Sri Lankan-born Jayamali Arambewela appointed to top post in Canadian green energy producing company
Jayamali Arambewela appearing on Roopana Web Magazine
Sri Lankan-born Jayamali Arambewela has been appointed as the Vice President of Potentic Renewables, a major Canadian company specializing in solar and wind energy.
Jayamali who was born in Matara and studied electrical engineering in China said her company is a leader in the development of green energy resources in Ontario and in her new job she is in charge of operations which she describes as ‘a new and challenging experience in her 20-year career’.
Speaking to Manjula Wickeramaratne of Roopana weekly web broadcast, Jayamali said her company’s top priority is developing renewable energy to generate electricity. “Our firm has so far undertaken about 600 projects, also including the installations of solar rooftops in 300 public schools in the province. The power generated by our projects is directly transferred to the electrical grid,” she added.
After graduating from the University of Tsinghua in China where she specialized in power generation and distribution, she worked for projects in Ormazabal, a Europe-based medium voltage switchgear company, focussing on power distribution.
“When I chose electrical engineering many of my friends were opting to study computer science because it was thought to be the technology of future that time. They advised me to switch on to IT but I listened to my own heart. I knew electrical engineering was my calling and from my childhood I was fascinated by the magic of physics and therefore I followed my instincts,” Jayamali said adding that her experience in China was a tremendous help when she was looking for employment opportunities in Canada.
Her fluency in Chinese and English in addition to her knowledge of cultural sensitivities were the factors that worked in her favour while working in China. She is still using Chinese when she interacts with certain clients in Ontario.
She came to Canada one year after her husband who is also an electrical engineer and ‘opened the door for me’. She had to face some challenges initially. She had to get the licence to work as an engineer in Ontario but was confident of her chances as the field of green energy is a fast developing area in the Canadian economy.
After coming to Canada she worked for companies like General Switchgear and Crown Technical Systems continuing to develop technical and leadership skills in switch gear design and manufacturing. She was able to use her experience with the German company in China to design commercial and industrial designs. “The Ontario companies gave me lot of freedom and as a result I was able to develop certain areas that were neglected in the consumer service field. Potentica Renewable considered all my achievements in my work history in China and Canada when they hired me to head their operations. There was a also move to patent one of my designs I did for a company but it did not happen due to some professional reasons. My designs won many projects for these companies and I got lot of funds to test the efficiency of my creations.”
She leads a team of 18 junior and senior engineers designing the systems, creating detailed drawings and specifications for utilities, external consultants and contractors. “My job satisfaction rises sky high when I see my simple pencil sketches become real projects to serve the people”.
Setting up of wind turbines and solar panels does not end with the installation alone. Her company provides engineering support throughout the life cycle of the equipment. Her company’s most ambitious project in the recent past is 25 MW solar farm which was launched in the Dominican Republic.
One of her designs won her a prestigious award from the Association of Professional Engineers in Ontario. Her design came only second to the mega project of Highway Seven renovation program.
Talking about gender gap in employment, one of her pet areas, she said engineering is usually not considered as a woman’s job and only about 20 per cent women are engaged in the energy sector. Explaining about electrical engineering Jayamali commented there are many opportunities in this field and its demand never goes down and she encourages more women to study engineering, emphasizing that it is no more a man’s prerogative. “North America figures prominently in global initiative of ‘Equal by 2030’ to close the gender gap where equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities will be targeted by raising women’s participation. North America predicts that its use of green energy will increase to 80 per cent by 2050 and this will create more employment opportunities for women”.
“I attend many symposiums, seminars and other events and I see how only a few women are engaged in engineering. Sometimes I am the only woman taking part in these public events”, she said. She is encouraging more girls to study engineering and is prepared to help and guide voluntarily anyone willing to get the Canadian certification. “The only requirement after graduation is four years’ experience in the field”.
Jayamali describes green energy as the technology of tomorrow. “It is encouraging to see that global giants like Google and Apple generate electricity in their headquarters only through renewable sources and when Japan hosts 2020 Summer Olympics the games will completely depend on green energy. They have already started lighting up the roads with wind and solar power. 2020 Games will be something to watch for where green energy is concerned!”
(Roopana is a Toronto-based weekly Sinhala web magazine which has run into 117 episodes so far. The broadcast covering Sri Lankan community news and personalities contributing to the success in various areas of Canadian life is presented by Weeratech Creations). – Somasiri Munasinghe