typically hovered around the 30 degree mark.
When her father landed a job with Meridian as a station operator working on the Waitaki Hydro Scheme, the family consisting of Pearl’s parents, older sister and two younger brothers upped sticks and relocated to Twizel – in the middle of the South Island winter.
There was a hard frost on the ground for much of the drive from Christchurch Airport – and that wasn’t the only shock, recalls Pearl.
“Tarlac was quite small, but moving to Twizel was a different level!”
When she reported to Twizel Area School to join the Year 12 class, Pearl was greeted by maybe a dozen classmates – a significant change from the 300+ at her school in Tarlac.
What it lacked in scale, the school made up for in practical classes that provided gateways to employment in the area.
Pearl’s engineering and construction class built a fully functioning hovercraft. She takes little credit for the project as much of the work was done prior to her arrival, but she did make it into the photo for the local newspaper.
The following year Pearl – who would be named the school’s dux – took an electrical engineering class that would prove a springboard to becoming a fully qualified electrician.
“It was available, so I took the opportunity to have a try. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after high school. I was just trying to see what options there were.”
She liked the class, and a pre-trade course at Otago Polytech once she finished high school seemed a natural progression.
For work experience she returned home to Twizel to work on the Waitaki scheme (with a little help from her father) – an opportunity that turned into an offer of a full apprenticeship.
Now fully qualified, Pearl’s work traverses the spectrum from tasks as small as replacing light bulbs to as big as servicing the massive generation units at the Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki power stations.
“I enjoy it. I like the people that I work with, which makes the job easier,” she says.
Twizel might still be home for Pearl, however the Campomanes family have now spread far and wide across Aotearoa.
Her parents moved to Hamilton when her father took another job, while her brothers and sister have settled in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.
“We’re all over New Zealand, really, but I’m still here in Twizel!”
As for the future, Pearl says she is fully focussed on mastering her trade before considering her next steps.
“At the moment I just want to get better at my trade because I’ve just finished my apprenticeship. But there are a lot of options once you qualify as an electrician. You can be a technician, an engineer, you can go anywhere really. I’m not closing any doors – but at the moment I’m just focussing on getting better at what I do.”
Pearl Campomanes, Electrician
Women of Meridian is a series profiling some of the amazing women working across our company, with a focus on those in roles traditionally held by men. It’s about raising the visibility of these women, and the opportunities that exist here and across our industry. As the saying goes: if you can see it, you can be it.