Hello Wai Lam! After your studies in civil engineering, joining Dragages Hong Kong seemed natural to you. You’ve been there for 22 years, and none of these years are alike. Can you tell us more about your career?
When I was a kid, I didn’t think of becoming an engineer. I started to take more interest in mathematics and other scientific topics in secondary school. That’s why when I entered university, I chose a major that was related to those subjects – and civil engineering was one of them.
During my final year, I attended a presentation that senior managers from Dragages Hong Kong gave at my university. As they were introducing the company, their training programme and projects, I was very impressed. Once I got home, I looked for more information and decided to apply. That’s how I joined Dragages Hong Kong as a graduate engineer after my graduation.
I started with a 3-year training that included job rotations every year between office and worksites. The goal of the training was to get chartership of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers after 4 years, which I did.
For about 20 years I’ve been working on a great variety of projects, whether on site or at the head office, from railway projects to bridges. I contributed to fantastic projects such as Hong Kong Zhuhai Macao Bridge and Tuen Mun – Chek Lap Kok Link. I changed jobs as well: graduate engineer, design engineer in tendering team, design manager at Cruise Terminal Building and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Mazao Bridge – Hong Kong Link Road, senior design manager at Tuen Mun Chek Lap Kok Link. I am currently senior design manager in civil projects, more specifically tunnels, for the Central Kowloon Route project.
From your first years of learning to managing people, you’ve had such a successful career. Growing in a technical environment is very challenging. Did you have a mentor that inspired you?
Actually, I had two. The first one is Henry Fung. He was the executive director of Dragages Hong Kong before he retired a few years ago. He was one of those who decided to hire me when I joined the company. He was in charge of the programme for graduate engineers for getting chartered. He also was my supervisor when I worked in the tendering team as senior design engineer. This civil engineer had such a precious technical expertise and a great knowledge; and he cared about every one of us in the training programme. The second person who inspired me is my current manager, Xavier Monin, the head of the technical department at Central Kowloon Route – Central Tunnel. He’s such a hard-working person, he’s focused on details and gives us clear directions. I’d say these two people, through their qualities, inspired me to always try my best. They also taught me how teamwork is important.
Team spirit is indeed essential. People from this company are engaged, professional, and so nice that I’ve gained friendships throughout the years. As I manage people, I always remember we’re working as a team. To make sure the whole team stays in touch and to monitor the work, I talk daily with people. That’s how we’re able to come up with solutions together whenever we face a problem. It’s even more important that we conduct many tasks at the same time, with a lot of pressure. Whatever the problem may be, it’s very real and concrete since we’re on site. Therefore, we must find the solution right away. This pressure also brings a lot of joy and satisfaction when a task is accomplished, especially when you get the job done as a whole team.
You’re very involved in women’s network in Dragages Hong Kong, for instance through mentoring. According to you, what’s the next step to meet the the gender diversity challenge for the company?
The group has already implemented some initiatives that help supporting women in the construction industry. For instance, at Dragages Hong Kong, the HR team launched a female mentoring programme last year. I’ve been part of this project as a mentor. It was a wonderful experience, through which I could help the young generation to develop and reach their own goals. Mentors could also share their experience and their knowledge with the mentees. Creating this network is a way to promote diversity, from gender to different cultural backgrounds, in order to connect and unite female colleagues in the region, and to help them grow within the company.
Sharing experience is essential so young generations can have role models*. Senior female managers are very important as well, it’s a way to show women that they are able to take up the role they want and be the next leaders if they want to! It’s very important that our company welcomes these women that make a difference.
Another way to attract more women is to exchange with female students from university, which is also dominated by male students as far as civil engineering is concerned. I remember that a few years ago, when I was working on site, the Girls on the Move programme invited female students to see how we worked on site. This initiative not only taught the future engineers to always talk with people: foremen, workers, engineers… You must be curious to know everything. It was also very useful to show these women being a female engineer on site is possible. It can help convince women they are right to pursue scientific subjects and complete fulfilling careers in the civil works industry.