Start of main content

From Student to Professional Innovator: Ying Wan Loh CEng MIET

Combining creative thinking and technical problem-solving

“I did a BEng in Mechanical Design Engineering at the University of Glasgow and an MPhil in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management at the University of Cambridge,” she said.

“For my undergraduate final year project, I got to design and build an ultrasonic drill for space. The entire process involved lots of problem-solving, data-gathering and analysis. It was very satisfying and rewarding when I completed the project and co-authored a conference paper on the topic. I think this is the beauty of engineering, engineers constantly push on unknown frontiers, developing new technologies and gaining new insights along the way.

“The reason I chose my course was because I wanted to study something that combines creative thinking and technical problem-solving - engineering turns out to be the perfect fit!”

University challenges

“As an international student, I arrived in Scotland for the first time in my life with a suitcase and a backpack to start my first year in university,” she said.

“I didn’t know anyone and had to overcome the language barrier. I did that by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and being proactive; for example, I stayed back after lectures to ask questions and reached out to strangers to start a conversation.

“At 19 years old, these simple things seemed so daunting, but I’m glad I did it because it made me a much more resilient person and taught me so much about making connections and building rapport with people.

“To students today, I hope my experience can help those who might feel isolated in the current circumstances. Don’t be afraid to make the first move to connect with someone, it may seem scary during the moment but always trivial looking back in hindsight.”

The transition from Student to working professional

Right after university, Ying joined Rolls-Royce’s manufacturing engineering graduate scheme.

“During the graduate scheme, I rotated around different parts of the business every four months and worked on different projects, such as assembly tooling and hybrid electric aircraft propulsion.

“What I enjoyed most as a graduate is the opportunity to develop professionally and learn while contributing to the project. I attended training and got to apply the skills in the workplace. It was also great to do that as a cohort of graduates, and I’ve made life-long friends.

“After the graduate scheme, I took on an improvement lead and a team lead role. As an improvement lead, I used lean six sigma tools to improve production processes. Then later as a team lead, I led a team to manage the non-conformance processes in a plant.

“During this time, I made sure to continue developing professionally and personally. I worked with my professional mentor on my engineering chartership that helped me identify development opportunities.

“I gained my chartership and became a Chartered Engineer in 2019.”

Securing a place on a graduate scheme is an excellent way to get yourself on that all-important career ladder.

Advice for her Student-self – and all our Student members

“Like most students, I struggled with job applications - my first job offer did not come easily,” she said. “I submitted more than a hundred applications per year to apply for internships and graduate roles.

“It’s disheartening getting rejection letters, so it’s even more important to maintain a perspective and be patient. Chances are, everyone is going through the same situation.

“If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to continuously iterate on the job applications, improve my CV and cover letters with the feedback I received, and make sure my volunteering and extracurricular activities were reflected in the job applications.

“I didn’t have many industry contacts back then, but I wished I had reached out to more people in the companies I applied for to get advice, even if it was exchanging a few messages on LinkedIn.

“Finally, to all Students, I’d say prepare for the professional world by reading industry magazines, like E&T, and learn to navigate the workplace. The transition from being a student to a professional is a big step-change and learning how to communicate and present myself professionally is one of the most important aspects I wished I knew.”

More than just a member

“As an IET member, you’re part of a forward-looking community. Not only does the IET set the standards for professional engineers, provides career support through mentoring, bursaries and awards, it’s beneficial to be part of the IET from a Professional Development perspective,” she said.

“Being an active part of a professional engineering institution demonstrates that I own my professional development and continue to learn outside work. This no doubt adds credibility to my CV, and I highly recommend students to consider doing so too!

“Being a member allows me to learn so much more about the profession outside my company. It provides breadth to my industry and expand my network beyond my colleagues.

“I’ve gained so much more insight and understanding of engineering as a member; I’m fortunate to be able to accelerate and advance my career as a result of this.”

To be continued…

Check-in with us next month where we’ll hear more from Ying about her engineering heroes, get exclusive insight into the night of the prestigious YWE Award 2019 Ceremony, and how she’s using her platform to raise awareness for diversity in STEM.