Samanthi Indiketiya – Specialist Laboratory Engineer
My journey to working at Chadwick Geotechnics as the specialist Laboratory Team Engineer, and recently becoming a shareholder of Tonkin + Taylor, has been a remarkable one. I faced many challenges along the way, and I would like to briefly share how I came to be working in engineering…
Early life and education
I grew up in Sri Lanka, and my childhood was tough. As my parents didn’t have permanent jobs, they knew that education was the only realistic pathway for me and my siblings to escape from the poverty. I still remember those early days, my dad checking our homework almost every night, while the three of us cuddled up next to the kerosene lamp, as we didn’t have electricity in our home until I completed my primary education.
Dad always tried to create a competition between me and my siblings by purchasing a small gift as we approached the end of term exams. The gifts were simple and inexpensive, however we competed to get the highest score to win the prize, as even a new water bottle or a pencil case was a magical gift for us. This action motivated us to perform well in the school compared to other kids in the neighbourhood.
Pursuing higher education
As a child, I lived in a small community, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I was absolutely sure of, however, was that I didn’t want to continue the rest of my life facing the same disadvantages that my mum, aunts, or most of the young women in my village had faced after completing their school studies.
Thanks to the motivation and commitment of my parents, the support of my teachers and friends throughout my early education, I was able to successfully complete my high school and got selected for the Bachelor’s (Honours) Degree program in the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Moratuwa [Sri Lanka] with a full scholarship in 2005. After completing my studies with a first-class honour in 2009, I was the first in my family to achieve a degree.
I joined the industry as a site engineer on building construction projects for about a year. During this period, I decided to apply for my higher studies. Fortunately, I was able to win a full scholarship to study for my Masters in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Tokyo in 2010. I must thank the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan) for offering me that precious opportunity, which was a turning point in my life, as well as that of my family.
It was a wonderful period, with plenty of unforgettable memories. My research was about evaluating the soil properties around underground cavities created by internal erosion. I truly enjoyed the work and successfully graduated in September 2012, winning the Furuichi Kimitake prize for the most outstanding Master of Engineering thesis in the Department of Civil Engineering.
Immigrating to Australia
In 2013, I got married to my best friend, who I had met while studying for my bachelor’s degree and we emigrated to Australia. I had a short break, and we enjoyed the life as a family in a new country while looking for PhD opportunities. In 2014, I was able to win the Swinburne University Postgraduate Research Award scholarship for my PhD in Geotechnical Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.
I always believed the secret of a successful life is about balancing your career and family. Hence, during my PhD, I worked as a laboratory demonstrator and a tutor in the department of civil engineering and also gave birth to two beautiful boys. Having a child while young and continuing my career at the same time was a rewarding task but being a parent while doing a PhD was not easy. I often had to compromise my weekends and sleep to catch up with my studies. Despite all those challenges, I finally managed to complete the PhD along with a few publications.
Starting career at Chadwick Geotechnics
After completing my doctorate, I enjoyed my time with my kids as a stay at home mum for a year, before I noticed a job vacancy at Chadwick Geotechnics for a “Specialist Laboratory Team Leader” position. I loved the job description and felt confident that I had the skillset to be successful in the role.
Fortunately, I was hired, and I have been leading the NATA accredited Chadwick Geotechnics specialist lab to deliver soil test reports, while managing projects and liaising with clients since 2020. As the specialist lab team leader, I get immense job satisfaction as I get the opportunity to play various roles such as performing advanced tests, teaching test methods to fellow technicians, conducting research grade testing for clients, project management and client management as an emerging leader, as well as an engineer.
I am proud that we have massively expanded the capacity of the laboratory in the past two years. Every day, we are trying to expand the scope of services by adding new methods to our accredited list, and we are continually striving to be better. I work with a diverse and inclusive team, where all our varied and diverse perspectives help to drive us forward. At Chadwick Geotechnics, and Tonkin + Taylor, ‘everyone matters’ and in our testing facility we certainly embrace that value.
Last month I was honoured and taken aback be asked to become a shareholder of the Tonkin + Taylor Group, after only two years of employment. With all these achievements, I am truly happy about the life I am having today, as a women engineer, wife and a mother of two boys while achieving my career goals. I must thank all the people who helped me to get here at different phases of my life. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.
Advice for young women
As a child, I never dreamed of being an engineer or even didn’t know much about the opportunities in the field of engineering for females. I believe I ended up in Engineering just because I was good at maths. Yet today, I couldn’t imagine having a better career than what I‘m currently having. For our young females, accessing and exploring the world is much convenient today and so much is at their fingertips. More opportunities for female engineers and flexible options are now offered by many organisations in the last few years.
Therefore, my message for our younger generation -in particular to young women looking to move into engineering – is to stay strong and to never give up. The world is continuously changing, and we see more women in Engineering careers now compare to the past. I want to encourage women to explore your options, to not be put off by any misconceptions about working in the industry, and to take your opportunities. There is always a way.