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My Engineer Life With… Samira Tessarolli de Souza

Our latest young engineer to feature has already founded her own geosynthetics design consultancy. Here, she shares her journey and ambitions for growth.

Hi Samira! Please share a little about yourself.

My name is Samira Tessarolli de Souza, I’m 28 and I live in Ribeirão Preto, in the countryside of São Paulo in Brazil. I graduated in 2017 in civil engineering at EESC-USP (the University of São Paulo at São Carlos School of Engineering), where I am currently finishing my Master’s degree in geosynthetics.

I currently work at Ober, where I am the Technical Coordinator of the geosynthetics business unit. In addition, nearly two years ago, I founded my design and consulting office for geosynthetics works, Geostatta Engenharia, where I am partner-director.

How did you get into geosynthetics? Tell us a bit about your journey to where you are now.

I became interested in geosynthetics during the soil mechanics classes while an undergraduate. From then on, I started to attend the Geosynthetics Laboratory at the university to learn more about the subject, taking the available optional courses and participating in Scientific Initiation research. I then did extensive research at FEUP (The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto in Portugal) through an international mobility scholarship.

When I returned to Brazil, I was in the last year of my undergraduate degree, in which we had the opportunity to look for internships. I successfully passed the internship selection process to join Ober Geosynthetics. I worked at the company for three years on-site before working from home so I could more easily travel to site visits.

During my career in the company, I held the positions of intern, technical assistant, civil engineer, senior civil engineer and was responsible for technical coordination.

How did you come to founding your own company?

While in contact with the practical world of geosynthetics I felt the need to expand my professional performance where it was clear to me how important the technical specification of materials is. Also, if we want the materials to perform at their best it needs a well-designed project behind it.

So came the idea of founding a design and consulting office that could complement the work I have been doing.

Can you tell us a bit about the companies you work for?

Ober is a leader in needle-punched nonwovens in South America, located in Nova Odessa, in the countryside of the São Paulo state. It has 10 market segments operating in various sectors, one of them being geosynthetics.

At the end of my undergraduate studies, I was looking for a job opportunity to learn more about geosynthetics. I met Ober through the geosynthetics laboratory at EESC-USP and knew that it was a main company in this field. I wasn’t sure what role I would play, but I knew I would have an excellent opportunity for technical growth.

My company, Geostatta Engenharia is a design office in Ribeirão Preto, also in the countryside of São Paulo state. It is a new company that is growing and formed by a team of engineers specializing in geosynthetics.

Tell us about your interest in geosynthetics and your chosen focus. Why is engineering your passion?

I have always seen engineering through infrastructure works as a way to provide people with the basics they need to make their everyday life run smoothly: to have good quality roads to travel on, to have access to water supply, sanitation, and proper waste disposal. It impresses me how these works can solve problems and are essential in everyday life.

I found in geosynthetics an area of engineering interconnected with infrastructure works and an alternative to achieve a more sustainable world that protects the environment and natural resources. Furthermore, I found the opportunity to develop research and see the results in practice.

What was your first day on the job like?

On the first day at Ober I met the team from the business unit I would be working in, and soon after, I got to know the production. As the factory is huge, it took us all day to go through all the lines. It was fascinating to understand the whole production process of geosynthetics.

At Geostatta Engenharia, it was completely different: with a technical-administrative position, the first day involved many bureaucratic tasks to allow the company to be fully operational.

What do your day-to-day tasks involve?

I usually have three types of routine.

The days I stay in the office involve project development, writing technical proposals, drafting technical materials, assisting clients, and coordinating the team.

On the days of site visits I have alignment meetings with the team where we plan the weekly tasks and short- and long-term goals and make production visits.

Then there are the days of technical visits to customers on-site to understand the existing problem and suggest solutions or provide assistance in installing the geosynthetics.

What are you looking forward to most in your career?

I want to build a solid career that makes me a professional recognized by the quality, technique, and ethics in work I have developed. I believe that recognition should be earned throughout life, and I dedicate myself to these ideals every day. Because I am still very young, I have a long path of constant learning to follow.

What are your long-term ambitions and goals?

Working at Ober and being a managing partner of Geostatta Engenharia completes me as a professional, as I am involved with geosynthetics in all spheres. My greatest ambition is to achieve the growth of Geostatta as a design office, and for it to achieve recognition in the geosynthetics market.

Do you have any advice or top tips for anyone considering becoming an engineer or applying for their first job?

The first step is to understand your goal as an engineer, what role you want to play, what kinds of problems you seek to solve, and then select companies that have the same plans, and look for job opportunities.

Did you do work experience or an internship, and would you recommend this?

Yes, as mentioned during my last year as an undergraduate, I did an internship at Ober and then pursued a career within the company.

In my opinion, it is the kind of experience that every person should have: you learn what professional life is and what your daily activities will be, and you can visualize if they are what you expect for your goals and your lifestyle. If it’s everything you imagine, keep going, but if it’s not, it’s the right time to find out and look for new opportunities.

What do you wish you knew before starting your first job?

I knew I wanted to work with geosynthetics, but I didn’t realise the role of the civil engineer within an industry, and I was discovering this little by little, as I was experiencing the day-to-day inside the company.

I would have liked to known more about this beforehand, to know how my routine would be and what activities I would develop.

I believe that each person has a profile: some like to have a more active job, with trips, for example, without a pre-defined routine, and others prefer a more intense office routine, with project development and software use.

I adapted very well to the work I do, and I like my routine very much, but it would have been a faster and easier process, without so much anxiety, if I had known in advance what was ahead of me. That is why I am currently involved in many ‘engineering weeks’ to talk to undergraduate students and tell them more about it.

Are you a member of the IGS Young Members Committee? How has membership helped your career?

Yes! I have been a member of IGS since I was an intern and then part of the technical team at Ober, a sponsor of IGS Brazil.

In 2019 I became an active participant in IGS Brazil’s Young Members Group, the Núcleo Jovem, producing content for IGS Brazil’s social networks.

This work allowed me to learn more about the IGS and have contact with colleagues in the area, getting to know their research and areas of activity.

In addition, the IGS always promotes great seminars and lectures, which bring us closer to professors and universities. There are a lot of new events that make us part of a community dedicated to geosynthetics. This conviviality is indescribable.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview and to tell you a little about my career and my passion for geosynthetics!

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Interested in finding out about the IGS Young Members’ Committee? Visit here for details.

Would you like to feature in our Engineers’ Q&A? Email your details to youngmembers@geosyntheticssociety.org.