SINCE young, Mr Lo Kien Foh has been curious about how things work. He was interested in creating or building devices or machines, so he often tinkered with gadgets and tried to improve them.

“Electronic and mechanical gadgets have always caught my eye and aroused my interest, especially in the area of electro-mechanical construction,” recalls Mr Lo, now the managing director of Continental Automotive Singapore.

“I have always liked to admire and examine how the various parts work together. So it is no surprise that I ended up in engineering,” he adds.

Mr Lo began his engineering career 22 years ago as a development engineer before advancing to managerial roles.

In his current role, he manages the Singapore operations of one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers.

The company has been using Singapore as its hub for research and development (R&D) activities since 1997 to develop and test important technologies for radio and navigation, user interfaces, displays, entertainment and controls (below).

Of the over 470 employees in Singapore, about 90 per cent of them are directly involved in R&D activities.

Today, Mr Lo — who has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering — applies engineering The Straits Times Saturday, November 6, 2010 principles at the system level, where he handles a diverse range of organisational, product and project issues.

This may involve strategy, planning and project and product reviews.

It also includes engaging with people, such as his staff, customers, suppliers and business partners.

“I have always liked cars and automotive- related products. Working in this industry is definitely a right match for me.

“I enjoy working with technology, putting my creativity into use and seeing innovative new products being developed,” he says.

“My electrical engineering background has helped me in understanding the technicality of our automotive electronic products.

“It has also helped me to communicate with people more effectively, to understand the problems and challenges that the engineers face.”

As Continental is an engineering company focused on R&D and technology, many of its senior management positions are filled by managers who were previously in engineering-related departments.

But, engineers at Continental can also choose to progress along a technical path if they want to.

“There are two paths for engineers to grow. One is the management path and the other is the technical path,” says Mr Lo.

“If an engineer is technically strong and has the passion for technical work, he can excel and grow in the technical path.

“In fact, such an engineer is an asset and can add value to the company. He can help to propel the company to achieve a high level of technical competence.”

To help its staff develop their skills, Continental conducts training both internally and externally.

The internal training sessions enable new engineers to learn from their more experienced colleagues, while the external sessions might include overseas training and job attachments.

Courses in the technical domain include software operating systems, electrical and mechanical computeraided design (CAD) and automotive communications bus systems.

The company also sends its staff for non-technical training in areas such as project management, product creation processes, communication skills and creative thinking.

Mr Lo advises aspiring and young engineers to strengthen their technical knowledge and engineering know-how by always seeking the opportunity to learn and absorb more.

“That will allow you to build a solid technical foundation to prepare you for your future growth,” he explains.

“This applies both ways, whether you will eventually pursue your career in the management or technical path.”