In all the hustle and bustle of our current CEO, Wiebke Toussaint handing over the reigns of EWB-SA to the Jason Huang, the future CEO of EWB-SA, I managed to catch up with him for a quick Q&A. Huang, an electrical engineer, a visionary, a director of a non-profit company and a sessional lecturer, has now managed to add the title of CEO to his name.
Huang, wandered through the beginning of his engineering career, searching for the correct path to follow and as most entertaining stories would have it, the path found him instead! And hence he realised his true calling was to help others using his engineering knowledge and skills.
He considers his new leadership position to be an intimidating challenge, but also sees it as a rather exciting opportunity to learn and grow with the EWB-SA family.
Huang manages all his projects with enviable time management skills and believes that personal interest in all his undertakings keeps him going. He is a calm, sorted, determined, ambitious individual who has foresight which extends as far as the horizon. All this and more can be found in a rather informative interview below, at the end of which all you can say is, “Welcome to EWB-SA family, Jason! We’re glad to have you.”
1) Describe your engineering journey.
I had a very indecisive engineering journey. I knew electrical engineering was the right choice for me, but I just wasn’t sure exactly which field of interest I wanted to end up in and what I wanted to do career-wise. I stumbled along my studies in an attempt to find this mythical field of interest, until the day I decided to participate in a technology orientated entrepreneurship programme hosted by MIT now known as the MIT Global Startup Labs. The programme promoted development in emerging regions by encouraging entrepreneurs to solve problems using technology. It was during this programme that I realised that I wanted to help others using my engineering knowledge and skills.
2) What prompted you to join EWB-SA?
EWB-SA is a great mix of education and community development. Furthermore, I believe engineers are a key resource to the professional mix that is required for us to overcome our country’s many challenges. I believe EWB-SA offers young, up-and-coming engineers the opportunities to see the real-world value of their skills where they are really needed.
3) You are now the new CEO of EWB-SA, that’s a rather important position to occupy. How does it feel to shoulder such a big responsibility?
It’s definitely an intimidating challenge to lead an organisation of this size and having so many members depend on you, but I’m ready for the challenge. I’m excited to take on this opportunity to contribute towards EWB-SA and I look forward to learning and growing together with the EWB-SA community.
4) As the CEO, describe what your work at EWB-SA entails and what can we expect from you as our CEO?
My work will mostly involve the planning and execution of EWB-SA’s business strategy and interests. I’m here to ensure that EWB-SA is able to continue doing the amazing work that it does, and hopefully help the organisation reach even greater heights. To mention a few examples high up on my list, I plan to: increase access to resources/skills, increase the impact of our projects, ensure EWB-SA’s business sustainability and further add value and benefits to the EWB-SA membership.
5) How have you been able to utilize your skills as an engineer to assist/ empower communities? Are there any interesting projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
I manage a similar non-profit organisation called Outreach Engineering, which is currently assisting public hospitals with their infrastructural shortfalls. These shortfalls impact the hospital’s business continuity and directly contributes towards a poor level of public healthcare, putting patients at risk. We’re assisting with the upgrade and reconfiguration of their backup power system (generators), and ensuring there is adequate and compliant engineering design, system resilience and capacity. Our work ultimately ensures that the infrastructure is fit for purpose and speaks to the needs of the public healthcare providers in order for them to provide a better quality of service to the general public.
6) What do you feel you have acquired/gained (both for your professional and personal development) through your association with EWB-SA?
I feel I’ve joined a community of similarly minded engineers who have common interests and passions. I’m also looking forward to the exposure and being able to contribute to so many great initiatives that EWB-SA’s members drive and get involved in. They say you should surround yourself with people who have similar aspirations and this is absolutely the case.
7) How do you maintain a balance between the work at your day job and your work at EWB-SA?
With extreme difficulty, I imagine! I count myself as one of the lucky few who enjoys doing most of the work I’m currently committed to, which includes EWB-SA. I have the privilege of excitement on multiple fronts, and the biggest challenge is probably keeping my focus on one exciting task at a time. It is ultimately a time-management challenge and I tend to divide my day/week up accordingly to make sure I make time to get to everything. The personal interest definitely helps!
8) What advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
This is probably a cliché but what has resonated the most with me on my journey thus far is that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. No one said it was going to be easy and most of the time you’ll feel like you’re in over your head, but that’s one of the best ways to learn (almost always in hindsight). It’s never fun during the suffering but the end result is almost always worth it. Also, no one said you had to suffer alone. Teamwork, collaboration, partnership and mutual support are key ingredients to getting things done effectively.
Jason Huang interviewed by Dhruti Dheda