When incoming Engineers Australia National President and Board Chair Dr Raj Aseervatham FIEAust CPEng looks at the world today, he sees both immense national challenges that engineers must excel in overcoming and an unprecedented opportunity for the profession to make its influence felt.
“In this era of the fastest technical and technological change experienced by humanity to date, engineers sit at the forefront of our social trajectory,” he told create.
Dr Aseervatham, who has been a member of the Engineers Australia board since 2019, will take up the position at the beginning of 2024, succeeding Dr Nick Fleming FIEAust CPEng, who has been National President since 2021.
“I’m grateful that Nick, in his role as Chair and National President, together with the board, our CEO Romilly Madew, and our talented and committed Engineers Australia team, has moved Engineers Australia forward to such a position. What I’m inheriting in this role is an impact-oriented organisation with a future-focused and visionary attitude to where we’re going,” Dr Aseervatham said.
“We have a strategy that puts us in good stead to work through the next decade. It allows us to be bold and progressive for engineers, engineering and society.”
And that will be important in ensuring engineers and engineering in Australia are positioned to progress such priorities as climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience; urbanisation; infrastructure; boosting local manufacturing; productivity; and digital evolutions.
“Engineers will be key actors around these,” Dr Aseervatham said.
“Take one example. Australia is in a fantastic position to be a powerful force in the decarbonisation of the world. We have the opportunity to be, for example, a net exporter of renewable technologies and low-carbon energy and products into the global economy. That gives Australia a unique and substantial opportunity in terms of the socio-economic value that engineers can bring to the nation.
“Just that one example encompasses things like mining, manufacturing and digital technologies, the renewable and low-carbon energy sources Australia is blessed with, all the way through to the circular economy in our future. Engineering is a pivotal aspect of that value chain.
“Australia’s proximity to three of the four most populated countries in the world — each an economic powerhouse in its own right, with a huge demand for the advantages that engineers bring to development and quality of life — means that engineering in Australia is positioned to add value to large proportions of the next decades of global economic activity.
“And if I was to add one more item to my wish list, I’d like to see many more engineers in positions of substantial influence for humanity. Not just in the technical aspects of the long list of engineering-intensive, socio-economic activities I touched on, but well beyond those aspects. We should leverage the problem-solving characteristics for which engineers are so valued into those societal decision-making forums where engineering plays a substantive part.”
Leading the way
Dr Aseervatham drew a distinction between what he described as “scope makers” and “scope takers”.
“Scope makers think about and develop the ideas and actions for the future,” he explained.
“Scope takers inherit those ideas and then build, implement or upscale them. Engineers are traditionally skilled at doing that, but I think there’s a genuine need in society for engineers to be part of the scope-making cohort.”
Dr Aseervatham has been passionate about exerting that influence in his own career. A civil engineer by training with more than 35 years’ experience covering a spread across local and state government, consulting, and the listed industrials sector, he has worked in mining, manufacturing, energy and sustainability roles, as well as in the auditing and assurance of large capital projects and operations around their societally responsible conduct.
He is a published author, with his passion for societal responsibility in large corporations featuring heavily in his latest works.
“I mindfully took the step quite early in my career of enhancing my engineering knowledge and skills with a broader view of how they could be used beyond the technical sense and into the way we operate with a stakeholder-centric and environmentally focused mindset,” he said.
“The societal approach we take to make decisions around engineering projects is an untapped well of engineering leadership potential, and it’s added dimension to my career satisfaction.”
Delivering for engineers
Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO thanked Dr Nick Fleming for his “profound” contribution to the organisation and said Dr Aseervatham was well equipped to lead.
“Raj brings extensive engineering knowledge and leadership experience to the role,” she said.
“He is an accomplished senior executive with a long Australian and international career and is an experienced board director.”
Dr Aseervatham said he looks forward to Engineers Australia delivering its current strategy.
“We’ve got a very strong strategy in place, and the challenge now is to deliver on it,” he said.
“We have a strong Engineers Australia team, and accomplished and engaged engineers in our office bearers and volunteers. It remains for us to continue working together creatively and relentlessly find ways that engineers and engineering can advance society.”
He also hopes to build a better appreciation for engineering within the broader public.
“What makes engineering so amazing to me is that it spans the world from the micro to the macro in our modern existence. Think of nanotechnology, communication, medical devices, transport, utilities, infrastructure and everything in between — features that permeate all aspects of our lives,” he said.
“It’s both essential and life-enhancing in a way that I don’t think much of non-engineering Australia actually understands. It’s a missing narrative in our everyday culture: this marvel of a vocation that serves such a broad and deep human purpose; a narrative that could, and should, ignite the passions of our next generations to engineer a bright future for all of us.”
Come meet Raj and and hear from an array of industry experts — at Climate Smart Engineering 2023.