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Engineer tunnels her way to career success

Published on Friday, 07 Sep 2012
Ice Chong Suet-yee
Photo: May Tse

With her job involving tunnel projects, Ice Chong Suet-yee, assistant resident engineer at Mott MacDonald Hong Kong, often has to visit underground locations to inspect digging work. Her presence, though, is not always welcomed – some workers believe that women bring bad luck if they go into tunnels.

This has never stopped her from pursuing her engineering career, however. In fact, writes Wong Yat-hei, she finds it appealing being part of such a male-dominated industry.

What is your academic background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Hong Kong.

How do you start your day?
I do not have a routine. Every day is different which makes it exciting. Sometimes, together with the resident engineer, I travel to different sites for inspections. Often we pay ad-hoc visits to sites and have to solve real-time issues.

What does your job entail?
As an assistant resident engineer, I am currently assisting in the supervision and contract management of the construction of the Tsuen Wan Drainage Tunnel. I help judge how the design can be modified to suit the actual site conditions. I also make sure the materials used meet the specifications in the contract.

What are the major challenges you’ve encountered so far?
Some people believe that the presence of a woman in tunnels is bad luck so I have had people burning joss sticks when I do site visits, which is quite an unusual experience. But I believe that respect is a virtue to be applied everywhere. The workers understand it is my job to visit tunnels and I respect their customs and rituals. At the end of the day, it is the workers who spend hours working in the shafts. These rituals don’t hurt me in any way, so I just let it be.

What are your future plans?
In the near future, I hope to obtain the status of a registered civil engineer. This will be recognition of my expertise and maturity.

In the long term I hope to fly around the world to work on iconic infrastructure projects such as railways and airports.

What advice can you give those interested in the industry?
You have to stay curious. Most young people will do summer jobs and internships that involve mainly photocopying and word processing. But they should not feel discouraged. “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, as said by Steve Jobs, is something I also believe.

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