Planning a Career Reset in Your 30s? This Civil Engineer Proves It is Possible

Chen Wei

16 November 2021 — By age 30, many of us are already quite firmly set in the career paths we have chosen—whether we love our jobs or loathe it. It can be tough to turn back the clock on a decade of working experience, effectively giving up all the gains already made in terms of financial returns and career progression. However, for some, it can be still be rewarding.

Take the case of Chen Wei. Stepping out of an established career and seeking out a new one was a big decision for her—but she feels it has been well worth her efforts. She has put in early mornings and late nights, as well as made the sacrifice of returning to the starting blocks in her career. As a freshly graduated engineer though, she is truly inspired by the work she gets to do and the structural marvels she gets to brings to life every day.

A fresh start in a familiar field
Chen Wei is not new to engineering. In fact, she graduated with a Diploma in Marine & Offshore Technology from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2011. She then dedicated 10 years of her life to the shipbuilding industry—four of those years as an engineer. However, she wanted more.

Scanning her horizons, Chen Wei recognised that a diploma could take her only so far in her career. “To progress, you need an excellent understanding of new technologies, higher-level engineering knowledge, and management skills. The best way to gain all these is with university studies.”

Chen Wei knew what she wanted from her career, and she was committed to making it happen with a degree that carried weight in the industry. She decided to enrol in the NUS Bachelor of Technology (BTech) Civil Engineering programme (thanks to the prestige of the NUS brand), and has not looked back since.

Chen Wei

Part-time degree, full-time life
Chen Wei’s decision to take on a part-time degree was not made lightly. As a working professional and the parent of a seven-year-old boy, she would have to fulfil the roles of a mother, wife, engineer and student—leaving her with little time for herself.

Working at a shipyard, Chen Wei’s days would start early at 5.30am. On days with lectures (which took place three times a week), she would reach home only around 10.30pm. In-between, she would squeeze in studies during breaks, attend lectures in the evening, and get a full day of work into her schedule!

With her husband’s support, Chen Wei was able to maintain high levels of energy and enthusiasm over four years. “My partner has been very supportive, taking over to look after our child when I was studying. My parents and in-laws have helped with childcare duties too.”

Studying amidst a pandemic
Chen Wei has fond memories of her time at NUS BTech. She kicked off classes in-person, but when the pandemic struck, she transitioned to a socially distanced, digitally connected campus. Despite the impact of such safety measures and changes to lesson formats, Chen Wei felt that her studies proceeded without much disruption.

“Even when the pandemic hit, NUS ensured that our studies were never compromised. We could still email professors, access library resources, download and review academic papers, and even attend free online courses from other universities through the innovative Coursera platform! Many of our lessons—even examinations—took place over Zoom, and the learning experiences were just as enlightening as before.”

What made her educational journey even more memorable were her course mates—whom Chen Wei calls her “study buddies”. With her outgoing personality, Chen Wei easily formed study groups with like-minded individuals who supported each other throughout their four-year adventure—initially studying together at the university’s library, then via Zoom when COVID-19 safety measures were implemented.

Chen Wei

More than a degree: a lifetime of lessons
In June 2021, Chen Wei graduated with an NUS BTech Civil Engineering degree. However, the real icing on the cake is that she realised her goal of becoming a civil engineer before graduation—securing a role as a Structural Engineer at a reputable consultancy firm in Singapore.

Although Chen Wei is starting her career over as a graduate engineer, she wakes up every morning feeling inspired. She loves working with talented architects who have amazing ideas, and feels privileged bringing to life magnificent structural designs. The training and the industry knowledge she has gained from her studies have given her the ability to handle projects of various natures and to progress further along this career path.

Although Chen Wei initially set out to attain a civil engineering degree to expand her career prospects, she has gained a lot more than just engineering expertise. She feels that she has also seen personal as well as professional growth.

“Studying for this degree has opened my mind. I am now more perceptive, resourceful and confident—all traits that were developed as the degree programme challenged us to cultivate our skillsets in doing research, finding solutions and thinking outside the box.

“Furthermore, as an engineer, I now have a much deeper understanding of sustainability and how it affects our designs. I have a newfound admiration for the amazing feats of engineering design that can be found across the globe—like the Water Cube in Beijing, as well as our very own Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay!”

Embark on your lifechanging journey
Is it too late for a career reset in your 30s? Not if we go by Chen Wei’s experience. The optimistic civil engineer is living her best life today. Besides looking forward to future challenges, she expects to find more opportunities to continue learning, growing and progressing in life.

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  • Planning a Career Reset in Your 30s? This Civil Engineer Proves It is Possible
03 December 2021