AS AN engineering undergraduate, Mr Wong Choon Fu was intrigued by the complexities of the metro system and the challenges of the railway industry.
“The metro system requires the integration of knowledge from multiple engineering disciplines to excel,” he says.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering (2nd Upper Class Honours) from Nanyang Technological University in 2013, he joined SMRT, a multi-modal land public transport provider in Singapore.
SMRT’s structured Engineering and Management Associate (EMA) graduate programme appealed to him as it aims to develop well-rounded engineers by providing opportunities for in-depth engineering expertise, and job rotations for cross-functional exposure to better understand the business.
Growing with the job
Four years on, the 29-year-old, who began his career as an executive engineer, is now a manager in the Circle Line Engineering Integration Department in SMRT Trains.
His team, currently based in Kim Chuan Depot, consists of engineers from different disciplines with varied expertise. They are tasked with driving long-term improvement plans to boost the safety, reliability, availability and maintainability of SMRT’s rail-related assets.
Mr Wong was part of the team that prepared the $1.7 billion bid to operate the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), which was awarded to SMRT last month.
He finds his project-based work dynamic and varied. After a discussion with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) or contractors in formal wear, he may have to change his outfit to be on the shop floor for a discussion with the maintenance team, he says.
He has also travelled overseas for work. A few months ago, for instance, Mr Wong participated in the Off-Site Integrated Test (OSIT) for the TEL trains in Qingdao, China.
“I worked closely with our LTA counterparts as well as strategic partners and various contractors. I learnt a great deal from them, especially from a pre-operational perspective,” he says.
Mr Wong is keen to deepen his engineering technical expertise in the railway industry by taking on various stints with different business units within SMRT.
His goal is supported by his organisation’s in-house SMRT Train Engineer Professionalisation (STEP) programme that provides its engineers with a structured grounding in engineering and leadership fundamentals. Upon completing the programme, engineers can also attain professional accreditation as a Chartered Engineer (in railway and transportation) from the Institution of Engineers Singapore.
Under STEP, he also pursued a Postgraduate Certificate in Urban Railway Engineering, delivered jointly by SMRT Institute and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. The three-year postgraduate programme covers various topics across railway engineering domains.
Engineers can also go on to attain a postgraduate diploma and eventually a Master in Railway Engineering.
Mr Wong’s biggest challenge on the job was preparing SMRT’s bid to operate the TEL Line. During the process, the team had to coordinate between different SMRT entities, brainstorm and string all their ideas together within tight timelines.
He has gained a lot of experience during the course of ensuring that their proposal was realistic, achievable and of exemplary quality.
Mr Wong is often tasked to work in fields that are outside his area of expertise, but he has learnt to embrace the challenge and collaborate with colleagues in management and on the ground.
He says: “In this role, you will face difficult times when you need to be resilient, stay firm on your decision and overcome setbacks.
“Having critical thinking skills is also essential as you need to focus not only on the minute details but also on the overall picture, in order to innovate solutions to multi-faceted problems.”
Mr Wong sees the railway industry as one of growth — globally and domestically. Examples include the latest Downtown Line, TEL and recently announced Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System.
“Singapore is at the inflection of growth in the railway industry, and opportunities will continually present themselves for an exciting and rewarding career in this evolving and growing industry,” he says.
He finds satisfaction in his work that impacts Singaporeans.
“It doesn’t matter if the improvement is incremental as I believe that it takes numerous small steps to bring about a great change,” he adds.