‘Engineers need to care more about the world’ | Sunday Observer

‘Engineers need to care more about the world’

Linda Miller and Malith Mendis
Linda Miller and Malith Mendis

The Institution of Civil Engineers held the Brunel International Lecture in Colombo recently, coinciding with the bi-centennial celebrations of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

It was organised by the Sri Lanka Association of the Institution of Civil Engineers (SLAICE).

Last year, ICE celebrated 200 years since its incorporation by the Royal Charter of civil engineers designing, planning and building the world we live in today. With over 92,000 members worldwide, ICE supports civil engineers and technicians throughout their careers.

Sri Lanka Country Representative of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Malith Mendis said, “As ICE celebrates 200 years it is appropriate that ICE in Sri Lanka should hold the Brunel International Lecture which was set up in 1999 in memory of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), one of the world’s most prolific and respected engineers”.

Linda Miller of Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction company in the United States, delivered the 12th Brunel International Lecture in Colombo last month.

She spoke on ‘Transportation Infrastructure and Interdisciplinary Interfaces on Complex Mega-Projects’.

She also shared ‘six inescapables’ in Engineering with members of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) at the Ozo Colombo Hotel. Small things can make a big difference, according to Miller, the Construction Director on Australia’s biggest public transport project, the Sydney Metro Project.

“We need to care more about the world than just the steel and the concrete,” she said, sharing her experience as a globally inspiring figure for women engineers.

Miller’s philosophy for engineers of the future focuses on humanness. “Our job is to help people, to make life better for communities,” she said.

Linda Miller’s six inescapables include: It all starts with trust: The facts are important, but do people feel comfortable to speak and share creative solutions to problems?

Ban the word ‘they’: It’s important for teams to take collective responsibility for failures and successes. Use ‘we’ instead. Miller believes that changing language will lead to a change in behaviour.

Disagree well: Disagreeing well doesn’t sound natural, but disagreements are inevitable in long-term projects. Keep in mind that relationships among team members is more important in the long run.

Create a fishbowl mindset: It is motivating to remember that there are people who are watching what the team of engineers is up to, and also depending on the team.

It is also important to remember how each small task contributes to the completion of a much bigger project, Seek and give air cover: We work in teams because we need each other’s support.

Support those who report to you, and seek support from those you report to and laugh a lot: It is essential to think of each individual’s mental health when working in teams in stressful conditions, both physically and mentally.

Miller’s lecture was part of the ‘Dreaming Big’ series being presented in Hong Kong, New Delhi, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The series is built around the global boom in transportation infrastructure and looks at economic prospects, social justice and environmental imperatives as three key factors influencing the boom.

Engineering and transport projects in particular, enhance the economic prospects of a community by improving one of the two key factors bridging the gap between poverty and prosperity: mobility.

Linda Miller is a leader at Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction company in the United States. She currently serves on the new Sydney Metro Tunnels and Excavation team.