Yasintha joined Madsen Giersing in 2009 as a structural design engineer. Prior to this Yasintha worked as a structural engineer for Kumagai Gumi in Sri Lanka where he was involved in the design of temporary structures for the Southern Transport Development Project . Since joining Madsen Giersing, he has undertaken the design of permanent and temporary structures including wharves, jetties, bridges, piling frames and various marine structures and temporary structures.
We caught up with Yasintha to find out a little more about what he enjoys most about engineering.
Why did you become an engineer?
Growing up in Sri Lanka, with my love of mathematics, engineering was the natural choice for me. It carried a significant prestige and were thought of as the perfect career, especially for anyone who had ambitions for higher study.
What do you love about engineering?
There is always something new to learn; we are very fortunate to be involved in an industry that does not stop developing, challenging the way things have been done and trying to come up with new solutions to the challenges that the world faces.
Whether that is through learning about new materials and how we can apply them to structures or embracing the multitude of new technologies that are making an impact on our industry. There is always an opportunity to test yourself and improve your skills.
I also love that engineering is like a craft – almost a bit like cooking – there is a skill, process and recipe that makes for a great result and the most skilled practitioners are the ones who succeed. There is a part of me that worries that the skills we have are becoming eroded as we let technology take over. It reminds me a little of those food processors where you simply add ingredients and out comes a finished cake. To me, that is not cooking, and while I like and respect certain technologies, to preserve the quality we have in engineering we have to strike the right balance between human design and problem-solving versus abdicating our skills to a machine.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on Port North Common Use Berth upgrade project. As a part of the upgrade, we are undertaking the full design of a new fire service platform and an access jetty for the existing fuel unloading platform in the Brisbane river.
What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?
I have always been a believer in continuous learning and professional development, so for me, it has to be being recognised as a Chartered Professional Engineer. Being recognised by my profession is the culmination of many years of hard study which has seen me obtain a degree, masters and PhD and to commit to continuously improving my skills and knowledge.
What’s the best project you have worked on?
It was the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal Project in 2013.
At this stage in my career, I was a junior engineer, and Wiggins Island Coal Terminal was the first large scale project that I was responsible for designing independently. We were responsible for the designing of temporary works for pile driving for the terminal and at such an early stage in my career working on this project was a massive boost to my confidence and made me believe that I was embarking on a career where I would be successful.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
Engineering is something to be proud of. I have a huge sense of achievement whenever I can see what I helped to build; something that has been designed to last for decades into the future and will make a difference to people lives or how a business performs, or how goods and products move around the world.
You cannot underestimate being able to say “I designed that.”
Who’s the greatest engineer of all time and why?
I am going to have to choose three engineers, each of whom has inspired me personally in my career.
The first is the Mr. Yazaw, a Japanese engineer who’s words I still remember to this day “If you identify the problem, it is 50% solved.” This is such simple and powerful advice and is the starting point for designing an engineering solution to a problem.
Secondly is my PhD supervisor Professor Mahen Mahendran who guided me to achieve my qualifications and in the process of doing so changed my life through their support, advice and wisdom.
And finally, is Peter Madsen. Peter has been a mentor to me in my time at Madsen Giersing and has helped me to be a practical engineer who has a passion for helping achieve great results. Peter always have a practical solutions for the problems.
What excites you about the future of our industry?
I think it comes back to my earlier point about technology. I believe the brightest and most exciting future for engineering is if we can harness the skills and experience of an engineer and use technology, whether that is through AI or BIM or yet to be invented technology, to support the engineer, rather than replace them.
The beauty of engineering is that designs can be unique, they can be bespoke to the conditions and environments in which they operate, and that is important and something we could lose if technology makes engineering creativity ‘standardised’.
What would be your dream project to work on?
I have made Brisbane my home and love living here, so it would have to be one of the major projects transforming the city. I’d have to say Cross River Rail as it has the potential to improve transport, create new hubs and to make a long term difference to the city, a positive difference from which my family will benefit.
What do you do outside of work?
I often joke that I come to work to have a rest from my three children. That is not true, but they do take up a lot of my time at weekend. Whether that is going to our temple to worship or watching my elder son take his first steps as a junior cricketer, my time is spent pleasurably with my wife and three kids as a family, which is the best thing in my life.