What started as a very occasional podcast has quickly turned into a regular series from Australia-based engineer Siamak Paulson (ADE Consulting Group Pty Ltd). Siamak’s Geosynthetics Podcast, which features short video interviews, is available on Siamak’s YouTube Channel. This time out, he visits with Rob Mcilwraith, who has consistently taken on new challenges around the world over the past 30 years.

Previous episodes of Siamak’s podcast have featured interviews with Kent von Maubeuge, Mike Dobie, Brendan Swifte, and Boyd Ramsey.


Engineering is a highly international profession, both in the workforce and where the work is performed. It also has a significant number of jobs that engineers perform and which are outside of standard engineer training (e.g., marketing and export management). Mcilwraith has embraced all of it, working in offices in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. He’s held positions in geotechnical consulting, business development, and management. On the consulting side, he’s focused on diverse sectors such as roads, water resources, and landfills. In export, he’s been part of building Australian exports markets to South American mining, specialty applications in China, and much more.

MORE INTERVIEWS: Siamak Paulson Checks in with Kent von Maubeuge

In this, he exemplifies the international scale of the geosynthetics field. The career path he’s taken and the willingness he’s had to relocate and take on new challenges have been important to his success.

Today, Mcilwraith is Director of Axter Australia Pty Ltd – COLETANCHE, a geosynthetic barrier system company and one of the only sources in the world for bituminous geomembranes.

Mcilwraith, in fact set up the Australian operation for the France-based international company in 2014. To do so was a big step from what had been a very happy career in export markets for Australia’s biggest geosynthetics manufacturer. But he’s happy he made the leap.

“In life … everyone owes it to themselves to look at new opportunities along the way,” he says, “and see if you can improve your life as you go along.”

It’s hard to argue with that perspective.


On setting up Axter Coletanche’s Australia operation in 2014:

“It was a very good challenge to set up a new kind of business here in Australia. It was hard, because the product was expensive, but it had a lot of very good technical characteristics. … I’m very happy, because most engineers in Australia will try to do the best solution for the project rather than just the cheapest solution. So, it’s a real pleasure to work here in Australia.”

On the international path engineering offers:

“I do love traveling. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to more than 50 countries now, some of them for work, some of them pleasure. That’s the advantage of geosynthetics: you actually can go to see these unusual projects in places that I would never really have the opportunity to go to by myself. Madagascar, Reunion Island, Mauritius, Peru, Chile, even China—some of the places in the mountains. … I’m very lucky I’ve had a chance to see all these things.”

He also credits a family that has been very tolerant with his international, professional wandering. Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder.

Visit Siamak’s YouTube Channel