SENG Alumni Stories "Women in Engineering" - Natural Born Engineers
(From left) Alumnae Kyna Wong and Bella Chan made HKUST their first choice because they were both eager from childhood to explore science and technology. [Download Photo]
These alumnae graduated a decade apart, and since then they have travelled very different career paths. But WONG Hiu-King Kyna and CHAN Kiu-Kei Bella retain much in common – and that’s apart from their obvious delight at being back in their beloved campus. They were both eager at an early age to explore the secrets of science and technology, they both graduated from the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, and have since maintained their close linkage through their proactive engagement with their alma mater’s student and alumni groups.
Sharing a Common Dream
From very early in their lives, both Kyna (2003 BEng in Electronic Engineering (Information and Communication Engineering), 2009 MSc in Engineering Enterprise Management) and Bella (2014 BEng in Electronic Engineering) were fascinated by technology. “From a young age I was always interested in studying science and acquiring practical technical knowledge, so it was natural for me to choose to study engineering,” says Kyna, now Head of China Technology Research at Credit Suisse. “At secondary school I also made up my mind that I had to be admitted to HKUST – I fell in love with its beautiful campus surrounded by the sea and hills.” As for Bella, now CEO of the company she created, as a kid she loved reading books and magazines about science and technology.
Onwards and Upwards
Right after graduating, Kyna went to Taiwan and worked as an engineer in the semiconductor industry. “In those years there were very few female engineers, but I was quite well received by clients.” And the experiences proved to be highly useful later as she was able to observe the entire picture of the industry’s supply chain.
She moved back to Hong Kong after one and a half years because of her mother’s health issues. But she still worked in the semiconductor sector which was then at its height making feature phones. There were rollercoaster highs and lows in this fast-paced industry as smart phones emerged into the market.
She moved about quite a bit early in her career, changes that gave her further valuable exposure to a wide range of experiences. These included project management and technical marketing. Then, by chance, thanks to a referral from a friend in an investment bank, whom she met at an exhibition and exchanged insights into technological trends with, she shifted to the finance sector. There she became an analyst specializing in the solar energy industry.
“There was no harm in giving it a try, although I faced a number of tough challenges,” says Kyna. But the problem-solving principles learnt from engineering served her well. “I changed jobs a few times in the financial field, but the jobs were always related to technology. Now I focus on financial analysis of listed technology companies, mainly A shares in mainland China and H shares in Hong Kong.”
There’s plenty of pressure in Kyna’s job, including a grueling work load. In her analytical work she has to handle over 20 companies and cope with a packed schedule of company earnings results. At the same time, she is constantly striving to maintain the high standards she has set herself. It’s a tough time schedule. “Normally I have to get to work very early and not leave until 2 or 3 am.” Even on weekends and holidays, relaxing is difficult as her brain is still restless, churning over issues in her work. But along with the stress come rewards. She says she gets the greatest satisfaction when she makes a right call about a company in her analysis, as this means that all her dedication, hard work and insights have been totally worthwhile.
Work-life Balance in Your Palm
As for Bella, she regards engineering as a subject whose principles and approaches are invaluable because they can be widely applied in our daily lives. “I studied the subject with a dream that someday I could work with something related to robotics, or engage in the high-tech industry.”
She adds: “My choice to start up my own business is largely influenced by my family. They run a small business and I used to help them out.” Her own ambition was clear. “To own a corporate some day was my goal from a very young age. I loved saving money and doing small trades when I was still a child.”
Her company is Palmify, a title which signals what her products can do, which is to enable people to manage all their business using the palm of their hand and a single device. “We set up the company last year and we have three partners in total. We started it with an e-commerce platform and our ultimate goal is to introduce automation in different industries. At present Palmify has clients using the company’s standard e-commerce platform, as some advanced features are still undergoing development. “If we can get one to adopt our advanced technology, I will be very excited.”
Bella and her company are not short of ambition. Their mission is nothing less than to change the way that Hong Kong people live. She and her partners believe that in the future the way that people work will change, with fewer jobs with fixed hours and more that use freelance workers. “We hope that we can help people to adopt a more flexible lifestyle while balancing the benefits for both employers and employees.”
The vision is that a more flexible, versatile working style can free up more time for people to do what they wish. “I realize that the crazily long working hours hamper the life of citizens here. I wish we can launch at least one advanced feature by the end of 2019.”
Bella credits HKUST not just for the education it gave her but also for helping her social life. “It was not until I was admitted to HKUST that I learnt to get along with different people.” She is now President of the newly established HKUST Electronic and Computer Engineering Alumni Association (ECEAA) and has served as Chairperson of the Electronic and Computer Engineering Students’ Society, HKUST Students’ Union (ECESS, HKUSTSU). She pays tribute to the backing that ECESS, HKUSTSU has received.
“The professors have been giving us a lot of support,” say both Bella and Kyna, gratefully. Also actively involved with her alma mater has been Kyna, who is now the Vice-President of the ECEAA and was President of the Engineering Enterprise Management Alumni Association, an alumni group of a taught postgraduate program of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Decision Analytics. The hope is that by setting up the alumni association with fellow classmates, the bonds that link ECE alumni will become ever stronger.
Wise Counsel for Students
Bella’s message is, in brief, never quit. She says that in engineering perseverance is crucial and should be everybody’s watchword. “If you want to create something out to completion, never give up. Please hang on, stand firm and insist on pressing ahead with what you want to do.” She also gives sound advice to fellow technology lovers: keep updating yourselves because the technology market moves so fast. “You can survive only by continuous learning.”
For her part, Kyna has encouraging advice for women considering taking up engineering. She says women have certain advantages, such as being detail-minded and having strong organizational skills. These are qualities that enable them to outperform in a male-oriented field. “Therefore, there’s increasing room for development for female engineers.”