Future ready. Change. Disruption. Resilience. Complexity

Dr Ray Eaton, Associate Dean (Education) UNSW Engineering; Dr Kourosh Kayvani, Aurecon; Professor Les Field, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UNSW

So instructed UNSW CVEN alumnus Dr Kourosh Kayvani, in his inspiring speech at the final CVEN graduation ceremony for 2017, held on 7 November.

“Today’s problems are disruptive, messy and increasingly complex. Whether it’s shaping the smart cities of the future, creating resilient rural communities, addressing poverty and social injustice or mitigating the impacts of climate change, 21st century engineers need to effectively connect innovative thinking, software, hardware and ‘heart-ware’ in order to face up to and solve some of the most complex challenges we face in Australia and around the world."

For Kourosh, an award winning civil engineer, and Managing Director, Design, Innovation and Eminence at Aurecon, building a smart nation “needs smart engineers, and not just ‘smart’ in the technical sense, but those who embrace more unconventional smarts. These engineers must be more engaging, persuasive, collaborative or co-creative – traits not normally associated with stereotypical, introverted engineers.”

Understanding what makes a city, town or region resilient, sustainable and future-ready requiresserious collaboration between government, urban planners, scientists, economists, ecologists, sociologists, architects and, critically, engineers. engineers.

Whether working in civil, structural, mechanical, electrical or in IT, engineers must be the true masters of their craft, thus enabling each one of us to speak from a position of authority and gravitas. Mastery is about seeing the bigger picture, having the insight to connect the dots, and being able to make the complex simple.

As individuals, engineers must develop powerful soft skills in such areas as communications, collaboration, design and transdisciplinary thinking. They must also bring to the fore their passion for their craft, and connect that passion and craft to human needs and emotions.

Developing powerful soft skills is often more challenging for engineers because of the traditional way we have been educated. The science of engineering teaches people to apply the immutable laws of physics and maths in order to develop solutions to problems. The solution is either right or wrong; it will work or it won’t. But having a solution purely rooted in being technically correct is no longer enough. We must be able to incorporate the human element in our solutions. And that is never black and white; more often it is a spectrum of greys.”

About Dr Kayvani:  In his 28 years in the industry, Kourosh Kayvani has played key roles in engineering for many award-winning projects across the globe. In 2006, at the age of 39, he won the prestigious IABSE Prize from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering for his work on long span structures worldwide. He was listed in Engineers Australia’s (EA) Top 100 most influential engineers in 2009 and won the prestigious John Connell Gold Medal from EA’s Structural College in 2016.

Kourosh has held Professorial appointments at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales (UNSW) for the last 10 years. Dr Kayvani obtained his B.Sc. (Civil Engineering) at Tehran University in 1988, after which he moved to and made Australia his permanent home. In 1992, Kourosh completed a MEngSc. (Structural Engineering) at UNSW, Sydney and later his PhD in civil engineering at UNSW in 1996.  He is a long serving  member of the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering’s Industry Advisory Committee.

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