Job Experience Sharing in Electrical Engineering (By Electrical Division)

Mr Smith Tsai of the Electrical Division of The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers shared his job experience with a group of undergraduate students from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of The University of Hong Kong earlier, helping students explore career options. Having working in the different departments of the HKSAR Government, Mr Tsai explained the reason he was drawn into electrical engineering and why he chose to join the government, what his path was like, and what could be expected from a job like his.

Q: Why did you choose to study electrical engineering?

A: I have been interested in science since I was young. One thing that particularly fascinated me as a child was the unimaginable possibilities and extraordinary improvements that electricity had brought about to our quality of life. Electricity was a flow of electrons that we could not see, hear nor smell, but thanks to all those scientists and inventors – Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison and James Clerk Maxwell to name but a few, who made utilising electricity possible, we gained more understanding about it and what it could produce. Electricity gave off light and heat, and it produced power for household appliances and drove industrial machineries. However, the convenience we had come at a price. I remembered during one of the science classes in secondary school, my teacher explained in great detail about the causes and impacts of global warming, then I realized our societies had been developing at such an incredible pace that the amount of energy we had been consuming might deplete our plant’s natural resources sooner than we knew it. I believed that renewable energy would become an important source of energy and increasing the use of renewable energy would be one of the solutions to global warming. Thereafter, my notion and interest led me to pursue further study in this area and I yearned to make some significant and positive contributions to our societies. I knew renewable energy was also related to electrical engineering and therefore I aspired to be an electrical engineer.

I completed an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in the HKU. The programme offered a wide range of electrical engineering courses including some specialised modules in power electronics, building services, electric vehicle and renewable energy. I acquired fundamental theoretical knowledge, which was found to be very useful at work and in preparing myself to becoming an electrical engineer.

Q: Why did you choose to work in Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD)?

A: The work of EMSD covers two portfolios. Firstly, it ensures electrical and mechanical (E&M) safety for the public and promotes energy saving by enforcing ordinances and systems related to electricity, gas, lifts and escalators, amusement rides, railway and energy efficiency. Secondly, it provides professional and quality E&M engineering services to more than 100 government departments and public bodies. I believed that the diversified public services provided by the EMSD would provide me a broad exposure to different types of projects, an opportunity to gain insights into different roles in the engineering profession and enable me to build multiple transferable skills. It was therefore a place that could fulfill all the essential attributes a fresh graduate would look for, and hence I chose to start my career in EMSD.

Q: How does the Scheme "A" Training aid your career development?

A: To ensure proper levels of entry and practising standards for its membership, the HKIE offers Scheme "A" Training for engineering graduates of different disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, building services, electronic, information technology and biomedical engineering, etc. The Scheme "A" Training is a structured training scheme operating in different companies and organisations, and is designed to serve as a transitional period from an academic environment to real life industry by providing trainees with an opportunity to integrate theoretical knowledge and practical skills. During the 2-year Scheme "A" training of EMSD, I was posted to different divisions to realise various electrical and mechanical (E&M) systems such as the Air Traffic Control Centre (ATCC) in the New Civil Aviation Department Building (NCADB), and electrical distribution system at Tuen Mun Hospital and appreciate relevant E&M’s Code of Practices, regulations and ordinances such as Cap. 406 Electricity Ordinance and Code of Practice for the Electricity (Wiring) Regulations. EMSD’s comprehensive Scheme "A" training taught me practical engineering knowledge on all related aspects, strengthened my speaking and writing skills, and trained me to be a good team player as well as developed my competencies towards being a Professional Engineer.

Q: Can you share with us some achievements or job satisfaction you have experienced?

A: I undertook a 6-month Direct Objective Training in the Drainage Services Department and have been working in this department since then. I supervised a number of projects including the one to install Photovoltaic (PV) System in Siu Ho Wan Sewage Treatment Works (SHWSTW), which was currently the largest PV system in Hong Kong. Its installed generation capacity was 1.1MW and it could generate around 1.1 million kWh electricity annually, equivalent to an annual reduction of 770 tonnes of CO2. In this project, I was able to apply technical knowledge that I learnt from my degree course together with innovative ideas in solving problems. One example of this was the solar farm, which consisted of more than 4,200 solar panels. If there was a breakdown of PV panels, it would be challenging and time-consuming for our operation and maintenance colleagues to identify the faulty panels by checking the functioning of every piece of PV panels. In view of this, we introduced an intelligent combiner box as a pilot trial to monitor current and voltage of each string of PV panels. It could facilitate effective and quick identification of abnormal PV panels for further follow-up checks and repair. Also, I had the chance to work in a team with people of different disciplines and backgrounds. There were many challenges and problems throughout the project, but knowing the PV system could contribute to tackle global warming, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction upon its completion, and my hard work and effort paid off.

Written by the Electrical Division of the HKIE

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