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Happiness is mother's goal

Published on Friday, 01 Oct 2010
Jenny Yeung says planning enables her to fulfil several roles.
Photo: Oliver Tsang
Jenny Yeung says planning enables her to fulfil several roles, including bringing up her young daughter.
Photo: SCMP Picture

For Jenny Yeung, juggling a demanding career as a civil engineer with being a mother is simply a matter of careful planning.

"I try to plan my day on my way to work in the car, so I can use my time effectively and leave the office around 6.30pm," says Yeung, a senior geotechnical engineer with the geotechnical engineering office at the Civil Engineering and Development Department.

As the mother of two children, a three-year-old son and a seven-month-old daughter, Yeung says, like many, she has several roles to play. "I am daughter to my parents, a mother to my children, a wife, a subordinate to my boss, and I also have subordinates," she says. "My goal is to try to make everyone happy, if I can achieve this than I am happy." Happiness also comes from reading stories to her son and relaxing with her family.

In addition to keeping others happy, Yeung is responsible for keeping Hongkongers safe by inspecting and carrying out upgrades on slopes to prevent landslides. "We are always on standby when a landslip warning is raised," Yeung says. Her department is responsible for checking design submissions for private and public engineering projects that involve slope work. She is also responsible for educating the public on slope safety and dealing with the media.

Yeung spends most of the working day in her office, co-ordinating projects to reduce landslide risk, surrounded by photographs of her family and a collection of rock samples. Previously, her job involved outdoor on-site inspections. "During a heavy rainstorm in 2005, I had to recommend temporary evacuation of homes at Sha Tin Heights," Yeung recalls. "On another occasion I made an inspection from a helicopter when heavy mud flows were spotted near Lion Rock tunnel."

A graduate from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where she was one of the first civil engineering students and the only female student among 45 men, Yeung is quick to dismiss the idea that geotechnical work is a domain for men. "About 20 per cent of today's civil geotechnical engineers are female," says Yeung, a founder and first chairwoman of the HKUST Civil Engineering Society.

An enthusiastic traveller, Yeung has organised several geotechnical delegations to different construction sites on the mainland, including the Three Gorges project. She also enjoys travelling overseas with her children and husband, who she met while studying at the HKUST through a table tennis club.

The recipient of several awards, including the 2006 Young Engineer of the Year Award and a British Chevening-Cambridge Scholarship to study for a master's in philosophy at Cambridge University, Yeung uses her skills to help others on the mainland. Since the 2008 earthquake struck Sichuan province, Yeung and her colleagues have helped build and maintain a school close to where the earthquake struck.

She is also an active member of a volunteer group which supports and visits orphans in Lijiang, Yunnan. "Being a mother has intensified my feelings towards children," Yeung says. "I cherish having a loving family, but giving back to the community is also very important."


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