International Woman’s Day/International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2023 and to celebrate www.asiamanufacturingnewstoday.com and www.themirrorinspires.com interviewed Lim Xin Lan, senior Power Engineer CHINT, Asia.
Why did you choose to become a power engineer?
My love for numbers led me into Engineering.
When I was pursuing my Honours in Electrical Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, I developed an interest in power engineering. In my twenties, I foresaw how I could empower the world as a power engineer. I wanted to make an impact to society at large by ensuring the safe transmission of reliable electricity – a fundamental human need.
It has been about a decade since I graduated from school, and I have never once looked back at my decision. Till today, I’m still motivated by my role as I always find meaning in what I do.
There can’t be many female power engineers?
My undergraduate cohort consisted of about 100 students, and they were mostly male. While the number of female power engineers in the industry today is still outnumbered by men, gender should not be a qualifying factor for this profession.
If anything, the small number of female engineers in the industry as a whole represents an opportunity for more women to break into this field.
Power engineers, whether male or female, should be driven by a strong sense of intuition, and importantly, a passion to solve real world problems such as the electrification of underserved areas in the world, and to ensure the safety of the end users.
What is it exactly that you do?
In a nutshell, critical thinking is what I do on a daily basis. I recommend the right solutions to businesses and governments worldwide to ensure the safe transmission of reliable electricity, and at the same time, partner with them in their sustainability journey.
As a Senior Engineer at CHINT, my work entails studying technical specifications to ensure the safe transmission of reliable electricity. Instead of merely accepting the requirements in specifications as they are and being a ‘yes woman’, I apply my experience to decipher if the scope of work is adequate for the scale of the project, while taking into consideration the process of implementation, cost effectiveness, and timeliness.
It also goes beyond just the selection and supply of a switchgear for a substation, for example. I look into a slew of factors including logistical challenges, the feasibility of transportation services for different terrains, and the weather patterns of the geographical location – just to name a few.
Sometimes, I counsel clients out of overkill solutions – my specialist view allows me to find the right solution for each problem and scenario, so our clients do not end up buying more than they need. As we build relationships with our prospects and clients, familiarising ourselves with their business needs, I will also recommend sustainable solutions that can be implemented to help them reduce carbon footprint whilst achieving their organisational goals.
What project are you working on at present?
As Singapore transitions towards cleaner energy sources such as with the use of solar energy, the intermittent nature of solar risks the resilience of the grid. I am currently working on grid level energy storage and safe connection solutions to ensure that we continue to have sustainable, reliable and affordable energy.
I am also working closely with designers on delivering Data Centres in the Philippines and Indonesia, to optimise the centres based on location conditions.
And you do a project to your own design and specifications?
I’ve worked with clients to engineer data centre infrastructure to improve their cost effectiveness and time efficiency through the use of a fully customisable and cutting-edge design – prefabricated substation solutions.
With a prefabricated solution, we can minimise the need for installation work before powering on, thereby speeding up the implementation process by at least 20%. The prefabricated substation solutions are designed based on our experience and expertise in renewables – integrating fire protection, remote monitoring capabilities, and climate control systems that are fully tailored and tested at our factory before being delivered to site. Moreover, prefabricated solutions triumph over older designs as they comprise the latest technologies.
You travel for your work. Whereabout overseas have you enjoyed a project?
While I’ve travelled around the globe to implement different types of projects, it is a rural electrification project in the Philippines which I took on early in my career that left an indelible mark on me till this day.
The project was particularly challenging as I had to learn new communication protocols and think of solutions to complement our modern electrical grid in a developing geographical area with limited infrastructure.
At the same time, I was also managing 10 stakeholders with varying concerns relating to software, hardware, existing infrastructure and maintenance.
While the industry has evolved tremendously since then, this project taught me how to harmonise all the different aspects of my role – laying a strong foundation for my problem solving skills, people management skills, and importantly, understanding communication protocols of the past and present.
I am always reminded of the impact that my work brings to people around the world, even if we do not share the same culture, language, or nationality.
Who is your inspiration, your role model?
Today, I work under the leadership of two capable women, Zhang Lily, CEO of CHINT Electrics, and Zheng Beibei, Vice President of CHINT. CHINT is constantly pushing the boundaries of innovations and breaking glass ceilings at the workplace.
Globally, CHINT’s business has been thriving and today we are valued at USD 20.81B. Over the last few years, our business has also expanded into APAC. We have set foot in Singapore, with our headquarters being officiated by Ms. Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Her Excellency Sun Haiyan, Ambassador Extraordinary, and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Singapore.
We are able to continuously empower the world by bringing onboard solutions that will make a difference because of the sole reason that we are also led by women who have demonstrated impeccable business acumen.
How do you relax?
I love hiking – being in nature helps me clear my mind. I also enjoy the beautiful view of flora and fauna. For the same reason, I would do what I can to protect our environment through my work so that my children will also be able to enjoy the same view and without the consequences of the pressing climate change issues, in the coming decades.
The Light We Carry, by Michelle Obama.
Obama’s autobiography sheds light on the strategies the poised former FLOTUS uses to be “more comfortable, less paralysed, inside of uncertainty”. It resonated deeply with me as she described how out of place she felt as a African American undergraduate at Princeton in the 1980s, and freely admitted that the anxiety she felt from concerning herself with what other people were thinking of her could have messed with her head if she let it.
This is a book that all girls and women who want to be in Science should read – it’s alright if you’re one of the few females in any industry or classroom. Don’t let that get to you. Don’t concern yourself with what others are thinking or saying.
Focus your energy on what you’re passionate about – Science – and things will work out.
“Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.” – Marie Curie
This quote is a reminder to us that there is no need to be perfect. Encountering a setback, facing failure, falling short of perfection – these are normal aspects of growing up, growing old, and an enriching learning experience. The quote is made even more inspiring by its source – one of the world’s most famous women in Science, Marie Curie.
Not only did she clinch the Nobel twice, she also applied her learnings to develop small, mobile X-ray units – known as “Petits Curies” – that could be used to diagnose injuries on battle terrain. Her life, while tragic, has inspired me since my early teens, when I first heard of her.
Best way to focus on a project?
For any projects that I work on, I will always remind myself not to lose sight of the big picture: ‘What are the business, environmental and social goals we are trying to achieve?’.
It’s easy to get caught up in minute details – which are undoubtedly important – but maintaining focus for extended periods on projects requires motivation. For me, the desire to keep pushing a project forth comes from visualising the final outcome – be it a solar farm that powers a town, safer and more reliable electrical supply, or a data centre that helps bring digitalisation to a community.
Simply put, don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing!
If not this, what other profession would you choose?
I cannot imagine myself in another role solely because of the impact that my work brings to society at large. On a daily basis, we flick the switches at home and in the office for electricity supply.
While this is an easy gesture, a slew of processes take place behind the scenes to ensure electricity is being transmitted to us in a safe and reliable manner.
While I love all things related to Maths and Science, Power Engineering is really where I shine. And, working in the smart energy industry means I get to apply this knowledge and skill in the most meaningful way possible – powering the Earth in a more sustainable manner, to ensure a clean and healthy world for future generations.