From sweeping floors to APL Manufacturing Product Development Engineer

A love of LEGO®, sweeping floors in the school holidays and a school science fair has led to a career in Product Development for former Matamata College student Patrick Roskam.

Patrick was just 11 when he invented the Gudgeon Pro, receiving New Zealand-wide recognition for the multi-functional tool that allows farmers to drill straight and accurate holes for gates.

“As a kid I always liked the LEGO® Technics, even though the box set said ages 15+! I was always interested in building those bigger models – I didn’t care about the regular LEGO® bricks, I just like the more technical stuff. I always had an interest in building stuff and knowing how things worked.”

These days Patrick develops window and door products and processes for APL Manufacturing a business unit of Profile Group, the Waikato family business supplying almost half of New Zealand’s residential construction market with windows and doors.

The FutureForce® team visited Patrick to find out more…

Patrick Roskam

Product Development Engineer

Top Career Tip

“Don’t pass up on opportunities and believe in yourself. And if someone knocks you down don’t just fall over, get back up and fight.”

A Chat with PATRICK about his role

Patrick Roskam

Former Matamata College student

What is a Product Development Engineer?

APL has a range of products so I help with the development of different products such as window handles, the door handles and help manage their life cycle and other stuff on the side, it’s quite a broad role.

How did you get this job?

I’ve sort of morphed into this role, I’ve been over here for 10 years now. I started when I was 13, I’d come in my summer holidays I’d work along the CNCs. I’d wash them all down do like real basic tasks– you know, sweep the floors, make sure they’re all working and slowly from there each holiday came back and upskilled and then it led me to this role now.

What got you interested in this career path?

As a kid I always liked the Lego Technics, even though the box set said ages 15+! I was always interested in building those bigger models – I didn’t care about the regular Lego bricks, I just like the Technic stuff. I always had an interest in building stuff and knowing how things worked.

Then I did the school science fair and came up with a product called Gudgeon Pro which did quite well. That got me more interested in the development and the manufacturing side of things and I guess it grew from there.

The Gudgeon Pro is a multi-functional tool that allows farmers to drill straight and accurate gudgeon holes and then quickly and easily hang gates on their hinges.Patrick was just 11 years old when he came up with the idea for his school science fair after seeing his Dad struggle with hanging gates on the farm. APL helped Patrick with production, starting a relationship that would eventually see Patrick join the team as a Product Development Engineer. Patrick has sold hundreds of Gudgeon Pros and has collected a range of awards for his invention, including the Field Days Young Innovator of the Year award.

What do you love about your role?

My days are never the same, it’s always something different. Variety and problem solving and always new challenges that pop up and you have to adapt and change how your day is going. Especially at APL Manufacturing, we’re trying to drive innovation in the sector and always come up with new things to try and make not only our customers happy, but also our manufacturing processes more efficient.

What kind of characteristics or traits would make someone good in this role?

Systematic. You know you have to follow a process. If you don’t follow a process then you’re probably not going to get very far.  

Willingness to learn I think is quite big. Especially when you’re young, you don’t actually know everything and take all that advice from all the people surrounding you.

Attention to detail is also important. You have to make sure that what you’re doing is good. And having a good work ethic.

What do you like most working at APL?

I like the team environment and the values that we have. We’re a very close-knit family even though we’re such a big company. We’re like a little family here. There’s great work ethic, everyone is trying to achieve something.

What are some of the challenges that you have found?

I think age is a massive part, sometimes I might have some more experience than some of the new people but I think some people see age first and not take you as seriously, even if you might have good ideas. You have to stick it out but do make your position known. You can’t be quiet and sit in the corner and not say anything. As long as you stay true to yourself and express what you think, I think it’s quite important you back yourself and have that self-belief. 

I found team work to be a bit challenging. When you’re at school, yes you do team work but it’s a completely different environment and you have to manage different departments especially in such a big company. Sometimes you find it challenging to try and manage your ideas different people’s ideas and find a mutual agreement. Project management was also something I found hard and managing all the different people in the team and all the different personalities. No one can really teach you what’s the best way, you just have to learn on the job. And if you make a mistake don’t be embarrassed by it, just learn from it.

What is Mechatronics?

Mechatronics is the branch of technology and engineering that combines electronic and mechanical engineering. Mechatronics engineers take a combined approach from different fields to design intelligent electromechanical devices and integrated systems that we use daily, like smartphones, 3D printers, satellites and smart vehicle systems.

Thinking about studying engineering at uni?

Patrick completed a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours with a major in Mechatronics. Entry criteria for this degree is:

  • University Entrance (Find out more about University Entrance here) and,
  • At least 16 credits at NCEA Level 3 Physics and,
  • At least 14 credits at NCEA Level 3 Calculus

There are lots of pathways into engineering careers if you didn’t quite get all the credits you need. Reach out to your chosen tertiary provider or check out the Engineering Pathways Map to find out more.

Find out more about studying mechatronics at the University of Waikato

Tips & Advice

What’s your advice for other young people entering the workforce?

It’s not really related to engineering but more broadly, networking is very important. Especially in New Zealand, it’s about who you know and like what you know. That’s how I started here, from people that I networked with and who knew me.

What’s your advice for networking? How should young people put themselves out there to find those opportunities?

I think first impressions are really important. Turn up clean. And be who you are, don’t try and be someone that you’re trying to be. You’ve got to come across as genuine, if you’re not genuine then people can see straight through you and your opportunities aren’t as far.

And obviously take every opportunity that comes at you, don’t hold off because you never know if it might come back.

Any advice for people deciding on what they want to do?

Stay true to yourself. Don’t let other people influence you or your decision on where you should go or what you should do. Stay genuine. Because in my instance there were a lot of people like say “Oh you should go to this university because it’s better than other universities,” or “don’t go to Wintec, that’s not your place.”

Our school was very university driven. There were a lot of people- friends that like did one year of university and dropped out because they were forced to go university. A job isn’t a 9-5, it’s a passion. You want something that you’re passionate about and that you can sustain over a long time.

About APL…

APL began in the Waikato in 1971 and the family-run business has grown to become New Zealand’s largest manufacturer of aluminium windows and doors. All their products are designed and tested right here in the Waikato and are made specifically for New Zealand’s unique environment. APL is future-focused business and has a passion for research and development, driving them to generate new and innovative products and processes.  

Learn more about APL

Download a Snapshot of Patrick’s Career Profile