Cutting out creative career from
component machining

Building stuff from scratch has always fascinated former Hamilton Boys’ High student Gene Keller, and now he’s making a career of it.

Gene is a Manufacturing Apprentice at Hamilton-based
RML Machinery Limited. RML
are industry leaders in production automation and component manufacturing, servicing customers in New Zealand, Australia, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In short, they design and build customised production machinery for businesses, using robotics, control systems and high-quality components. Exciting stuff for creative types like Gene!

FutureForce® popped in to visit Gene at work to see what he gets up to on the job…

Gene Keller

Manufacturing Apprentice

Top Career Tip

“If you just keep going, and keep practising, eventually it becomes something great!”

A Chat with Gene about his role

Gene Keller

Former Hamilton Boys’ High School student

Tell us about your role?

I am a Machining Apprentice and, as apprentices, we move throughout the workshop. Each year we focus on one area and then we move to another. First year I was deburring and cutting, and in my second year I was in components. At the moment I’m in turning, so I use lathes pretty much everyday.

How did you get this job?

It mostly came from my father, as he had some links with RML. Some of our machines are based at Fonterra where he works, so he recommended the job. I was like “I’ll give it a go!” and had an interview. I had a bit of experience from a part time job where I had to sweep floors, it was a bit of work experience. I got hired, and things have been going up-and-up since then.   Back then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do ,however I did know that I wanted to go on this career path, so I’m definitely happy with how it’s going.

What got you interested in this career path?

I’ve always been interested in creativity.  All through my younger life I’d always think; “What if my Dad created this?” or “What if I could build this?”. It led me into more creative subjects at school, and thinking I wanted to take a path where I could help build stuff.

What do you love about your job?

I love the variety there is! There is a lot of variety in the parts we manufacture, stuff we assemble and the work itself. I’ve gone out on site a couple times and that is very fun.

What sort of person do you need to be for this work?

Someone who is determined and enthusiastic. The team we have – we are very fortunate. We have amazing people in this team which I’m very impressed with. Everyone communicates with each other, and it’s just a really nice place to work in – good environment.

What have you learnt on the job?

I’ve learnt a lot of stuff on the job. Each year I have jumped from one position to another so in each area I’ve learnt a lot, from setting up testing rigs to picking the correct material to cut or turn.   So yeah – I’ve learned a lot of skills.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Balancing life with the apprenticeship. You get a lot of assessments and it’s still NCEA. It’s not difficult it’s just balancing it with your own personal time. That’s probably the hardest challenge. It’s well worth overcoming!

What do you wish you knew when you left school?

For the job I felt like I was very fortunate having had the backgrounds I had. I wish I took art. I wish I was better at drawing – it would be very useful when you’re trying to design and visualise a product.

Where would you like to go with your career?

At the moment I’m moving around in different areas. I haven’t gone to the Milling Bay so I wouldn’t know what’s that really like. Once I get through my apprenticeship and I’ve gone to all the different areas, I get the choice of where abouts in the workshop I want to go. Right now, I really enjoy the component side of things – that’s a lot of assembly and testing. That’s my personal liking. I see myself staying at RML for quite some time, it’s a fun job it keeps me on my toes!


  • Leaders in production automation and component manufacturing
  • 1000s of successful design and build projects for leading brands
  • Precision and performance focused
  • Futureproofed engineering solutions using robotics
  • Design and build solutions customised for a range of requirements

Learn more about RML

Tips & Advice

What advice would you give to someone deciding on their career?

Do the career that you’d think you’ll find enjoyable, but also be practical. I found working with metal enjoyable so I chose this pathway. If I found something such as electronics more enjoyable I would have gone to an electrical job. Another thing was I didn’t know if I wanted to go to university, so a piece of advice is also try not to have a break from either work or university because it will be much harder to get back into the swing of things. It’s good if you stick to a rhythm – just keep doing something.

What advice would you give to someone looking at this type of work?

Make sure you know your maths, know your metal and that you’re actually keen to do the job. If you enjoy doing it and want to give it a go, definitely do it!

What does someone need to know when starting out at work?

I guess making a CV is very important in getting a job first of all! Back in school I did a CV course which kind of gave me an idea of how to make a CV more eye catching and that helped me apply for this job and a couple of others too. Don’t forget, you probably have more skills than you even realise. Think about your weekend hobbies – sports, building stuff, fixing bikes or cars, cooking for your family – those things are all important skills, especially if you don’t have any work experience yet.

What advice do you have for keeping balance/managing stress?

Within our company we have resources to help with dealing with stress. At home I have my own plan of what I want to do at the end of the day and what I need to get through with work. Time management for me personally is a big one, I do get stressed about that a lot. With any job you do it takes time to get into the groove of it and learn. With a job you still have time to do your own stuff. Stressing about work shouldn’t eat away your life.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

From my family: “If it’s a challenge, don’t give up on it because it can get better.” If you just keep going, and keep practising, eventually it becomes something great!

Did you know?

RML does everything in-house, meaning they can deliver equipment that doesn’t exist anywhere else!

Watch their Story

A chat with Chief People Officer at RML Sarah Tordoff…

What does it take to work at RML?

What we look for is someone with a really good attitude. Somebody who comes across as really keen, and excited about the industry. Having a mechanical mindset helps, so it’s good to mention any related hobbies you might have, like working on cars or fixing things. In terms of useful subjects and skills, from school we would look at subjects like Metal Technology, or Design and Visual Communication, Maths is a big one! (Calculus is really good, but mostly a general knowledge of Maths) and English is actually becoming really important. As part of an apprenticeship, you get tested on all of that.

What’s great about working at RML?

It’s a really good sector to work in because of the technical advancements. What we do is customised, so a typical day here never looks the same. As an engineer, you’re not producing the same parts over and over again, you’re producing one-off parts you wouldn’t get to do somewhere else.

There’s a great opportunity for team members to go into apprenticeships instead of heading to university. We have both here, we do need university students, but apprenticeships are also a good way to enter the work force. The apprentice has no student loans and they’ve got a career as well.   Their career can end up the same via an apprenticeship or university.

What opportunities do you offer your team members?

In terms of opportunities it’s actually endless, we have machinists who are now design engineers. We have quite a big scope for people to move forward. As an apprentice works through their apprenticeship, we say; “Hey, where do you want to go now? Where do you actually want to see your engineering career heading?” There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and development.

Sarah Tordoff

Chief People Officer

Download a Snapshot of Gene’s Career Profile