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IGS Young Members: Down to Earth – An Interview with Preston Kendall

In this edition of the feature, the Young Members Committee interviewed the current co-chair of their committee, Preston Kendall. Preston shared his formative experiences in the geosynthetic industry and his advice for the next generation of engineers.

Name / Institution: Preston Kendall, Geofabrics Australasia

Specialist Field: Fluid Mechanics

Can you summarise your experience of working with geosynthetics?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I can trace this back to a senior design project as an undergrad civil engineering student at Georgia Tech. We were tasked with evaluating the use of inflatable rubber dams to replace a series of old sluice gates for the US Army Corps of Engineers. This is a very niche application but was revealing to see how materials science is giving engineers newer and better tools.

I was in my last semester of grad school at Georgia Tech when I found a job opportunity that happened to be for an Australian geosynthetics manufacturer. Australia was not on my radar but so many things about the opportunity appealed to me that I went “all in”. My work since that time has involved R&D testing, software development, industry sector management, and national technical support. Its been almost 7 years and I’ve had my hands in so many different pies that it’s hard to summarize my experience concisely. More recently, with my role in the Water and Coastal sector I’ve focused on dewatering applications with geosynthetic tubes. This technology is very visible and takes me to some very remote parts of Australia so it has been fun to see it develop down under.

What inspired you to enter civil engineering and the geosynthetics industry?

At first, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I decided to get a degree in physics. This is a great background for anyone going into the STEM fields. When I graduated, I wanted to do a more applied science. There are many practical reasons to get into civil engineering, but reflecting back, I was inspired by the idea of creating physical monuments of achievement. Like many students choosing a career path, I was a little naïve but it has worked out well.

What advice do you have for other young members in the industry?

It should be no surprise that I’m going to beat the drum for the IGS Young Members Committee. Participating in IGSYMC has been very rewarding for me both personally and professionally. We also have a really good time which is important. My other piece of advice is to embrace reading and writing. It is tempting to think you can escape the need for these skills by going the STEM route but you cannot. Combining all these skills will magnify your value.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

I grew up playing soccer, basketball and tennis in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is about 4 hours from the beach, and I had never touched a surfboard before I moved to Australia. When you move to Gold Coast and into an office full of surfers, you don’t really have a choice. This is one of my main interests outside of work. Surfing is good for the mind and the body, as long as nothing tries to eat you.

Are you a fan of music? If so do you have a favourite album?

I have an eclectic taste in music. You can find me listening to Motown, 90s alternative, Kanye, Outkast, I’ll stop there. My favorite album is the first studio album from Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Unclassified.