Women in Tech: Yuling Chen
Yuling Chen is a Boiler, Pressure Vessels Safety Officer at Technical Safety BC. Yuling’s background includes process engineering for a brewing company, operational and design mechanical engineering roles in nuclear power plants, oil and gas, and Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies across Canada. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in process engineering at Zhengzhou University of Light Industry in China and a diploma in mechanical engineering at Durham College in Ontario, Canada. Here, she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
How would you explain your job to young women?
I help keep British Columbia safe through my work overseeing the safe installation and operation of boilers, pressure vessels and refrigeration systems across the province. I am help educate and influence our clients who affect the safety of our province.
My role here is different to my previous roles where I was more of an operational and design engineering specialist. At Technical Safety BC, I get to apply my on-the-ground engineering experience and knowledge at a higher level where I can educate and share technical systems safety information with our clients and the broader public to better control risks.
What first sparked your interest in tech and ultimately led you to Technical Safety BC?
In China between 1970-1990, career options were very limited and only a small percentage of high school students had the chance to go to university. Engineering had better pay at that time so most university students, including women, selected engineering as their major. I studied process engineering and, after graduating, worked for 13 years as a process engineer at a brewing company in China.
In 2002, I immigrated to Canada with my husband and daughter. To improve my English and find a career, I decided to go back to school. My family and I moved to Oshawa, Ontario, where I studied mechanical engineering at Durham College. I struggled as English was my second language. Each day after class I had to go through and check my lecture notes word by word with the dictionary. My professor at Durham helped me a lot and became a role model for me; she encouraged me to push through and I ended up graduating as top of my mechanical class.
After college, my family and I moved to Alberta where I held a variety of engineering roles at Shell Canada, Ausenco, and Santec. During this time I had many opportunities, through formal training and on-the-ground experience, where I learned a lot about different technology systems and industries. This put me in good stead for my role as safety officer at Technical Safety BC.
You speak positively about your experience as being a female in the STEM field. Would you say your experience is unique?
I was geared to think that working in engineering is challenging – especially challenging for women. Yes, it’s challenging but not because you’re a woman. It’s actually a lot of fun and the males are very supportive and the teams are becoming quite diversified.
I think the gender imbalance gap is slowly closing as, with time, the generation/traditional historical values of male-dominated fields will be a thing of the past. And as more opportunities are also being provided to young females, women are becoming more aware that they could have a career in STEM.
What advice do you have for females looking to enter the field?
It’s important that we women do not compare ourselves to men. We need to recognize our difference and use these our strengths. Make your strengths sparkle, not your weaknesses.
My world is technologies. I have my operational and design engineering background which complements field inspections. I also am patient, calm, and detail-orientated. I’ve played to my strengths by combining my knowledge, experience, and attributes, to make something different and to stand out.
Women are not weak. We are brave. We must be aware of ourselves. Sell your uniqueness and the different perspective you provide to the world.