The engineering life didn’t choose me. I chose the engineering life.
By Engine Room Posted 8mth(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes
This time last year, 25 year old Alvis Cheong had no idea where life was going to take him. He’d just graduated from NTU with a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, but now what? Taking inspiration from kiasu Singaporeans, he decided to keep his options open and applied for roles in different industries: tech, finance and even education.
It was only after the job offers started coming that Alvis really started thinking about what he wanted to do. He thought about what kept him going during those late nights at NTU and soon realised it was the excitement and satisfaction he got from solving engineering problems. In fact, one of the reasons he chose to study engineering was because he has loved solving puzzles since he was a kid.
What inspired him the most was when one interviewer (a Director at GlobalFoundries) shared how he’s still learning something new every day, 30 years into the job. Excited by the opportunity to constantly be challenged, Alvis decided to take a leap of faith and accepted a role as a Process Engineer at GlobalFoundries, one of the world’s leading semiconductor foundries.
It’s been one year since Alvis joined GlobalFoundries and he can confidently say he made the right decision. In a good way, his job is nothing like what he expected. For one, it’s definitely not mundane. It has its own challenges that he enthusiastically navigates every day, turning each setback into a lesson.
His biggest challenge so far has been adjusting from school projects to work life, with real customers and timelines. As a Process Engineer, Alvis and his team develop solutions that help GlobalFoundries’ three fabrication plants run more efficiently. With so many customers, each with different requirements, Alvis has been thrown in at the deep end and he had to learn many new technical skills in a short amount of time. But he’s taken it in his stride. While he knows there’s a lot more for him to learn, he believes that the best approach is to keep an open mind and try new things.
So much to learn, so little time
Like many of you graduates (or soon-to-be graduates), Alvis was looking for a job where he could make an impact and he believes that he’s found that at GlobalFoundries. In his role, Alvis has been empowered to work on projects that directly impact the lifeline of the company - the production line. By helping to streamline processes, he’s making a difference by increasing capacity and reducing costs.
His role also gives him the opportunity to work with different stakeholders, which was a little intimidating to Alvis when he was new, but the open and inclusive culture at GlobalFoundries meant that everyone was always encouraged and empowered to speak up and contribute their ideas or solutions. Every member of his team has brought new perspectives and working styles for him to learn from. “It gives me a chance to improve myself,” he says optimistically.
Work fam goals
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. While the company gives their employees a lot of autonomy, no matter their level of experience, Alvis has never felt overwhelmed or alone. With an open and inclusive workplace culture, Alvis knows he can count on his colleagues for advice and guidance. “I’ll always remember how my teammate stayed beyond her usual working hours to teach me how to use a new software or lend a hand on a project. She didn’t have to, but she did it anyway”, shares Alvis. Talk about work fam goals!
It’s not all work and no play - if the fam is together after office hours, it’s because they’re hanging out - playing sports, checking out new food places, belting out hits at karaoke*... Who says engineers can’t have fun? * Pre circuit breaker. With the current social distancing measures, the team has found ways to catch up virtually –eg, instead of checking out new food places together, they share recipes to make at home.
Advice from an engineering senpai
So, what’s the most important thing that Alvis has learnt as an engineer so far?
“Engineering is not a boring or mundane job. No matter how big or small your role is, it really boils down to how you approach it. Keep asking ‘why’ and even the simplest things can become interesting.”
Life is what you make of it. Sometimes, all we need is a slight change in perspective to open up a completely new world of possibilities. If you’re unsure if engineering really is for you, be like Alvis. Spend some time thinking about what excites you about your engineering course, and you might just find yourself doing the same!