CLP Power's first and only woman technical assistant knew from an early age that she wanted to be in engineering Put an obstacle in front of Evelyn Lo Yin-fung and she will find a way to overcome it. That much is clear from the manner in which she has fought, with quiet determination, to pursue a career in electrical engineering, defying expectations and ignoring discouragement to become the first and, so far only, woman technical assistant with CLP Power Hong Kong. 'I had the conviction that a dream can always come true if you work hard and stay strong,' said Ms Lo. 'Though there has always been a perception that engineering is a man's world - and even some university professors were sceptical about my ability - I wanted to prove I could be as good as anyone and was quite certain that this field was what I was looking for.' The signs were there early on. As a youngster, Ms Lo remembers being fascinated by any kind of electrical appliance, trying to figure out how it worked. By the age of 10, she could have delivered a lecture on the innards of a video recorder or hi-fi, or explained how electrical signals were converted into a TV display. What crystallised her ambition, though, was one brief sentence spoken in a Form Four class at her all-girls school. The physics teacher simply said in the modern world, everyone depended on electricity. 'That impressed me a lot,' Ms Lo said. 'Up to then, I had no clear career plans, but from that sentence, it was always going to be electrical engineering.' Against almost everyone's advice, she opted for double maths at A-level, knowing that it was not her strongest subject, but realising its importance for her chosen path. Unfortunately, a setback awaited. Her exam results were mediocre, putting a bachelor of engineering course out of reach. Reluctantly, she chose a two-year translation course at Polytechnic University, and kept planning. 'I always told myself to hold on to the dream, not to let go easily,' she said. In practical terms, that meant doing further research on the internet, talking regularly to students in the engineering department, and then, feeling 'totally annoyed' with her predicament, plucking up the courage to approach a professor. 'I was not exactly nervous, just asking for a chance,' she said. 'I told the professor how much I was interested in the subject and what had driven me to take the initiative. He was really nice, listened for half an hour, and seemed impressed that a girl had been so proactive in trying to pursue this opportunity.' The outcome, setting something of a precedent, was an offer to switch to the two-year higher diploma programme in electrical engineering. 'I knew it would not be easy and that most of my classmates would be boys, but I was willing to put in a lot of time and extra effort,' Ms Lo said. Politely ignoring occasional misplaced suggestions to 'stand behind and watch' while classmates tackled experiments and practical tasks, she absorbed everything before fixing her sights on a job with CLP. The objective was clear - not some back-office support or planning role, but a spot on the front line, where it was possible to see what you had achieved every day. And after a series of aptitude tests, interviews and agonising waits, that is exactly what she landed in 2005. Describing it as her 'dream job', Ms Lo's current role, as part of a five-person team, involves arranging the connection of new or renovated buildings to the power network in CLP's western region, which covers Tai Kok Tsui and Sham Shui Po. That entails visiting substations to see which is most suitable and then co-ordinating road excavations, cable laying and switchgear installations, monitoring contractors, and testing and ensuring that there are no unnecessary shutdowns. 'You cannot imagine how satisfying it is to see power connected to a new building,' she said. 'The good thing is that the job is really challenging because the power network is not fixed, it changes every day. And I have several projects going on at the same time, so if you see a new building in those areas, I'm probably working on it.' Early on, she found that colleagues reacted in two distinct ways. One group largely avoided contact and, for a while, seemed unwilling to communicate with her. The others were almost excessively friendly and concerned, offering assistance even when it wasn't really needed. 'As soon as I indicated that I wanted to be treated the same as everyone else, it was fine,' Ms Lo said. 'The people working with me now know I don't want any extra attention or benefits. I just want to work, be treated fairly and show how capable I am.' She does concede, however, that there are times when it does help to stand out from the crowd. 'The advantage is that you are always recognised and there are more opportunities. For example, if anyone wants an MC for an event, the first person they think of is me. And when someone in the department refers to 'the girl', of course everyone knows who they mean.' This is the first in our 16-part series on women and men who have entered career paths traditionally dominated by the opposite sex. Dressing the part Fashion sense may not be the first concern of a trainee technician, but everyone at least wants to look the part. So, during an early training stint on overhead lines, when Evelyn Lo's class was asked to head to the changing rooms and get kitted out, she faced a minor crisis - even the smallest available overall didn't fit. Nothing daunted, she hitched up, tucked in, fastened and zipped up as best she could, before setting her hard hat at a jaunty angle and emerging ready for action. Her new look definitely made an impression. 'All my colleagues were laughing at me,' she recalled. 'They said I looked more like one of those hip-hop singers than a CLP engineer.'