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A Young Engineer’s Journey to London

by Baoying Tong

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When I submitted my application on the deadline date (thanks to AEDT time) for the prestigious, twenty second, CIBSE ASHRAE Young Engineer of the Year 2017 Award, I didn’t expect to get to the final. London is literally half-an-earth away and I had never contributed to CIBSE or ASHRAE before. Besides, there are outstanding young engineers doing amazing things in all parts of the world. However, I knew for me it would be a now or never opportunity. If I missed it, then I would never have met the criteria again. After that it was easy to make up my mind.

Fortunate to be shortlisted, I flied to London and did a presentation in front of 100+ industry leaders and peers. To describe the whole trip with a phrase – ‘It’s all about experience’. There are so many things marked and tagged as ‘first-time’ out of the journey, e.g. setting foot in London, watching a premier league game and working in a different office.

The AECOM London office is a totally unforgettable experience. It didn’t take me long to mingle with the colleagues. The culture is very similar to Sydney and the diversity is even bigger. It was fascinating to hear stories from different people, the project they worked, the opportunities they looked forward to and the problems they faced.



Baoying Tong at AECOM Aldgate East Office Reception

The award presentation was scheduled at 5:30pm that evening at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Seven other young engineers were shortlisted and most are not London-based. The night followed in a pre-determined order. Three category companies were recognised as winners for Employer of the Year . Then it came to the Graduate of the Year Awards presentation and I was the last to present. Every finalist was given 5mins to talk about ‘Is engineering an art and should building services professionals be more creative in the way they approach projects?’ Unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to listen to each other’s as we were waiting in a different room until called upon.

When it finally came to my turn, I walked to the stage and had a quick scan of the room. The theatre was full and many were respectful figures in the industry. However I didn’t feel much pressure in the moment, and the 5 mins went by fast. 



My opening question, ‘Sydney Opera House and the cooling duct inside, which is art?’

The Graduate presentations were followed by two interesting industry presentations before the judging panel came up with the result. My heart was beating fast enough but unfortunately I didn’t win. It was a fierce competition, but in a very friendly atmosphere.

When all the formalities concluded, there was a buffet feast at the library where I met a lot of people – academics, suppliers, builders, and consultants, all gathered together thanks to this once-a-year industry event.

After the event, with the pressure off, I spent more time as a relaxed traveller. London is such a large city with so many things to explore every day. The last day at the office, I was lucky to be involved in a team trivia night with questions on famous buildings in London. My team did an exceptional job (no thanks to my contribution) and we came the third!



A sensational prize…Maltesers attached to AECOM lanyard

I didn’t take the big prizes back but my goal has been achieved and I felt honoured as a finalist. In my opinion, the experience is fantastic and the journey is definitely worth the effort. It also satisfied my curiosity to learn the way people live and work in a megacity. I thoroughly enjoyed the time and am sure the connections will prove valuable in future. Now life is back to normal again and that page has turned. But the memory will stay and inspire me to the next adventure.

Lastly, I’d like to give my sincere thanks to my manager Maryam Akbarian, who reviewed and nominated me for the award; Nick Thow and Geoff Todd, who met up with me and provided marvellous suggestions; Steve Vaughan, who well-demonstrated the famous Londoner’s hospitality during my time at AECOM London; Ewen Rose, who kept close contact before and during the day; Tracy Edwards, who took the ‘hard’ job and coached my speech; Paul Angus and CIBSE ANZ – without whose help my journey wouldn’t have been that smooth, and to all others who spent time reviewing/listening to my speech and helped.


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