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Alumnus Jacky Chan has always been interested in engineering. Prior to joining DigiPen (Singapore), he completed a Diploma in Aerospace Avionics at Republic Polytechnic and served his National Service as a combat engineer. Throughout this time, Jacky had the privilege of being exposed to different fields of engineering, which made him curious to learn more about how the various pillars of engineering could be integrated in a more holistic way. While researching for university courses, Jacky came across the BEng in Systems Engineering (ElectroMechanical Systems) — now renamed as BEng in Mechatronics Systems — program, and applied without hesitation.

The BEng in Mechatronics Systems is a multidisciplinary program that equips students in the fields of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering with regard to systems development. This means that graduates will be able to understand the inner workings of both hardware and software engineering, making them versatile workers who are able to integrate both.

Upon graduation in 2020, Jacky applied to a job listing by RoviSys for a systems engineer position and successfully landed the job. RoviSys is a vendor company that offers consultation and automation solutions to clients across various industries and in Jacky’s case, he works in the division that focuses on the pharmaceutical, biotech, and life sciences sectors.

As a systems engineer at RoviSys, Jacky works on various client projects, which he helps to manage from start to finish. This involves taking client briefs to find out their requirements, planning project timelines, designing and implementing automation systems solutions for clients, documenting revisions and changes, as well as providing on-site assistance. In order to allow clients to oversee their automated systems remotely, Jacky’s job also involves designing and programming user interfaces. These interfaces allow a person to monitor or control a system, and they can take on various forms such as a touch screen panel on a machine, a handheld device, or even an application on the computer. “My education at DigiPen (Singapore) has really deepened my understanding of how computer architecture works and how wiring is connected,” Jacky says. He is thankful for this blend of hardware and software engineering knowledge that comes in handy in his work today.

Having worked as a systems engineer for over a year, Jacky is quick to point out that systems engineering is not solely about integrating different systems together. Instead, one needs to have a strong grasp of both technical skills and project management skills in order to succeed in the role. The former is important because a systems engineer might be asked to step up to execute cross-functional tasks, including those of a sales engineer or a research engineer. However, systems engineers also need to build strong time and project management skills, as they will have to plan for and oversee multiple projects concurrently. Jacky, who regularly handles at least five projects at a time, is no stranger to this. “The greatest challenge in my job so far has been project management and learning how to prioritize my tasks,” he says. “This is especially true since RoviSys is a very customer-oriented company.” In order to work efficiently, Jacky plans out the details of each project and strictly keeps to his schedules. He also uses the time in between projects to finish up miscellaneous tasks.

Despite the busyness, Jacky enjoys his work and is grateful for the opportunities that come his way. For instance, since beginning his job, he has helped facilitate three pharmaceutical plant shutdowns, which is a rare and challenging opportunity for any engineer in their first year of work. Jacky also relishes the hands-on nature of his job where he gets to go on-site to work with various clients, ensuring no two days of work are ever the same.

When asked about his best advice for aspiring systems engineers, Jacky says that having a curious mind and an appetite to learn all forms of technology is key. “As a systems engineer, you will not only have to understand how your own system works, but you must also be aware of the available options out there that can be used for integration,” he says. “It is also good to keep an open mind while learning the limits of what technologies can offer, as not all problems have a textbook solution like in an academic setting.”