Yan Zhou, a Divisional Director of Jacobs and the Honorary Secretary of ICE London, set himself a target to become a fellow before he was 40. He achieved his goal three years early. This is his inspirational story.
Becoming a Fellow of the ICE (FICE) before turning 40 was an ambitious target I set for myself when I got chartered seven years ago.
At present, just one percent of ICE Fellows are less than 40 years old, and about eight percent of current ICE Fellows received the grade when they were under 40.
Achieving FICE at the age of 37 was like a dream come true. I made the announcement of my fellowship on social media and the news just went viral. My LinkedIn post was viewed 24,120 times in two weeks, while my tweet attracted more than 10,000 impressions.
After all the excitement settled down, I took a moment to reflect on my journey so far with ICE. It became clear that almost everything I did for ICE had left a footprint on the way and contributed to the Fellowship.
In the beginning
I started my professional career in 2006 after graduating from Imperial College with MSc in Structural Steel Design. Soon after that I signed up for the ICE training agreement hoping to become a professionally qualified engineer.
One Great George Street (ICE headquarters) became a familiar place for me, as I'd been there numerous times for evening seminars and technical talks to broaden my civil engineering knowledge.
In 2010/11, I was elected vice chair of the ICE London Graduates and Students committee.
Instead of attending the seminars as a member of the audience, my role switched to organising the knowledge transfer events for the graduate and student members in the London region.
This experience set a solid cornerstone for my future involvement with the ICE.
From President's Apprentice to chatting to Prince Charles
If 2010/11 was an introduction to my ICE involvement, 2011/12 pushed it to a climax. I stood out from more than a hundred applications to be selected as one of the ICE President’s Apprentices (now Future Leaders Programme) to work alongside the 147th ICE President, Richard Coackley.
I had the opportunity of travelling around the country with the president, visiting the most prestigious civil engineering projects, such as the 2012 London Olympics stadiums.
I had the privilege to sit in the front row of Thomas Telford Theatre when Prince Charles delivered his speech at the ICE. I also talked to Prince Charles on sustainability afterwards and had a photo taken with him.
Later in my apprentice year, I passed my chartership professional review. I was the first ICE President’s Apprentice who received the chartership certificate from the president he or she served as apprentice.
The year as the president’s apprentice gave me a good insight into how the institution is run and
how the decisions were made at the senior level. It also raised my profile in the industry and massively boosted my confidence.
Towards the end of 2012, I received an ICE QUEST travel award to promote the ICE in Chinese universities.
I delivered presentations to hundreds of students in Tongji University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University to tell them my story of being the ICE President’s Apprentice, and how I became a Chartered Civil Engineer.
Travelling abroad with a mission expanded my professional network internationally.
Giving back to the profession
As soon as I got chartered, I volunteered to become a delegated engineer to help graduates develop their knowledge and skills in the ICE training.
Soon after, I became a supervising civil engineer and then a CPR reviewer. It gave me a sense of great personal satisfaction by giving back to the profession and helping others to become professionally qualified.
Every professional review I went to, there was so much I could learn from my co-reviewer, as well as the candidates. That in turn helped me to develop my professional skills, such as negotiating, coaching, and interviewing.
Being a chartered engineer made me eligible to sit on the ICE London Regional Committee, which represents over 9,000 ICE members living and working in the capital.
I joined the committee as a general member and progressed to become honorary secretary in 2017. I enjoyed doing it and am continuing the role until today.
All the activities which I was involved in the ICE helped me in my professional career and other volunteering activities. I've progressed to Divisional Director in Jacobs’ Major Programmes and Projects Group, and am heavily involved in the operational management of the department.
I'm also taking on the role of Chairman of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) UK Chapter.
Everything happened for a reason
Looking back, I believe everything I did was interconnected.
If I hadn't attended the seminars organised by the ICE London G&S committee, I wouldn’t have become interested in being one of the organisers of the events.
If I didn’t have the experience of being the ICE President’s Apprentice, I wouldn’t have had the in-depth understanding of the institution and the senior networks the year gifted me.
If I didn’t become a Chartered Civil Engineer, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity of giving back to the profession by mentoring graduates and holding the professional quality standard for the institution.
If I didn’t have the experience of being the honorary secretary of ICE London region, I wouldn’t have met the requirements to be the chairman of HKIE UK Chapter.
I wouldn’t have come this far if I didn’t stay connected with ICE, constantly giving back to the profession.
Having achieved the ICE Fellowship, I decided to make a monthly donation to my alma mater Imperial College in its Students Hardship Fund.
I hope my support will make a difference to the future engineers and help them start a successful career in engineering.