While his colleagues may be envious of him, no one can accuse Mr Luke Lee of not doing his job when he spends the bulk of his workday cooped up in a dark, air-conditioned room, watching movies and listening to the latest music.
Mr Lee is the acoustics function manager at Philips Electronics, where he helps to ensure that sound products maintain a high quality.
Says the 42-year-old: “My job requires a mix of creativity and technical expertise which makes it very interesting. It stirs the inspiration and inventiveness because designing audio products, especially speakers, depends a lot on life experiences. How people appreciate sound is very personal.”
After graduating from the Singapore Polytechnic in 1989, Mr Lee started his career as an assistant engineer at Philips where he was tasked with audio measurements and loudspeaker system designs. These days, he spends his time working with a team to conceptualise, develop and fine-tune product prototypes as well as to ensure compliance with industry standards.
When it comes to product innovation, Mr Lee and his team are given wide latitude to develop innovative ideas and concepts. It was sheer inspiration that helped them conceptualise the Philips’ Ambisound Soundbar in 2007. It was Singapore’s best-selling audio home system in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The team’s inspiration for the Ambisound Soundbar system grew out of a basic need to keep home theatre systems clutter-free. While consumer preferences had moved towards 5.1-channel DVD home theatre systems, setting up these systems required a massive amount of wiring around the living space.
“The feedback we got was that the wires were messy. Wives were complaining, and kids were tripping over the wires,” says Mr Lee.
The concept-development process for the Philips Soundbar, however, was not without its challenges.
“The team had to conduct numerous listening tests, gather consumer insights and do a lot of fine-tuning before the product was ready to be launched in the market.
“But the effort was well worth it. Innovation changes and improves life experiences,” says Mr Lee. “The Philips Soundbar we conceptualised has changed the way people enjoy a home cinema experience and that to me is innovation at work.”
Developments in the industry are constantly evolving and there is fierce competition to create innovative products for consumers. Mr Lee believes there are many career opportunities for those keen in the field of audio design, and he emphasised the need to think creatively and to be imaginative.
“Most people think innovation has to be about big ideas, and therefore they stop thinking,” he says. “Everyone can be innovative. At Philips, we are encouraged to be bold and think out-of-the-box.
“Never drop an idea, even if it is not picked up by anyone else; sometimes it is just a matter of timing. For instance, some of our innovations did not take off because they were too early in the market, but now, the market is booming.”
Mr Lee is one of those lucky people who is able to marry his passion with his job. His love for music started young: he was playing in his school band by the time he was seven. Later, when he was studying at the polytechnic, he began to put audio systems together, and it eventually turned into a hobby.
His eclectic taste in music is evident from his vast vinyl collection which includes jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and pop icon Lady Gaga. This passion contributed to his eventual career choice.
“My career at Philips has been fulfilling,” says Mr Lee. “Plus, I get to manage three large listening rooms for my sound quality testing, which I consider my ‘office’. I am certain even my country manager is jealous because my ‘office’ is so big!” said Mr Lee.
He adds: “But I think the most interesting part of my job is that I can spend the entire day watching movies and testing the sound quality of my newly conceptualised audio products, and no one, not even my boss, can complain that I am not doing my job.