By Rachael Boon
When Covid-19 broke out, Land Transport Authority (LTA) engineer Gu Weite found that some parts of her work simply could not be carried out.
Borders were shut, which meant that she and her team were unable to travel to factories overseas to conduct quality inspections or “witness testing”.
The 31-year-old deputy manager of LTA’s Rolling Stock Development Division explains: “Our train parts are manufactured in different places of the world, such as France, Sweden and China.
“Our engineers usually travel to the factories which are located overseas to attend component-level testing before the components are cleared for installation at the assembly factory.”
In Ms Gu's case, the project she was working on involved visiting a train assembly factory in Changchun, China.
“The factory visit is always an eye-opening experience for rolling stock engineers and I was looking forward to going in March last year. In the end, the trip was not possible. Yet, the work had to continue."
Despite the disruptions, Ms Gu and her team rose to the challenge. They turned to video conferencing tools to conduct the quality checks remotely. Additional photos and videos were also used to supplement the checks. Also, due to the time difference, what is called “virtual test witnessing” was done during non-office hours.
In the end, she notes, there was a silver lining. “The team adapted and pressed on. Many colleagues became adept at using various apps and tools to facilitate communication,” says Ms Gu, who is an LTA scholarship holder.
She adds that the pandemic has also underscored the importance of public service.
“Shops can move their sales online and restaurants can shift to delivery-only operations, but public service needs to continue, even through the pandemic. Trains and buses still run to ensure normalcy… rising to the challenges of the pandemic has reinforced my passion and belief in public service,” she says.
Ms Gu, who joined the Rolling Stock Development Division in July 2019, is in a team that oversees the oldest MRT line, and the only non-driverless line in Singapore – the North-South, East-West line.
She says: “While my career has been more focused on rail-related work so far, there are opportunities for me to work on other areas as well.”
For instance, in 2016, she was secretariat of an independent advisory panel comprising local and overseas experts on railway power supply, and in 2017, she worked on the now-terminated Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project.
Under the LTA scholarship programme, Ms Gu also had the opportunity to attend courses such as one conducted by the Centre for Liveable Cities, where retired senior public servants were invited to share stories of how they helped to transform Singapore in the early days.
She also has a network of senior scholarship holders to bounce off ideas with and to seek advice from. Thanks to LTA’s mentorship programme for young engineers, she can also tap the expertise of her mentor, a well-respected civil engineer in LTA and the industry.
Ms Gu, who completed a Master of Engineering and Bachelor of Arts at Cambridge University, wanted to join LTA because she “was attracted to the opportunity to create something tangible”.
“I often joke with students during scholarship engagement sessions that from the moment you leave your house, you are likely to interact with some form of work by LTA – all the way until the moment you reach school.
"Be it buses, overhead bridges, cycling paths, expressways and private-hire vehicles, LTA has a stake in ensuring the functioning of these infrastructure and transport systems. Seeing the fruits of our labour benefitting others makes the hard work worth it.”
Visit https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltagov/en/who_we_are/careers/scholarships.html for more information.