An Interview with Eng. Arjuna MAnamperi, President-Elect of the IESL.January 2021 |Podcast
Our challenge is The identification of future trends. Our opportunity is to provide carefully deliberated possible courses of action, and select paths that best serve the security and well-being of the nation
IESL’s rallying cry should be
“Engineering for the people, for communities and for the environment”
In the second episode of the SLEN Podcast, Eng. Chamil Edirimuni speaks with Eng. Arjuna Manamperi, President-Elect of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka about the transformation happening in the IESL and the way forward. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.
Eng. Chamil Edirimuni:
Welcome to IESL digital SLEN podcast series. I'm Chamil, the sub-editor of the IESL digital SLEN. If you can remember with our last issue we met engineer KPIU Dharmapala who is the president of the IESL. Today we're going to have another guest who is no other than the president-elect of the IESL engineer Arjuna Manamperi. hello, and how are you Engineer Arjuna?
Eng. Arjuna Manamperi:
Engineer Chamil, I’m doing fine. I see every challenge as a great opportunity. So I'm excited to be part of this podcast that you are doing with the IESL digital SLEN.
Engineer Arjuna, what is happening at IESL these days?
Eng. Arjuna :
Engineer Chamil, IESL has been transforming itself for a long period. Past 10 years I've seen a huge digital transformation that took place in the IESL. Started in the 2012/2013 session under the leadership of Engineer Tilak de Silva and I was part of that transformation assisting that transformation. For example, all membership applications are fully digital. Our events are noticing digitally. SLEN is a digital SLEN. Those are just to give you some examples. Now there had been a lot of clamoring over IESLs involvement with the national issues. It must be more proactive not reactive. I also think the same. There are proactive activities taking place. For example, we have already contributed to the regulation setting of the UDA. We got involved with the port authority issue over the east terminal. And we have got involved with building an entrepreneurial engineering force through engineering entrepreneurial Bootcamp. There are a lot of things that we are doing proactively and this needs to be improved further.
Eng. Chamil :
In these few minutes so we are going to talk about the transformation that is needed for our lives, engineers and as IESL. How we can contribute to the transformation?
When a transformation takes place Chamil, it is forced upon us. Even in the current situation, we didn't ask for COVID. But a lot of things that we knew have come to a standstill. So transformation situation is something that comes on top of you. You can use it as a gift or as a curse. I think as the most innovative people in the country or rather the best-educated people in the country, Engineers must use that as an opportunity. The world is facing a transformation. Not only us, everybody's down and out. So how do you win? There's a great opportunity
Eng. Chamil :
How do you describe transformation?
World revolutions like the revolution from agricultural to industrial, industrial to automation, automation to electricity, electricity to computer technology, from computer technology to knowledge industry and to artificial intelligence and so and so forth. These have happened very rapidly. So how do you take the IESL and the country and everybody through the stormy waters to the calm deep waters?
Eng. Chamil :
I get what you said engineer Arjuna. ICT transformation is a good example. In the beginning, people considered it as a threat.
It’s a blessing in disguise as they say Even the USA which had been the leader of the digital revolution in the world, at least in the early days, I would say mostly 1990s, they reacted very negatively to that. That negative reaction was there because it was unknown and they were very worried about jobs being lost and millions of jobs got lost. But because they were very agile. They focused very quickly to figure out how to harness the power of information technology and they channeled all the energy and enthusiasm and learning process etc to do that. As a result, they became winners in the 20th-century. IESL has electronic voting. The only professional body that has electronic voting. We are the largest membership body. We have digital technology, digital newspapers. We have a digital membership application process. In my opinion, there are three common goals. Number one to bring the voice of the educated engineers and professionals in this country to the society as support. To overcome this challenge I propose a digital audiovisual center at IESL headquarters. Actually, it is the formation of one place where people can come and take our message or thought process. Number two, to ensure that our engineers to be prepared for the 21st century. For example, if you take civil engineering today, we're still in cement work. Nanotechnology is transforming civil engineering in a very big way. We're not even talking about that in a big way. You need to be prepared for that. If you take a car, it is not in the Mechanical Engineers domain. It is a combination of chemical engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, manufacturing engineers, all of them come together. The third element is our staff at IESL must be educated. Our staff has people from the 60s 70s and some very young people. So if we expect our secretariat staff to be a powerful supporting source, they also have to be educated. Systematically leading the society and transforming ourselves through proper education, and making sure that our staff members are properly trained. So they can run with us. I believe you don't wait until you become a leader to transform. I was fortunate to have people like you and senior past presidents for giving me a platform to do this transformation since 2012. Some sometimes you are leading the transformation and ahead of the team. But eventually, the team comes together. that's what has happened at IESL now. How do we take another quantum leap? it's very easy. Because I never forget what I was told when I met engineer Tilak de Silva as a stranger. He said, “help me to transform the IESL by putting a digital platform”. That was his vision. So we did that and now I see the benefit of it. Today we can do all these things because we are connected through digital transformation. Most of our AGMs for the last year was done through digital technology.
Eng. Chamil :
Actually, if we take a look at the career of engineers, from the way that they have been graduated, I think we are taking many challenges. so we are prepared to take challenges and we are ready for the changes. Therefore I think IESL being the Premier organization for the engineers is having a good leading role.
Now you come here with a smartphone and digital technology to record this program. This is the nature of your team. I had to acquire that knowledge. When I acquired it, no one came and told me to learn this. I was ahead of the curve. Transformation leadership is about being prepared before the situation. But I was getting ready 30 years ago for the society that you are in. I was getting ready for you Chamil.
Eng. Chamil :
So we are prepared for the transformation? We have done some transformation. So how we take it form there?
Now what IESL needs to do is to harvest. අස්වැන්න නෙලනවා කියන්නේ. අස්වැන්න නෙලගන්නයි තියෙන්නේ. අපි වපුරලා තියෙන්නේ එක එක ලියදි වල. We have to come together and now the time is ready to use this platform to focus and discuss national issues and align engineering solutions and then align engineers behind it and align the society behind it.
Eng. Chamil :
Exactly. SO it's time for us to wind up our discussion on behalf of the digital SLEN team I would like to thank engineer Arjuna Manamperi, the president-elect of IESL for joining this discussion.
Thank you very much Chamil.
Eng. Chamil :
Thank you Sir. Once again we will be meeting next month with IESL digital SLEN podcast until then goodbye.