Lamma Island

Engineer is flying high

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am


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Carmen Au can't complain about a lack of variety in her career to date. Since graduating from the University of Hong Kong in 1996, the civil engineer has worked on everything from power stations and highways, to bridges, reclamation sites and urban developments. As a fast-rising associate with Aecom Asia, she specialises in aviation and transportation projects. The role involves design, delivery, business development and consultation, and managing a team and co-ordinating with architects, officials and on-site personnel.

Why did you go into engineering?

I was a science student at school and had considered being a doctor, solicitor or architect. But I wanted to go into something where I could see concrete results quickly and I had a responsibility to my family to start earning. I enjoyed the training, felt well suited to it, and the more I did, the more I liked the work.

What provides the greatest job satisfaction?

The thing that makes civil engineers most proud is seeing their design on paper become a reality. I've been part of projects from design through to completion, such as the cross-boundary bridge from Lok Ma Chau to Huanggang. It was a very tight schedule. Another was building a coal-unloading jetty on Lamma Island for Hongkong Electric. That involved driving piles into the seabed, protecting against corrosion, and installing a conveyor system.

Are there skills you still need to master?

There are a lot of areas to improve, such as helping my team expand their abilities and learning to work with unreasonable people. I'm also trying to get a private pilot's licence, as one way of understanding more about airports and aviation. I've finished the theory and recently went to Brisbane to begin the practical part with 10 hours' flying in a Cessna 152. If you are working on a project with airport authorities, pilots and air-traffic controllers, it definitely helps to know their language and see things from their point of view.

What keeps you motivated?

This comes down to personality, so maybe I should thank my parents and my school for that. I want to get things done and see an end product. That can be as simple as finishing a report on time, or seeing a bridge or airport successfully completed. I feel every day can be an adventure and that work should also be fun.

In career terms, what do you hope will come next?

I would like to be a project manager overseeing a large-scale civil engineering project, perhaps a port, highway, or an airport somewhere in Asia or around the world. I have a team of four engineers, but I'm building this up to 10, so we have more scope and opportunities. If the proposal for a third runway in Hong Kong is implemented, I would love to be involved in that.

Solid foundation

Named Young Engineer of the Year by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers in 2007

One of her dreams is to land a plane at an airport she has helped to build

Helped found the China Care Fund which rebuilds schools and provides financial support for students