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Career Path

Engineering the right career move

By Ella Lee

Amy Kwong, Training officer, CLP Power
Photo: Edde Ngan

In the world of sports it is common to see former athletes becoming coaches when they retire from active competition. Something similar can happen in the world of business and Amy Kwong, who began her career as an electrical engineer, has definitely found her niche in overseeing the training and development of others.

Ms Kwong believes that her shift from a full-time engineering role was almost predestined. After gaining her professional qualifications and around three years' practical experience in the field of electrical and mechanical engineering, she applied to CLP Power for a similar position. Instead of that, the company offered her a job as a trainer, an unexpected move since they normally fill such vacancies through internal promotions.

At first, Ms Kwong was not sure whether to accept, being uncertain whether a woman could deliver technical and operations training courses for predominantly male staff. "Also, I had little experience of training other people," she says. Nevertheless, she did have the self-confidence to accept the challenge and was willing to learn and adapt to whatever the new environment required. She is currently a training officer for CLP Power, with responsibility for the development and delivery of operational safety training for staff and contractors. Occasionally, there is also a need to provide training for external parties, such as the Airport Authority, as a way of exchanging knowledge.


It is important to know the real-life situations faced by frontline engineers

Right choice
Reviewing what has happened over the past four years or so, Ms Kwong feels she made the right choice. As a training officer, she has gained much wider exposure, met a diverse range of people and learned about all of the company's different power operations. Her position has also made it possible to study the latest technologies and newest equipment before teaching other members of staff about them. Despite that, however, the most rewarding aspect of the job has been in helping technicians and engineers to pass required examinations and achieve their professional goals.

At the outset, gaining the trust and recognition of more senior colleagues was admittedly a challenge. "Such people are very proficient and experienced within their area of expertise," she explains "Sometimes, though, they prefer to stick to their own habits and that is where I can help them understand exactly what is required in their daily work."

All instructors need very good communication and presentation skills, but they are particularly important for Ms Kwong. As the company's only female trainer, she has noticed that male students can become "extraordinarily polite and quiet". To overcome this unnatural barrier, she aims to create a more relaxed atmosphere when teaching, and her basic approach is to understand the work each person does in order to provide the most effective assistance. "It is important to know the real-life situations faced by frontline engineers," she says. "Then we can serve as back-up and help them solve problems in the most practical way." Besides that, she also looks for advice and support from other experienced trainers with the design and presentation of course content and materials.

Training trainers
To do the job well requires technical knowledge and professional training skills. Before giving her first class, Ms Kwong received six months' instruction in the essentials to ensure she was fully proficient. Her current duties include reviewing any training processes and evaluating new technologies prior to implementation so as to maximise their effectiveness.

In her opinion, a degree in engineering is a basic requirement for this kind of training role, but at least two or three years' practical experience is also needed. Anyone interested in such a position should be patient, prepared to listen to others, respectful and well informed about the work of the company.

Ms Kwong also believes that the way to achieve success is by concentrating on what has to be done today, while planning for tomorrow. "We should focus our efforts on performing to the best of our ability every day, while never forgetting the need to keep improving," she says.

The prevailing industry opinion is that competition between companies supplying electricity in Hong Kong is sure to increase at some point in the future. In Ms Kwong's view, this makes it even more important for CLP Power's training school to continue to upgrade the overall level of staff, so that they are equipped to deal with any future challenges.

China Opportunities

There may be openings with manufacturers and mainland-based electricity companies looking for competent engineers to oversee their infrastructure and power distribution networks. Anyone considering a move to the mainland should closely compare salary levels and be prepared to accept a difference in living standards if necessary.


 

Taken from Career Times 27 May 2005, p. 16

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