October is our board transition month, and what better way to transition than meeting our new ASCE MLAB president! I surveyed Ruwanka Purasinghe, so let's learn a little more about him!
Where do you work, what do you do there, and what is your favorite part about the job?
I am a Civil Engineering Associate for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) and I work in the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Water Engineering & Technical Services Division. Within PMO, I help manage a variety of capital improvement projects for LA’s water system including large pipeline replacement projects, water quality projects, and new facility projects. Before joining the PMO group, I worked in the Geotechnical Engineering Group where I got a lot of design and construction exposure on dam/reservoir projects, tunneling projects, and facility design. My favorite part about working at LADWP is knowing that our projects and efforts are meant for the public good and strengthening LA’s infrastructure. We continue to strive to make the lives of Angelenos better, and being LA-born-and-raised, I cannot think of a better place to work.
What is your favorite sports team?
I grew up loving basketball because of my parents, but I grew up in a household where cheering for both the Lakers (mom) and Clippers (dad) was acceptable. Sadly, if you live in LA, you know that cheering for both the Lakers and Clippers is not widely accepted, especially recently with both teams doing well and competing with each other. If you look in my room, car, and clothing, you’ll mainly see Lakers gear or memorabilia so they are definitely my favorite sports team, and I have the random fun fact of being able to attend Kobe’s last game in 2016 where he scored 60 points and simply said “Mamba out”.
What is the most challenging project that you have worked on?
I’ve worked on several tunneling projects, both while in the Geotechnical Engineering Group and the Project Management Office, and those are definitely the most fun and challenging projects that I have had a chance to work on. A lot items are considered during design, but once you’re in construction its about adapting to your conditions and having a good project team to complete the job successfully.
What has been your most used app over the past week?
Definitely Robinhood – during this pandemic I have been able to get more into cooking and stocks. With Robinhood, it made learning and getting into the stock market much easier and user friendly. Still learning as I go, but it has been an enjoyable experience thus far!
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I grew up a sneakerhead and enjoy doing community service, so I created my own 501c3 non-profit called Kicks 4 Kids which aims to deliver new shoes to kids in low income, disadvantaged communities. The organization allows me to combine two passions of mine, and I was fortunate enough to have a great group of friends to make it a reality.
If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have three items, what would they be?
• My cell phone (to play music and check Robinhood)
• A fishing net
• A basketball
How has ASCE helped you in your career?
ASCE has helped me professionally in so many ways – I’ve gained real leadership experience, have an extended network of friends/colleagues, and have been able to talk about infrastructure on so many levels across the country. Joining the LA Younger Member Forum (YMF) was my introduction to ASCE here in Los Angeles, and I got to meet other younger engineers who worked at a variety of places. Knowing all these people has helped me understand the Civil Engineering Profession better and have great contacts if I needed help. Serving as President of LA YMF and now as the President of MLAB, I get a great opportunity and exposure to working with large organizations and people that I normally would not get a chance to do in my day-to-day job. With ASCE’s Government Affairs involvement, I’ve been fortunate enough to talk about infrastructure to my local City Councilmembers, in Sacramento to my elected State officials, and in DC to members of Congress. For all my work in the engineering profession, ASCE awarded me a New Faces of Civil Engineering award in 2018 which also led me to be featured in Time for Kids and NBC Learn.
What is your favorite food spot in LA?
This is truly the toughest question – I think LA is a beautiful melting pot of cultures and people, and the amazing food selection is the result! If I have to list a top 3 in no particular order it would be: Sugarfish (sushi), Guisados (tacos), and Quarters (KBBQ). In-N-Out is a given right?