Jimmy Poon Kin-keung became interested in the construction industry at Aberdeen Technical School, where he was exposed to subjects that students in other schools might not have a chance to learn, such as technical design and drawings, and metal and woodwork. “I found these subjects very interesting and challenging. That is probably why I chose to study civil and structural engineering at university instead of business administration,” he says.
After graduating from the University of Hong Kong in 1991, he joined a civil and structural engineering consultancy as a graduate engineer in a training scheme organised by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.
“When I completed my training in 1995, the Hong Kong construction industry was developing rapidly, with projects such as the new airport and the MTR’s Airport Express Line and Tung Chung Line in full flow. Therefore, I decided to join the MTR Corporation’s projects division. I was employed as an assistant construction engineer – now renamed construction engineer II – to supervise the building of viaducts across a landfill site at Kwai Chung,” he says.
Poon’s experience in railways led to his current role as senior construction engineer for the South Island Line (East) project, which includes building the Ocean Park and Wong Chuk Hang MTR stations and modification works to the surrounding waterways.
“I love working in the construction industry, in particular the construction team. I enjoy seeing a new structure being built from scratch and like to be involved in the process of building it,” he says.
“The construction industry is full of challenges. Every day, new site issues and problems arise. The success of a project depends on how quickly and efficiently site issues and problems are resolved. For example, on one project we received comments from the Jockey Club Rehabilitation Complex that road patching on a section of Nam Long Shan Road was causing inconvenience to wheelchair users. So my team and I responded quickly by making repairs to ensure easy passage for wheelchair users.”
The South Island Line (East) project has special meaning for Poon. “I grew up in Wong Chuk Hang, so working on the project saw me return to my old neighbourhood. Thanks to my community connections, my background facilitates smooth communication with stakeholders. I met my former English teacher and the principal of my old school. I have taken my principal’s advice to heart that I should not forget to minimise the impact of construction on the community. I have learned that listening and responding helps gain the trust of the community,” he says.
Poon sees a bright future for the construction industry. “There are many mega-projects being implemented in Hong Kong and in the near future I can see more job opportunities and promotion chances in the industry,” he says. “Even though the working environment is sometimes tough, especially when you are required to work outdoors, the satisfaction you get when you see a community railway being built from scratch, and knowing you were part of the process, is far beyond your expectations.”