ESF The First 50 Years - People stories

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Blazing the trail for female professionals

ESF alumna: Abigail Tam

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 9:02am

[Sponsored article] The sky is the limit for Abigail Tam, a talented architect who pursued her dream in a male-dominated industry, shattering the female professionals’ metaphorical glass ceiling with her outstanding achievements and dedication to her craft.

Born in Toronto, Abigail came to Hong Kong at the age of five and went to Beacon Hill Primary School. She then studied at Sha Tin College (STC), graduating in 1994 before going to the University of Newcastle and University College London for architectural studies.

“It is tough being female in the architecture industry,” admits Abigail, who had worked in both Hong Kong and the UK as an architecture consultant before deciding to go to the frontline of construction. Now, she manages sophisticated projects from conception to execution.

”They assume women don’t want to get their hands dirty, so you have to go out there prove yourself constantly,” she says.

Abigail discovered her passion for architecture when studying graphical communications in Year 9. She was grateful for the inspiration and encouragement from her enthusiastic and caring teachers, particularly Marshall Hughes and John Brennan, who opened her eyes to the use of perspectives in seeing things in three dimensions.

”I realised that I was able to visualise things in 3D, which is not something that everyone can do,” Abigail said. ”I’m very grateful for the teachings I received from Mr Brennan and Mr Hughes. They helped me become who I am today.”

Abigail also treasures the strong sense of community at STC. Back then, there were only 40 students in her year, and she was actively involved in sports and school activities, enjoying a close relationship with her school mates and teachers.

”I could talk to anyone in the school back in those days,” she says. ”It gave me the confidence to reach out to people, something which is really important in my industry.”

Her strong connection to the STC continued well after her graduation, where she became part of the School Council and started a school website to connect alumni with teachers and students. Abigail became the first STC Alumni President and organised various alumni-school events, shared career advice, and mentored students on a regular basis.

Abigail says that real interactions with people are far more enriching than virtual conversations on a screen, which is something for today’s students to be mindful of, as they are just as likely to turn to google instead of their friends and teachers for new ideas. 

She also encourages young people to choose a career based on their passion, instead of simply listening to their parents or peers.

”It is your life,” Abigail says. ”Make sure you do something you like.”