Demystified

Demystified: Senior Consultant at IPA Energy + Water Economics

Written by Imran Yusuf | Demystified | Wednesday 8th May 2013 08:53:00 GMT

Yu-Foong Chong studied Engineering at Oxford and Cambridge - and then decided to work in Energy. Find out why.

Yu-Foong found his calling in a Masters in Engineering for Sustainable Development.

Yu-Foong found his calling in a Masters in Engineering for Sustainable Development.

What does your current role as Senior Consultant at IPA involve day-to-day?
Providing economic, financial and regulatory advice to both public and private sector clients in the energy markets. The scope of work varies greatly, and I can find myself working on projects ranging from designing and evaluating strategies to support the growth of the renewables industry in Scotland, to supporting the financing of a gas-fired power plant in Singapore.
 
What skills and personality do you need to do well in your job?
As a consultant, I'm constantly being challenged to formulate new solutions to problems which clients face. This requires not only strong numerical skills (especially in Excel!), but also good lateral thinking to understand and appreciate their needs and willingness.  Diligence and attention to detail are essential in ensuring the quality of both my work and also the work of those who work underneath me.
 
Specific to the energy market, technical knowledge from my degrees have allowed me to appreciate the technical barriers faced by the industry, such as the impact of intermittent forms of electricity generation such as wind on network system stability and transmission constraints. Ultimately, being interested in the energy market keeps me interested in what I do, encourages me to read and discover more, and inspires me to coach and mentor those under me who are interested in learning more! 
 
You did your first degree in Engineering at Oxford, and then your second degree at Cambridge. Good experiences?
Very much so. I met some brilliant, driven people, who were very inspirational. One of the best things about Oxford and Cambridge is the collegiate system, in which the college you belong to becomes very much your home, resulting in you becoming friends with everyone there. So if you were also interested in areas beyond what you were studying yourself, whether it be politics, economics or even theology, chances are that you'd have friends who were studying those subjects. It's this aspect, especially during my Masters which focused on trans-disciplinary thinking, which I found invaluable.
 
Why did you decide not to go in to Engineering as a career?
Following my Engineering degree at Oxford, I interviewed for civil engineering firms but found myself completely uninspired by their work which at the time was completely dominated by the design of skyscrapers in the Middle East. I decided that I wanted to work my way towards the position where I would in the future be able to influence and shape the decisions of 'what do we need to build', or more importantly, 'do we need to build?'
 
These decisions are governed by finance and economics, and so I decided to head down the finance route and work at PwC in their audit practice and qualify as a Chartered Accountant. However, I found myself quickly bored by the job, and thought to myself that surely there must be something more interesting and unique which I could be doing, rather than heading down the route of countless other thousands of professionals.
 
In my research I came across a Masters course which ticked all the boxes for me: Engineering for Sustainable Development. Seeing it as a brilliant opportunity to re-skill myself whilst also studying an area which was of real interest to me, I signed up for the course at Cambridge and spent an amazing year there. I not only thoroughly enjoyed my course, but also took the opportunity to attend lectures and modules from other courses, from business and management modules at the Judge Business School to modules in technology policy from the Institute for Manufacture Department. One module which I found particularly interested was on electricity markets, which introduced the interaction of renewables and other low-carbon generation from an economic and practical basis. I decided to pursue this further, writing my research dissertation on electricity markets, applying for and thereafter working for an energy consultancy firm.
 
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I aim to further my knowledge in energy markets, and move from a position of providing strategic advice to helping to make the big decisions which will move us, as a planet inhabited by seven billion people, towards a more sustainable future. Rising global population and per capita consumption deeply worries me, and we need to find a future in which we can provide for our current needs and those of generations who will follow us. Energy is at the heart of everything which drives this planet. From an economic perspective, it fuels our heat and transportation needs, pushing up the cost of food and ultimately drives inflation rates across the globe leading to economic stress and poverty. And from an environmental perspective, we only have finite resources and a delicate ecological system, which once disrupted may prove to be unrecoverable. With this in mind, I see myself being in roles which will aid in tackling these problems.

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