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IPMers

The Journey from Baby Engineer to Professional Engineer

Sharing by: Lau Yeo Shin

1. When and where u start your engineering career? What is your expertise?

I graduated in 2012 and started my engineering career as a civil engineer consultant in IPM in the same year. Along the 8 years career development, I equipped myself with civil infra design including earthwork, road, drainage, detention, sewerage and water reticulation and structure design including concrete and steel structure design. I was promoted as Technical Manager in the year 2015 and as Technical Partner in the year 2018.

2. I know you were under Justin’s guidance, could you share with us your experience working with him?

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” This is what Justin believes in! And because of this, it shaping who I’m today which I sincerely thankful and appreciated. IPM is not a happy-go-lucky environment, but emphasis in 4 core values: Professionalism, Excellence, Efficiency and Reliability. When I started to join IPM, I was surprised yet excited that Justin willing to dedicate projects and responsibility to me and other engineers. He gave me preliminary briefing of the project requirements and some critical points to take care of in the design as well as some past project references, which I found in later stage such briefing helps me to understand the project but doesn’t help much in coming up with a final solution. Haha! This is what he did to me as well as to other engineers! He leaves me alone after the briefing. Thus I have to find the solutions for the problems, somehow struggled during the process.

As a consultant, we have to always catch up with the project timeline. Thus either he or the client will keep chasing after us until it’s delivered well. Indeed, as a fresh graduate at that time, I felt a hard time to adapt such a hectic and stressful environment however I believe these are the hardships in the journey to be a professional engineer. Under such an independent working environment in IPM along with Justin’s mentoring, I manage to explore and learn new things by having a direct connection with the engineering industry. Due to these hectic yet priceless experiences, I had exponential growth and promoted to Technical Manager in the year 2015.

In IPM, you are working under an independent environment, facing with strictly superior with minor guidance, you need to be resilient, rebound under pressure and always mentally well prepared to spear into challenges. You may sometimes feel lonely or tired of the never-ending problems, yet the best part is you are given opportunities to explore and experience various types of projects in the civil engineering industry!

Believe me! You will see Justin is a kind of fierce man most of the time, in fact, he’s kind and willing to teach as long you willing to learn and fight with. IPM doesn’t train engineers to be technically only, but to be an entrepreneur with exceptional soft skills. I can assure you will have exponential growth in IPM with the condition that you can withstand the high pressure environment and catch up fast enough.

3. Justin has high expectations and doesn't allow mistake or error, how do you think?

Everyone makes mistakes, nobody is flawless. There is always a tangible or intangible cost associated with every mistake. An engineer makes a mistake, the most can his employer do to him is to discontinue his employment, but the employer and the company have to bear the cost of that mistake. Put yourself in the position of the employer, do you still think Justin’s demand for no mistake or severe mistake is really that unacceptable? Or do you expect him to tell you mistake is allowable in your work? Some mistakes damage the professional image, some mistakes cause additional time; some mistakes cause additional cost; some mistakes cause lives. Have you ever stand in front of a project that is under your responsibility that fails due to whatsoever reason? Such an incident will really hit you hard and make you realise how intolerable a mistake is in every engineering design. I hope you will not have that experience throughout your engineering career, this is not the kind of mistake that you will want to make. Don’t give way to mistake due to pressure or any other factors, your regret won’t change anything. Keep in mind that as an engineer, we are holding huge responsibilities to public safety.

4. Justin wants fast delivery, how you see this?

You go to a fast food restaurant and see that there is a super long queue, you need to wait for a long time before you can have your meal. What is your feeling? For me, I may just go to another restaurant rather than queuing up. So do clients out there. If company A needs one week for project delivery while Company B can deliver the project within one day with a comparable fee, the client will most probably choose Company B. What do you think? Thus it’s not about Justin want fast delivery only, but this is how the real world is running.

5. Many engineers quit this career due to working pressure and long hour working, how you survive?

Engineering career doesn’t hurt me, it makes me stronger. So, I didn’t survive, I grow! It is one of my values and contributions to society, as long as I keep to do it right. Feeling the pressure is a good start in an engineering career, which means we care about what we do. The key is don’t quit because of pressure, turn that into the push for even better work. Give up is never an option, I believe everytime we refuse ourselves to give up, we grow to be better and stronger! In short, declare war with your pressure, from nobody to somebody!

6. Any advice to baby engineer?
    • Kill the problem or the problem will kill you.
      If you can’t solve the problem, you voice out, talk to your colleague or your superior and then find a solution together. You can’t solve the problem doesn’t mean your colleague can’t solve the problem or you both can’t solve the problem when working together. Once discovered, do your best to solve the problem within a reasonable timeframe, don’t drag too long. If you fail to resolve it alone, get assistance. Happy go lucky is not an option in engineering, don’t try to ignore the problem, most of the time it snowballs and comes back to hit you even harder.
    • Don’t throw problems only, give proposals or “directions”.
      Nobody likes problems, everyone likes solutions. When a problem is beyond your capability by all means, figure out what resources you need to reach at the solution to the problem (example: software, book, external expertise collaboration, etc.). Then talk to the person could draw such resources to you, such as your colleague or your superior most of the time. But first and foremost, you need to figure out what kind of resources you need, get those resources in and continue to the final solution. Not just stop at the conclusion of “I can’t do it” and throw the problem out then wash hands.
    • Don’t be embarrassed to admit the mistake and never hide a mistake, take the blame and fix it.
      To learn from the mistake, you must first truthfully accept and admit your mistake, then conclude and improve. You might be able to escape from the blame by pushing your mistake, but believe me, your growth in the career will be stagnant or much slower if you do so. Also never try to hide your mistake, show it. Your colleague and your senior may be able to help you fix the mistake before it gets more critical over time. The earlier the mistake is revealed, the earlier the effective remedy can be applied and this saves everyone. First, do your best to not make mistake, if mistake nevertheless happens, learn from your every mistake, then your mistake will reduce over time in quantity and impact.
    • Know your capability and control your fear.
      Engineering is a profession that safety is the utmost concern and social responsibility. So you need to know your capability very well, don’t put yourself and your client in danger by committing in a project which you have totally no capability of handling it, unless you have sufficient resources to refer to or assisting you to complete the project. However, an engineer needs to constantly step out from his comfort zone in order to pursue career development. We fear because we are uncertain and we do not have confident control of the new challenge. To control and overcome this fear, we need to utilise all resources around us, including online reference, external expertise assistance, colleague, senior, principal, etc. which all of these resources will help us in completing the puzzle to reach at the final solution. Reminder: push your limit, accept the challenge but at the same time know when to ask for assistance.
    • Dare to commit and strive to deliver.
      What make you stand out from your fellow engineers are your work results and the overall co-working experience with you. Give confidence to your client and your team, commit a result with a deadline and deliver. Repeating this process builds your professional image and earn trust from others. Keep that up and you will see a change in your relationship with your project clients, fellow consultants, and contractors.
    • Embrace responsibility and deliver beyond expectations.
      Engineer solves problems, not find problems to blame or push problems. Embrace your responsibility and deliver your value as a helpful engineer in every project you work in. Play your role to the maximum then you will find you have been exceeding the expectation from most of your clients and colleagues.
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