Meet Fabianus Gomachab, structural engineer

Fabianus Gomachab is a natural storyteller and teacher who shares his passion for engineering in understandable and relatable ways. He’s also an avid reader and sports fan, loves spending time with his wife, family, and friends, and recently started farming sheep and goats – not that surprising, considering he comes from a family of cattle farmers and his surname translates as one who has many cattle! We caught up with him to find out more about his love for engineering, his interest in soil-structure interaction, and his volunteer work with at-risk youth.

Why did you choose to become a civil/structural engineer?

I’ve always been fascinated by large structures like buildings, bridges, and roads and when I was younger, I came up with all sorts of theories as to how they’d been built. When it came to deciding what to study, civil/structural engineering ticked all the boxes in terms of my academic performance and interests – it just felt like a natural fit. 

What is your all-time favourite engineering project? 

It would have to be the University of Namibia’s Small Animals Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which is the first project I worked on after graduating. It’s my favourite for several reasons. It challenged me as an engineer to consider the project in terms of the client’s needs and ‘on the ground’ realities, as opposed to looking at it from a purely engineering point of view. It’s only the second teaching hospital of its kind in the region and has the potential to transform the veterinary sciences landscape in Namibia. And, on a personal level, my niece wants to be a vet and I’m delighted that she’ll have quality education, locally. 

Can you tell us about your special interest in soil-structure interaction?

While I’ve always wanted to be a structural engineer, I discovered another interest at university – geotechnical engineering. In structural engineering, you look at the building, and in geotechnical engineering, you look at the soil, and these things impact each other in ways we don’t fully comprehend yet. During my post-grad, I combined these two interests to explore soil-structure interaction. And in something of an academic highlight, one of my papers which came out of this research was awarded best paper at the 7th African Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference. 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Seeing the visible impact our work has on communities, particularly in the civil and structural environment – cars driving on new roads, houses being built, communities being formed. As an engineer, you put so much of yourself into these projects and it’s incredibly gratifying to see the results of the infrastructure you’ve helped build.

You volunteered with Wilderness Therapy Namibia last year – can you tell us more about that?

WTN aims to positively impact the lives of at-risk youth through nature. They take learners on an eight-day hike where they encourage them to think about their lives and futures. I come from two generations of teachers and feel strongly about giving back, so I decided to get involved through the mentorship programme by hosting weekly group mentoring sessions for the learners to help them continue their journeys of self-discovery and character-building.

What inspires you?

The pursuit of excellence. There’s a quote that says, “Talent is universal, opportunity is not.” I grew up in an environment where there weren’t that many opportunities, so I had to make the most of the ones I had. I think that developed my drive to always strive for excellence in all I do.