Saturday, May 19, 2012

In Chartered Territory

"Victory often comes at a time when failure seems inevitable."

This is one of my favourite quotes for determination and success.

Yesterday marked a significant milestone of my career as an engineer. I am very happy to announce that I am now a Chartered Civil Engineer with the Institution of Civil Engineers which earns me the title "CEng MICE" at the back of my name.

This has been an incredible chapter of my life to close. It has been a long chapter not because the ending was not in sight. Very much the contrary. In fact, the ending was abrupt, unexpected, one which I neither wanted to write nor accept as outcome initially. And so I persevered to re-write the chapter.

In 2010, the construction industry took a huge tumble in the UK due to the financial crisis. The engineering division I was with fired many staff. Call it bad timing, my review was smack bang in the middle of them all - all of us were put under consultation, I needed to prepare for the worst, so started looking for another job in case I got the short stick whilst preparing for my review. My maternal granny in Malaysia was gravely ill and the doctor called time on her. Even though I survived the firing line, it was no surprise I didn't make it for the review. I was mentally exhausted and morally deprived. I was terribly ill-prepared for the review even though I still had my opinions about the process which I will refrain from discussing under this forum.

My granny escaped death. So there was another chance to let her know my good news for her to be proud of me. Unfortunately, she finally passed away when I returned for Christmas. It was before I could submit an application for re-sit.

My sponsors supported me throughout.  None of them hinted a hesitation when I checked if they were willing to be my sponsors for my next review. This was particularly encouraging.

Fast forward to the latest review, I was advised to take a longer break before re-sitting. This was to avoid being seen as "arrogant" and sending the wrong message that I have mastered the weak areas in less than a year - when it would normally take a year or more to rectify. However, deep in my heart, I knew I was ready. My sponsors knew I was ready. All of us agreed I was ready. Only one  person thought I was arrogant - let's call this person K.

In the end, I went for the inner calling. I submitted my application for a re-sit. Yes my arrogance prevailed to turn a deaf ear to K's advice.

It was at this time I realised that if you go against the grain, then you better make sure you bloody know what you're doing. This made me work doubly hard - mock reviews after reviews; report revisions after revisions, presentation rehearsals after rehearsals. I also turned lots of NCE pages after pages and building up FAQs and answers over the weeks to come.


A lot of sacrifices had to be made. There had to be a compromise between what I wanted and what I liked. Weekends? Forget about it, I'll be in the office. Catching up with friends? I had to be very selective - sorry!!  Holidays? Almost negligible. My sporting life? Compare this: in 2005 I did 3 triathlons, 5 half-marathons and 2 marathons; in 2010 ZERO triathlon, ZERO half-marathon, ZERO marathon.

All the short-term suffering to justify for the little arrogance.

The review day came, I felt there was nothing more I could have done. I was ready. The two reviewers I was assigned were fellows of the institution. During the review, I managed to tackle all of the questions, yes and most of them were tough. But they're only tough if you didn't prepare for them. I prepared for them, so they weren't too bad. I enjoyed the review. A lot of people told me it was a good sign and a precursor I've made it.

Eight weeks to the results, I waited patiently, sometimes even forgetting it entirely due to the daily workload. But May 18 had to come, sooner or later. Colleagues who followed my progress have put the date in their calendars. Pressure mounted, expectations built it up further. This would be the date for a good news or bad news.

It was good news; a sweet good news.

A fb comment I received from a friend who's been through this thick and thin with me best sums up this post:

"Victory is sweeter when you've suffered for it..."