Xcel Lai Xue Lim
Asset Management, SP Group
Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic Engineering)
– Nanyang Technological University
As a leading energy utilities company in the Asia Pacific, SP Group is one of Singapore’s largest corporations. It owns and operates electricity and gas transmission and distribution businesses in Singapore and Australia, and district cooling businesses in Singapore and China. To drive innovation and develop green technologies, SP Group seeks out talented individuals to enhance its current capabilities and work towards helping the end-user save energy and cost. BrightSparks catches up with 29-year-old Xcel Lai as he shares more about his journey in Engineering Development for GraduatEs (EDGE).
Why did you pursue engineering, and what motivated you to take up SP Group’s mid-term scholarship?
I’ve always been on the lookout for experiences where I can apply what I have learnt in engineering. I explored SP Group as a potential company and along the way, attended their scholarship talk. I learnt that there would be chances for me to lead transformation as an electrical engineer and to apply engineering both strategically and practically at a national and global level.
How has your EDGE journey helped you to excel in your career and achieve your goals?
SP’s EDGE is a five-year programme that equips newly graduated engineers with fundamentals to kick-start our journey in the electrical engineering field. It combines both theory-based lessons with on-the-job training, accelerating our learning. We are exposed to different roles in the company through postings. We are also assigned experienced mentors at every posting who guide us in various ways. They buddy up with us for day-to-day duties and mentor us in our attainment of needed certifications such as the High Tension operation certification, which authorises us to perform electrical switching operations. SP also sponsors us for the Professional Engineer certification, while continuously providing preparatory courses, sharing sessions, and study groups to support our development.
What other development opportunities have you had with SP Group?
In my short span of close to four years in SP Group, I have organised community outreach activities as part of the SP Heart Workers committee, and engaged staff in our SP carnival games. I have also served as secretary for the company’s senior management and strategy meetings.
What have some of the biggest takeaways from your rotations in different departments been?
It was a steep learning curve in the distribution network section for the West region. Both my technical and operations knowledge were put to test. I also had to pick up soft skills such as communication capabilities when managing contractors. In the years that I studied power engineering, it was all about theory and calculation. But an operations engineer in SP requires critical thinking under stressful circumstances.
Now, in Transmission Planning, I have transited from working with equipment daily, to engaging and consulting for government agencies and tech giants like Google and Amazon. My work has taken on a more strategic dimension, and the topics I tackle are different from before, ranging from customer and solar photovoltaics connection applications to 10-year planning.
How do you deliver a high quality and sustainable lifestyle for customers through your work at SP Group?
As a transmission planner, I contribute to improving quality of life through my frequent engagement with government agencies and major technology players. For example, they could be planning electricity connection requirements so that they can deploy data centres to leverage greater usage of AI and data that improves the quality of daily living. Working with them on various land projects enables additional services to be rolled out to benefit consumers in the longer term.
What are some of the organisation’s initiatives that enable you to advance innovation and green technologies?
I have been inspired by many learning opportunities afforded to me that has helped me acquire the skills needed to meet the demands of a transforming and increasingly digitalised landscape. For example, I have contributed to the increase in productivity and reduced turnaround time for processes with the use of condition monitoring apps for inspection. Digital tools also enable us to go green. I can create innovative ways of doing things to impact and benefit those in my company and my field.
Any advice for aspiring scholars who wish to apply for the SP Group Scholarship?
If you want to lead transformation and make global and national impact for engineering in energy and utilities, SP Group is the right place for you to learn and grow in. SP values both attitude and aptitude in their scholar candidates. You should join us if you want to engineer with impact and make a difference.