Inside Mainmark: developing a career in ground engineering

For most young undergraduate engineers, ground engineering is not a top-of-mind focus when deciding on career path. However, the opportunity to learn about new ground improvement technologies and methodologies has made the journey incredibly worthwhile for three young engineers in the Mainmark team.

When Theo Hnat (BE(Hons), MEngNZ) was a first-year student completing a Bachelor of Engineering and a Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Canterbury, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch. The devastating impact of the 2011 seismic event led him to pursue a career in earthquake engineering.

Theo joined Mainmark nearly six years ago while completing his studies and has been instrumental in developing and validating the use of resin injection as a ground improvement solution for buildings and critical infrastructure in seismic regions. He played a pivotal role in Mainmark’s research trials that took place in the Christchurch Red Zone which led to the launch of Terefirm™ Resin Injection, Mainmark’s liquefaction mitigation solution.

“Being heavily involved in the Red Zone trials was certainly a career highlight for me as it was exciting to be able to prove a theory,” said Theo, in his current role as Business Development Manager (NZ).

Through the success of the Red Zone ground improvement trials, engineers and asset owners now have a proven and commercially viable solution for improving soil density beneath structures affected by, or at-risk of, liquefaction.

Mainmark is pioneering the use of resin injection for liquefaction mitigation, and Theo travels the world on behalf of the organisation, sharing key learnings of the methodology with the broader engineering community.

Dolan Nilson’s (BEng(Petroleum), BComm) career took a different direction, after starting in petroleum engineering and gaining oil and gas industry experience in Scotland, Texas, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“As a young student it’s hard to know exactly what you want to do. There are so many opportunities that are open to young engineers,” said Dolan, who was working in macro-economics and futures trading before returning to engineering joining Mainmark in 2017 as Technical Sales Manager.

“It was an opportunity I jumped on and I’m glad I did; Mainmark has a number of innovative technologies and solutions to problems that others cannot solve.”

JOG Computer-Controlled Grouting is just one approach that has been very well received by customers according to Dolan. With the unique ability to be applied beneath large structures with utmost precision, JOG ensures minimal stress is placed on the building during the re-levelling process.

Dolan has assisted on a range of ground improvement projects throughout Australia, including decommissioning an underground water main in suburban Perth; a tricky project due to its location directly beneath a new overpass bridge construction.

“It was a complex project but rewarding because we were able to overcome a number of challenges that would otherwise have caused enormous disruption to traffic in the local area. The crew put in a huge effort to meet extremely tight timelines; it was great to be a part of that,” said Dolan.

A keen interest in problem solving and civil structures led Mainmark Technical Manager (VIC/TAS) Max Kudrenko (BSc(Civil), MEng(Civil), MIEAust) to study engineering at the University of Melbourne. He joined Mainmark nearly 4 years ago, initially focusing on the ground remediation of residential buildings, however, this soon evolved.

“I moved into a role where I was able to work on the structural monitoring of larger and more complex structures, such as high rise buildings and bridges,” said Max.

As the exclusive partner of STRAAM (Structural Risk Assessment And Management) in Australia and New Zealand, Mainmark uses the technology for one-off applications and ongoing asset monitoring, helping to keep structures safer by identifying weakness or issues.

Working with STRAAM, Max has contributed to a range of projects, both locally and abroad. “I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel overseas with Mainmark, including Japan where I was working on several monitoring projects involving seismic affected structures in Tokyo, Sapporo and Kumamoto,” said Max.

Max was also project manager when STRAAM was used to validate the structural viability of a rooftop renovation at the Guardian Early Learning Centre in Sydney to ensure it didn’t adversely impact the building, was compliant with Australian Standards, and most importantly, remained safe for children. The project was referenced in a winning AIB Award submission at the 2018 National Professional Excellence in Building Awards.

Max advocates the advantages of the structural monitoring platform, which he has presented at the International Conference on Bridge Maintenance, Safety and Management (IABMAS) and more recently, the Bridge Asset Management and Renewal Conference.

“The idea that work I do can directly have a positive impact on thousands of people through the remediation of infrastructure is a big drawcard for personal fulfilment,” said Max.

Despite their different specialties, Max, Theo and Dolan all agree that a career in ground engineering at Mainmark is diverse and rewarding.

“One week I may be working on a project proposal, then next week I could be in any corner of the country performing a technical assessment of a project. No two days are the same and there are always brand-new challenges presenting themselves,” said Max, who encourages other young engineers to gain hands-on experience as early as possible.

“Don’t be afraid to get out in the field and get your hands dirty, a good mix of theory and practical experience can provide a more rounded understanding. The industry is booming at the moment, so there is plenty of opportunity.”


By Claire Hartley

Claire is a strategic senior marketing and communications professional who joined Mainmark in 2015. She has extensive experience gained in a range of organisations across the APAC region and the UK; from large multinationals and start-ups to industrial B2B, IT and online businesses.