ICE holds Brunel International lecture on its bicentennial celebrations

Engineers need to care more about the world

The Institution of Civil Engineers held the Brunel International Lecture in Colombo on 19th November 2018 to coincide with the bi-centennial celebrations of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and was organized by the Sri Lanka Association of the Institution of Civil Engineers (SLAICE).In 2018 ICE celebrates 200 years since incorporation by Royal Charter and 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.

Speaking at the occasion, Malith Mendis, the Sri Lanka Country Representative of the Institution of Civil Engineers reminded the commitment of ICE to Civil Engineers worldwide and said, “ As ICE celebrates 200 years it is appropriate that ICE in Sri Lanka should hold the Brunel International Lecture which was established in 1999 in memory of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), one of the world’s 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, “Transportation Infrastructure and Interdisciplinary Interfaces on Complex Mega-Projects” last month. She also shared “six inescapables” in Engineering with the audience of 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,” the highly sought-after professional 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 up and share creative solutions to problems?, Ban the word “they”: It’s important for teams to take collective responsibility for failures as well as successes. Use “we” instead. Miller believes that changing language will lead to a change in behavior, 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. Cover for those who report to you, and seek cover from those you report to and Laugh a lot: It is absolutely 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 enhancing one of the two key factors bridging the gap between poverty and prosperity: mobility. Social justice is achieved through engineering by enhancing mobility in a way that includes those who live with disabilities, physical or mental. And with the advancement of technology, the environmental imperatives are no longer a burden but provide benefits which grow with time.

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. Prior to this, she was the Project Manager on multiple projects for Crossrail – currently Europe’s largest construction project which ads 42km of new East-West tunnels and 10 new stations under the heart of Central London. Miller began her career as a US Army Officer and Helicopter Pilot. She has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from West Point Military Academy, New York and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of California, Berkeley.

Miller’s commitment to her work, and her position as a female leader in a male-dominated industry has gained her space in media such as the BBC and British Vogue. In November 2017, she was selected as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), in recognition of her work towards encouraging girls and women to join the global engineering and construction industry.

Miller’s presence in Colombo was sponsored by Tony Gee and Partners LLP, for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Insee Cement (Siam City Cement Lanka Ltd) sponsored the Bicentennial celebrations and the Brunel Lecture in Colombo.

Speaking at the occasion, Kamal Laksiri, Chairman of SLAICE thanked the Sponsors and reinstated the commitment of ICE to Sri Lankan Civil Engineers to reach international standing.