26 April, 2016

Engineer Returns Home to Support National Transformation


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After more than 10 years of living and working as an engineer in Auckland, Kuala Lumpur-born Doreen Ho decided that it was time to head back to Asia where the tempo was picking up in terms of infrastructure development.

“I came to know about a job opportunity in Kuala Lumpur via a friend and applied for it. After a telephone interview, I was offered a position in an international consultancy, which I later found out was working on the River of Life Project,” said Doreen, who started working with US-based consultancy firm AECOM as a Senior Engineer in 2012. AECOM was the consultancy engaged to spearhead the RM1 billion River Beautification project and transformation of 10.7km of the Klang and Gombak Rivers.

“I was even more excited to discover that the River of Life project was part of the Greater KL/KV put in place to transform the Klang River into a vibrant and liveable water front with high economic value, which also contributes to elevating Kuala Lumpur into one of the top liveable cities in the world, like Melbourne and Singapore, by the year 2020.”

“It was also a project which initially drew quite a bit of scepticism and negativity; to some the idea of turning what they thought was a huge monsoon drain into something beautiful was incredulous.”

She, however, pointed out that as the project progressed, people began to see the big picture, that it was indeed possible to transform the once forgotten river into a space worthy of celebration.

The engineering graduate who worked in two international consultancies in Auckland and came back home under TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme, found the transition from working life in New Zealand to Malaysia much harder than she had anticipated.

dorren ho“I would say that the first six months were really tough – having to adjust with a new working culture and lifestyle, whilst being a part of a high profile project with a short delivery deadline.”

“I may have been born here but being away for years and with the big changes that had taken place in Kuala Lumpur, it was no longer the place I once related to. Hence, for me the transition was not a smooth ride. However, it was good to have support in the form of friends and work colleagues who had similar experiences of returning home to work. A word of advice to all returning Malaysians is that you have to set a realistic expectation about what you’re going to be walking back into, before moving home.”

Doreen was part of the pioneering team in AECOM for the River of Life project and was involved in the beautification work in Precinct 7, the first of eleven Precincts of the overall River of Life works to beautify and reactivate the Heritage Quarter of Kuala Lumpur, whilst conserving the heritage values of the area. “It was a challenging project as being in the oldest part of the city, we were working with numerous stakeholders and public landowners on land matters and utility providers on managing works around a web of old and unknown underground utilities and drainage systems. Additionally, the project’s KPI also included raising the bar of current standards to produce a high quality design and specifications in an industry that is only currently catching up with international standards.”

After three and a half years at AECOM, Doreen took up a new challenge at Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn. Bhd. (MRT Corp). She is presently Manager of Planning and Design (Civil and Structural) for the Line 2 underground team.

“As our CEO mentioned in the New Straits Times on 23 February 2016, the MRT development is currently the country’s largest infrastructure project and the biggest work package tendered out for Line 2 is for the underground portion. The excitement of delivering an MRT project that is going to further improve the traffic congestion of Kuala Lumpur keeps the team on our toes in achieving this EPP project.”

Doreen takes great pride in the work she is doing to support national transformation and has no regrets coming back to Malaysia for it was a move that provided her opportunities to work on large scale projects of great impact.

Source: National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2015

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