Mandy Leung will have the power to electrify Hong Kong for years to come - and that is no exaggeration. The grid planning engineer is one of a team of 15 specialists with CLP Power Hong Kong, whose role is to analyse usage of the main transmission system to ensure continuity of supply and plan for long-term customer needs. This requires her to monitor everything from summer temperatures and air-conditioning loads to proposals for new rail lines or housing developments.
Leung graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in electrical and electronic engineering, and initially worked in the property sector.
What are your main day-to-day tasks? In the office, my major duties are to carry out computer and technical simulations for power flow analysis. We have to be sure this is satisfactory against reliability and safety standards and for future needs. The work involves collecting parameter and network information about present consumption, as well as base projections from the government and major developers on what they will need and where over the next 10 years. For example, the government is now proposing around 10 infrastructure projects, which will be a major driver of electricity requirements in future decades.
What is the best part of the job? I'm proud of my role as a grid planner because I know what I'm doing is important for people in Hong Kong. I find this type of engineering fits my talents and interests. At school, I always liked science and practical stuff, and I had a belief that if you have a strong interest in something, you will do it well.
Which has been your toughest career decision so far? The turning point was to quit Swire Properties. I started there as a management trainee in 1998, largely because people had told me that the important thing in a first job is to get a lot of exposure and the opportunity to learn. The programme did provide good generalist experience and brought me into contact with surveyors, marketing specialists, managers and people from other trades and backgrounds. But after three years, I asked myself what I really wanted to do and that was to use my professional qualifications in a technical field which I would enjoy more.
Which influences have shaped your approach to work? I think my working style is to be determined and to show a strong character. That comes mainly from my parents. They gave me a lot of freedom and asked me to make my own decisions, but also expected me to explain the pros and cons to them. Besides that, I went to a traditional convent school which was focused on results. Probably because of that, I can't leave a job undone. When something isn't going well, I try to walk away from it just to calm down, but my character is to go back to the problem quickly to look for the root cause, find a diagnosis, and get things back on track.
What do you find surprising about your position? When I joined CLP in 2001, I was a bit surprised the first day I walked in. I knew women were in the minority, but I didn’t know I would be the only one in a department of about 100. There was a sharp learning curve, but I soon realised that, like anywhere else, gaining the trust of supervisors and co-workers was a matter of showing you had the ability. Overall, there are still too few women engineers, but the situation is improving. My policy, though, is not to “mentor” other women or pay special attention to them. I think it’s important for engineers just to see there are equal opportunities.
What do you see as your future direction? Most of the opportunities that interest me are within CLP, but I do want to broaden my scope. Now it is mostly technical analysis in a small team, but since completing an MBA in 2009, I've realised it's important to grab the chance to use marketing, commercial and financial knowledge to develop your career. So, I want to go into a co-ordination role.
What would you change in Hong Kong if you could? It would be the education system, especially how to bring in more innovation and encourage youngsters to show their initiative. This is very important for the future development of our professions and industry. It seems to me that a lot of young graduates still have a very strong sense that they should just conform to standards in the workplace. But they need to bring their own ideas and think about technical things in a different way. Credentials
Leung and her team of engineers designed a human-powered flying machine for the recent Red Bull Flugtag challenge in Hong Kong
Won recognition as Young Engineer of the Year 2010
Studying for a part-time London University law degree through HKU SPACE