Since moving from Sri Lanka in 2007 to study engineering at Swinburne, Sachith Ranamukhaarachchi hasn’t looked back. A masters and seven years in the industry later, he’s got some tried and tested advice about turning opportunities into a career.
Despite his parents hoping he’d follow in their footsteps to be a solicitor, Sachith knew from a young age he wanted to work in engineering. After starting the Bachelor of Robotics and Mechatronics at Swinburne, he made the decision to switch to a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a major in Civil) before going on to complete a Masters of Engineering (Civil).
Currently a Project Engineer at LendLease working on the Ballarat Line Upgrade, Sachith has worked across a huge range of engineering projects in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, building a career he says he’s “extremely happy with”.
Straight to the top
Sachith’s first job after completing his undergraduate degree threw him right in the deep – or rather high – end, working as a Graduate Field Engineer for Hobson Engineering at the Snowy Hydro Power Plant Upgrade in New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains.
“We drove up to Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia, and it was full of snow,” he says.
“We were drilling into 1.4 metre slabs and installing new anchor systems. It was a high-risk environment but it gives you a lot of things to learn.”
Seize every opportunity
The experience taught him his first valuable piece of advice to current students – don’t say ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I don’t want to do that’. It could be the starting point you need.
“It’s amazing what happens if you talk to people. There are opportunities out there,” he says.
Since then, Sachith has worked for the likes of Yarra Trams, Laing O’Rourke and Multiplex.
Nothing is impossible
While it can be tough for international students without permanent residency to find work in Australia after graduating, Sachith says he’s proof it’s possible.
“I was lucky initially to get a reference from a professor who introduced me to one of the field engineers at the Snowy Hydro power scheme,” he says.
“There are companies who are willing to assist international students with visas. So never give up and always keep applying for suitable engineering opportunities.”
Eleven years after moving to Australia to study at Swinburne, he’s still here and loving it.
The Swinburne secret ingredient
Now supervising students at his work during their professional placements, Sachith has seen first-hand how the industry focus at Swinburne prepares students for the workforce.
“At Swinburne you get a lot of exposure to the practical side and what’s happening out there. Most of the professors are in the industry, they know what’s going on and they are even doing part-time work in the industry so that really helps,” he says.
Working in the industry, Sachith often still comes to Swinburne staff – and their state-of-the-art facilities - when he needs research or testing done for his projects.
“If there are any testing requirements that come through, I usually send them across to Swinburne,” he says.
“And whenever I get the chance, I talk to them to find out what they’re doing in the lab themselves.”
It’s a balancing act
While an advocate for further study, Sachith believes it’s important to keep one foot in the industry while you’re studying.
That’s why he chose to do his Masters of Engineering (Civil) part-time at Swinburne in 2011. He was able to study while simultaneously taking the next step in his career with a new job.
“Otherwise by the time you’ve come out, a lot of things have changed and it’s hard to get back in,” he says.
Excited for the future
Due to the investment in a large number of infrastructure projects, Sachith believes the job opportunities for soon-to-be graduates are promising.
“They are looking for people with experience certainly, but at the same time they’re putting a lot of money into training new staff,” he says.
Sachith’s next goal? Become a good project manager. He’s working hard towards gaining even more of the diverse experience that will get him there.