Ask 42-year-old Pearlyn Neo if engineering is a "man's world" and she laughs. The process engineer with Avantek, which does tool and die fabrication and precision machining, leads an all-male team of 12.
She is one of five women on the male-dominated shop floor.
Gender is not important, she says. "All you need is determination and perseverance, analytical thinking and a flair for design.
"You need to be able to visualise a product and then make that vision take shape."
She recalls that it was an aunt, an engineer, who nudged her to do engineering after her O levels.
Ms Neo says: "I had seen her rise from being a machinist to being a manager. Plus, I didn't like the idea of working 8am to 5pm in an office.
"I preferred the idea of working with machines. I loved drawing and wanted to explore product and 3D design."
She studied mechanical engineering at the Institute of Technical Education for two years before earning a diploma in manufacturing engineering at the Singapore Polytechnic.
She did computer-aided design and manufacturing for 12 years at Mold Soft Systems and, while there, took night classes to earn herself an advanced diploma in industrial studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
She joined Avantek four years ago and now, encouraged by Avantek director Billy Cheong, she is part of the Economic Development Board's Precision Engineering Master Craftsmen Programme at Nanyang Polytechnic.
She attends evening classes on Tuesdays and full-day classes on Thursdays to learn advanced machining, mould design and processes, and equipment building and automation. She will graduate as a master craftsman next year. In countries like Germany and Japan, master craftsmen are regarded as top-tier manufacturing talents.
The classes make for long days sometimes but Ms Neo, who is single, says they also give her space and time to think, and the opportunity to explore ideas that she could apply at work.
It will help her raise the bar for her company and team, she says, allowing them to work "faster and better".
She says: "The course means I can explore more strategies and technologies that allow me to make more complex parts faster."
This article was first published on May 12, 2014