Civil engineer Meryl Lan is living her childhood dream of working at Changi Airport.

As a young girl, she loved going to its viewing galleries, watching aircrafts landing and taking off on the tarmac.

Today, the 31-year-old is a manager in the projects and contracts division at the Changi Airport Group (CAG).

She handles a variety of engineering projects in the airport — from airfield construction to upgrading works.

Her road to achieving her dream was not all smooth. When she graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2005, there was a dearth of engineering jobs because of an economic downturn.

After a short stint in a human resource role, she went back to her first love — engineering — in 2007, when the industry began to pick up.

In 2010, doors opened at CAG and she “jumped at the chance to be a part of the world’s most awarded airport”, she says.

The same year, she received her Master of Science (Civil Engineering) from NUS. 

At the frontier of airport design

No two days are the same for her.

At the design stage, she attends meetings with consultants, end users and stakeholders, or do site visits for research.

During construction, she is frequently on site to monitor the work progress and resolve issues.

Advance planning and close coordination with other airport users are integral in her job, she says, as there are many construction constraints within an operational airport environment.

She faced her biggest work challenge in 2011, when she was part of a team that built the first air cargo express hub within the airport.

She was tasked to manage the building of the supporting airside infrastructure.

“We were in uncharted territory,” she recalls.

But she is not one to shy away from challenges.

“Challenges make work exciting, and overcoming them make work satisfying. Otherwise, work will become rather boring,” she says.

Despite the complexity of the project, it was successfully completed in the middle of last year after working closely with various government agencies and other partners.

Tangible satisfaction

For Ms Lan, seeing her work — and knowing how it benefits society — keeps her going in her job.

She says: “For civil engineering projects, the fruits of our labour are very tangible.

“The successfully completed infrastructure we build will stand for the next few decades and serves as a visual reminder of what I have helped to achieve.”

Team spirit, multi-faceted work

It also helps that there is a collaborative spirit at CAG that is “very much like a big family”, she says.

There are plenty of opportunities for staff to grow personally and professionally.

“Our bosses regularly seek feedback on our areas of interests and, as far as possible, assign us projects that suit our strengths.

“We could be involved in a variety of projects and there are regular job rotations to allow us to take on different responsibilities,” she says.

One of the highlights of her career was being involved in a project that explored the use of recycled concrete aggregates for rehabilitation of aircraft parking stands.

In 2011, she represented the company to share the project’s findings at the 7th International Conference on Road and Airfield Pavement Technology in Bangkok, Thailand.

Currently, she is working on an upgrading project on taxi queues and is also part of the team working on the upcoming developments at Changi East.

Bright prospects

To succeed in civil engineering, you must be “willing to get your hands dirty, have a love for the outdoors and a strong belief that nothing is impossible”, she says.

This is also an opportune time for people to join the industry.

To those who are interested in this career path, she says: “There are many ongoing and upcoming engineering projects, including many positions at CAG, so there are plenty of jobs and learning opportunities for young engineers.

“Go for it!”