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Paving a new road

There were times when Ms Lim Yong Xian would look around during lectures and realise that she had few female classmates.

The mechanical engineering graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) says: “I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb, but it has all been very fulfilling and refreshing.”

Ms Lim had always loved science subjects, and the “mechanical engineering course at NUS was a combination of my favourite science subjects and was therefore the perfect discipline for me. While I knew that there would be challenges in being one of the few female students pursuing the mechanical engineering course, it is a choice that I would never regret”.

Help for the scholar

Her first two years at NUS were especially demanding as she also had to juggle attending classes while working at a part-time job and giving tuition to put herself through university. She then decided to apply for a mid-term scholarship. With a mind set on a fruitful career in the public service, she chose the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Mid-Term Undergraduate Scholarship.

The scholarship took her on an exchange programme to Gothenburg, Sweden, where she experienced the culture and lifestyle of one of the world’s most liveable countries. “There, I met people from all over the world with different worldviews and perspectives from what I was used to. It was a life-changing experience for me,” she says.

She also did an internship with BCA for two months, and went on a research attachment at the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon in France for six months.

In retrospect, she is glad that she pursued the scholarship. She says: “There were many who tried to give me well-intentioned advice — some said taking up a scholarship might tie me down as I had to serve out a bond. A few even put me down and said that females should not become engineers. However, I remained unfazed because I was determined to make the scholarship and career at BCA work for me.”

Leading the way

At BCA, Ms Lim, 27, has taken on diverse roles, including formulating policies and developmental work. She was seconded to a private firm where she had handson experience managing issues faced by a mechanical engineer on the ground.

She is currently with the electrical and mechanical engineering department at BCA. Her job scope includes conducting routine inspections on lifts and escalators, to ensure that they have been duly maintained. She is also part of a team that develops policies and frameworks to ensure that lifts and escalators continue to be on par with international standards, for public safety.

Ms Lim has served her fouryear bond, which she says “flew by really quickly”.

She adds: “I get many people asking me why I became an engineer. To that, I always say, because I can and I choose to.

“Don’t be afraid to take the path less travelled, because that is where a new road will be paved, and you will be the one leading the way!”