Milly Hennayake, female civil engineer, smiles at camera

Milly Hennayake

Flood Fighter. Civil engineer at Arup.

Female civil engineer stands on bridge
Engineered water weirs
Female civil engineer designs weirs on computer
Female civil engineer presents weir designs to prevent flooding

Growing up, I lived in Sri Lanka and the UK, then settled in Manchester to do my GCSEs. I loved maths and wanted a job that would help people, and decided to be an engineer. Now I work as a Civil Engineer, keeping people safe from flooding.


I didn’t know much about engineering growing up and was thinking about studying medicine like my parents. I started thinking about engineering when I was 16 after I took part in the EDT Headstart scheme where I got to visit a university and take part in taster courses. A school trip to CERN, a large European scientific research centre, made me realise that engineering can help with great scientific discoveries.


I decided to study engineering because I liked the idea of what engineering could achieve. I went to the University of Cambridge and studied Civil and Environmental Engineering where my classes covered all sorts of topics. While at university I volunteered with Engineers Without Borders UK. I learnt about engineers working in developing countries and how they help people access clean water and improve health with safe sanitation and drains, among many other things! I realised this was how I wanted to use my engineering because I could see the impact that engineering had on people’s lives.


I have worked with charities on projects around the world. In South America, I improved the design of temporary housing in favelas so that houses could be built safely and quickly by small groups of people. In Kenya, I worked to make sure that communities in Kibera, an urban slum, had safe, well drained public spaces.  


I am now a Civil Engineer in the water engineering team at Arup, where I work on projects to keep people safe from flooding. I design drainage systems and work with other experts to manage flood risk to communities. I work with nature, from rivers and lakes, to trees to manage rainwater in storms. I work to make sure my designs are sustainable, with minimal negative impact on the environment.  My work keeps people and houses dry and safe after large storms.


I love that my work has value to people and that I have an impact on the world.

Where to next?

Find out more about how you can turn what you love into engineering, and what a future in engineering could look like, by exploring the links below. And if you have a question or comment, get in touch, we’d be happy to help!