Over the summer holidays, I was blessed to involved in “shaping a new world” though my internship with ARUP Singapore. Having been away from home for the year studying with IMFSE, I did not know what to expect returning to the working world in a similar industry but a different scope; a mechanical engineer turned fire engineer. However, the experience was truly refreshing as I was not only working in an awesome environment but I could also see the relevance of the knowledge I gained the past year.
Contrary to what most people expect of internship work (print papers, data entry etc.), I was thankful that I had not only interesting and exciting tasks but my work was taken seriously too. One of the first tasks that I was entrusted to was to build flowcharts and you may think… hmm what’s so interesting about that. Well, these flowcharts are mainly for the understanding of clients and authorities on the design intent and sequence of events when there is a fire alarm. I realised that it took a lot of methodological thinking to capture the different scenarios that could arise and “leave no stone unturned”. This is especially so since most of the projects that require fire safety engineering inputs in Singapore are for performance-based solutions. The projects are not conventional and require a thorough thought process from not only design but also operation in a fire scenario. A “simple” flowchart may take many revisions to be satisfactory as different individuals and stakeholders would highlight certain areas to be enhanced. Although this may be a frustrating process, we know that every revision will contribute to a better, comprehensive design.
Another memorable task I had was to restructure a design guideline such that it is more user-friendly and relevant to a specific use. It involves reading through many documents including various codes and standards to summarise the key points that are crucial to the building such that it would be reproducible. At times I find myself lost in the overload of information, but the challenge is to pick out what is important, question why the guidance was there in the first place and how could it be improved; something Stephen Welsh’s Fire Safety Engineering course in Edinburgh prepared me for. It was probably one of my favourite tasks as it was like my baby and honestly, I was sad to leave it (no matter how painful it was) by the end of my internship.
One of the most eye-opening tasks I had was helping with fire simulations. I would not have realised it then but I am truly thankful for our Simulations in Fire Enclosures course in Lund now. It may have been a basic course on simulations and FDS but without it, I would have been completely lost with real-world simulations that are of a larger scale and complexity. To those who will be taking the course next semester, appreciate what is taught as it will go a long way. Always remember to CHECK YOUR FDS FILE (learnt it the hard way :(…) even if you are using user-friendly software like PyroSIM. Simulations are extremely time-consuming and tedious but the satisfaction when the “pretty” and CORRECT pictures are generated is really rewarding. I will never underestimate the work that goes into simulations ever again!
There were also other tasks along the way like helping to prepare fire engineering reports, mini research work like justifying a design fire size (thanks to both fire dynamics courses in Edinburgh and Lund!) and just about anything that needed to be done, I’m game for it. However, the highlight of my internship experience is more than just work… it’s the people.
The fire team in ARUP Singapore may be small but mighty! Led by one of the coolest boss I’ve worked with, the team of 7 (3 of which are IMFSE alumnus!!!) are a crazy bunch of individuals with not only different vibrant personalities but also bring different skill sets to the team. It was a truly wholesome team with great camaraderie and all of them had the same drive and passion for the work they do. They are a truly inspiring team of fire engineers who made my internship experience all the more rewarding as I was motivated to learn and contribute as much as possible with them.
Thanks to Ruth for giving me the opportunity to join your awesome team and more importantly, showing me what an exemplary fire safety engineer should be. To Li Hooi (IMFSE alumni), thanks for looking out for me and making sure I get the most out of the experience. To Matthew, although you always call me “Intern”, I really appreciate how you treat me like I’m not and I enjoyed working with you on challenging projects. To Khai (IMFSE alumni), it’s weird to see you at work after knowing you as a student but hey, guess you are as good at work as you are as a student! To Pris (my FDS guru), thanks for patiently teaching me FDS and wow-ing me with your eye for detail! To Mai, thanks for being an energizer bunny and injecting happiness to everyone yet working really hard and willing to help anyone in need. To Jasper (IMFSE alumni), technically I have never worked with you but thanks for always willing to help when I needed advice and being a great support!
It is not common to find a team of individuals that are so dedicated to their craft like the team I had the honour to work with in ARUP Singapore. Not only were they extremely nice individuals, they had an admirable work ethic and a thrist for knowledge that is truly commendable. The best definition of a fire engineer I came across (and one which i truly aspire to live by) was aptly mentioned in Bart Vanbever’s speech during last year’s FSE day (FSE Day 2018 is coming soon… stay tuned!!!) where he quoted the late Margaret Law, one of ARUP’s finest fire engineers:
With that definition, I believe that the fire team in ARUP Singapore are true fire engineers living her legacy.
To build on Kate’s post, I would also strongly recommend future IMFSE students to pursue an internship during the summer break. Searching for an internship may be long and frustrating but the process of finding one is an experience in itself. It is also important to make the most out of the courses in IMFSE and look beyond just the exams and assignments as I believe it truly prepares us to be good fire engineers as long as we approach it with the right learning attitude. No matter where we end up working at or what we are working on, attitude will continue to play big role in how much we can gain from the experience as even the most mundane tasks can have a purpose if we give it a purpose. 🙂