President's Story

President Ir Dr Barry Lee: ‘Be the Change (不一樣)’


Self Photos / Files - Sep2022_tablet


Ir Dr Barry Lee Chi-Hong, the President of The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) for Session 2023/24, has been devoting himself to the engineering career, consistently pushing himself to new heights of excellence.


With his new role in the HKIE, Lee says he hopes to bring changes to the Institution.


Self Photos / Files - CWB_1310Ir Dr Barry Lee, President of the HKIE for Session 2023/2024


Vision to action


Now the Chief Executive Officer of the Associated Engineers, Ltd., a leading multi-disciplinary engineering firm in Hong Kong, Ir Dr Lee showed his potential as an engineer from a young age as he was always filled with curiosity over moving objects.


“At that time, all parents want their children to learn a certain skill, so they decided to send me to a technical school,” says Ir Dr Lee, who chose to pursue in the mechanical engineering stream.


Self Photos / Files - wahfuIr Dr Lee grew up at the Wah Fu Estate


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Ir Dr Lee began his engineering study at the Aberdeen Technical School


But as a young teenager, Ir Dr Lee spent most of his time playing and did not even realise that this decision he made, which his family thought was only a way to make a living, would mark the beginning of a lifetime journey as a professional engineer.


In 1985, after graduating from a technical school, Lee joined a technician training programme with the Hong Kong Electric Company. During the four years of training, Ir Dr Lee accumulated a lot of practical experience such as understanding the operation process of the power plant and maintenance skills.


“The more I learnt, the more I found it interesting,” says Ir Dr Lee, recalling how he gradually developed an interest in mechanical engineering.


Then, the real turning point came.


As an apprentice, Lee needed to take turns to clean the washroom. Once, when Ir Dr Lee was playing with the hose by spraying water around, he accidentally hit wastewater, which bounced back and splashed on his face.


Feeling extremely aggrieved, Ir Dr Lee began to think carefully about what kind of life he really wanted.


“I started to focus much more on studying after that incident,” says Ir Dr Lee. “But even if I stayed with the company after graduation, I could never become a professional engineer, maybe a senior technician at most. That’s why I decided to go to the United Kingdom.”


With that vision in mind, after completing the training programme, Ir Dr Lee went to the UK by himself for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Sunderland Polytechnic.


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Ir Dr Lee received Honorary Alumni Fellowship by University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom in 2016


It was a bold step because all he had was the HK$30,000 he saved as an apprentice, which was only enough to pay for six months of tuition. To cover his tuition and living expenses, Ir Dr Lee had to work three nights a week at a take-away Chinese restaurant.


Those who dare to take the risk reap the reward. Eventually, Lee graduated first in his class and joined ATAL Engineering Limited in 1991 immediately after his graduation.


Lee says studying in the UK was a valuable experience for him as it changed his view toward learning.


“The teaching method in the UK was very different from that of Hong Kong because students were encouraged to try new things and learn how to put theories into practice. You don’t have to learn by rote,” says Ir Dr Lee, noting it was a big transformation for him.


Probably it was out of curiosity of a new role or maybe it was because the call to share his experience with young students. After working at ATAL Engineering Limited as an engineer for two years, Ir Dr Lee, who was only 27 at that time, decided to apply for a job at the Hong Kong Technical College (Tsing Yi Campus) and became the youngest lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.


“I wanted to know if I can use my experience to enlighten those students and make them become truly interested in mechanical engineering, instead of just learning for a diploma,” says Ir Dr Lee.


I believe that students’ career path will be much easier if they can turn their interest into a profession.


Though Ir Dr Lee enjoyed teaching at IVE and was actually among the most popular lecturers, he found himself still more interested in engineering jobs and made up his mind to explore his potential in the field.


Ir Dr Lee returned to ATAL Engineering Limited and worked for 26 years. He was promoted to become the director of the company in 2015 then joined his current company in 2019.


“I was very grateful for having taken part in many ‘first’ and ‘only’ projects throughout my career,” says Ir Dr Lee, explaining why he left his previous post. “I seek to challenge my limits and explore new opportunities with a new company as their CEO to create more possibilities.”


From a project engineer to where he is now, it is a must for Ir Dr Lee to have a comprehensive understanding of engineering projects to manage all the details, while coordinating with personnel from different positions, in order to ensure that the project can be completed safely within the established time and budget.


“My role now is very different from the days when I was an apprentice who just help with the plant operation and maintenance,” he says, adding that the frontline experience has been immensely helpful in solving various issues he met later on.


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Four projects by Ir Dr Lee:
DSD Project Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (Source: Drainage Services Department) (top left);
EPD Project Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1 (O·PARK1) (Source: Environmental Protection Department, HKSAR Government 香港特別行政區政府環境保護署) (top right);
EPD Project Siu A Chau Low-level Radioactive Waste Storage Facility (Source: Environmental Protection Department, HKSAR Government 香港特別行政區政府環境保護署) (bottom left); and
WSD Project Tai Po Water Treatment Works Expansion (Source: Hong Kong Green Building Council’s BEAM Plus Online Exhibition website) (bottom-right)


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Y · PARK, the ‘first’ and ‘only’ yard waste recycling centre in Hong Kong



A pioneer in green engineering


Over the past 30 years, environmental infrastructure has been a key focus of Ir Dr Lee. One of the most memorable experiences was a low-level radioactive waste storage facility in Siu A Chau, southwest of Lantau Island, for the Environmental Protection Department, which he handled 20 years ago under a “design, build and operate” model. Before the project, most of the wastes had been stored in disused tunnels and hospitals, creating threats to people’s health.


“The project involved coordinating various engineering affairs including civil, geotechnical, structural, maritime, building services, control & automation, environmental, electrical and mechanical,” says Ir Dr Lee.


Since the project was located on an uninhabited island, there were many other issues arising, such as limited water and electricity supply and extreme weather. “We even had to use sickles to make our way onto the island. It felt just like the Robinson Crusoe,” says Ir Dr Lee.


For someone with a mechanical engineering background, Ir Dr Lee says the project was an extremely challenging one that broadened his horizons and gave him an opportunity to form a comprehensive understanding of the whole process and the required expertise involved in different engineering fields.


The facility began operation in July 2005 with a designed storage capacity that is sufficient to accommodate the existing and future wastes for 100 years.


Keep learning


Based on his interest in projects related to the environment, Ir Dr Lee attained a master’s degree in environmental management, in addition to an MBA.


I chose environmental protection as a key focus of my career because I believe this can make direct contribution to society.


With the pervasive influence of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) topics, Ir Dr Lee believes more innovation will be needed to make breakthroughs in environmental protection. For engineering companies, this means they should not only be equipped with a complete vertical supply chain that integrates design, construction and operation, but also a horizontal supply chain of talents in different fields.


To Ir Dr Lee, the process of learning never stops. As he moved up the career ladder and became an associate director, Ir Dr Lee began to face new challenges in terms of the Hong Kong engineering company’s globalisation – a topic he had only few references to look to.


At that time, Ir Dr Lee saw an advertisement for a DBA programme by the City University of Hong Kong which says the course will provide “a key” to the world of knowledge. Hoping to find the answer to his questions, he applied for the programme and received his doctorate degree in business administration at the City University of Hong Kong in 2016. He was also awarded the “Honorary Alumni Fellowship” by the University of Sunderland in the UK the same year.


“The reason why I keep learning not only to fulfil my intellectual needs, but to enrich my life,” says Ir Dr Lee. “I am able to solve my questions at work during the learning process, so I do not perceive it as a burden.”


Through the programme, Ir Dr Lee says he has further realised the importance of lifelong learning. It also helped him to learn how to use extensive scientific evidence when searching for solutions.


“This can be very helpful in my role as the President of the HKIE in terms of dispelling misconceptions and doubts held by the public,” says Ir Dr Lee.


Grow with the HKIE


Ir Dr Lee joined the HKIE in 2000 as a helper at the Mechanical, Marine, Naval Architecture and Chemical (MC) Division. At first, he was doing the job because his superior asked for his assistance. As time passes by, he came to enjoy the feeling of working towards the same goal with likeminded members and decided to stay with the HKIE.


Gradually, Ir Dr Lee took up different posts, from co-opt member, activity convenor to honorary secretary, vice chairman to chairman, and council member to executive member. Ir Dr Lee says the HKIE provided him the opportunity to interact with numerous top-notch and outstanding engineers from different fields.


“This experience opened the door to social affairs and public services,” says Ir Dr Lee, noting being with the HKIE has encouraged him to participate in various academic and public affairs activities and to keep up with the times.


Through the different roles he has played in the HKIE, Ir Dr Lee says he can better understand the obstacles that members are facing. By talking with engineers from different fields, he has listened carefully to their difficulties and demands, which helped him gain a clear understanding of their expectations for the president.


I am very proud to be part of the HKIE’s advancement and I hope I can continue the momentum to promote the development of the institution.


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Ir Dr Lee (4th left, back row) and other co-opt members of the Mechanical, Marine, Naval Architecture and Chemical Division


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Ir Dr Lee (6th right, back row) competed at the HKIE’s vice-president election in 2020


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Ir Dr Lee (3rd left, front row) with his teammates on MMNC football team



Session 2023/2024 – We Engineer We Serve (知行合一 成就專業)


Under the theme “We Engineer, We Serve”, Ir Dr Lee says, in collaboration with the Council members and different divisions and committees, he aspires to provide unique services to HKIE members and make distinctive contributions to the engineering profession and society.


“The theme ‘We Engineer, We Serve’ emphasises the importance for engineers to combine theoretical knowledge with practical experience in order to demonstrate their professional capabilities,” says Ir Dr Lee. “Engineers are both innovators and service providers.”


This also means engineers should continuously learn and improve themselves, keep up with the pace of technological development, while seeking new challenges and opportunities to provide better products and services and contribute to society.


Noting this is the first year of “back to normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic, Ir Dr Lee says he felt the necessity for the Institution to adapt to the new behaviours people developed in the past three years and make relevant arrangements to meet members’ changing demands.


This includes professional certifications and mutual recognition with other organisations to allow members to acquire knowhow and qualification in emerging technical areas.


Ir Dr Lee has outlined the blueprint of his work in the coming year.


  1. Improve the membership application process, provide necessary mentorship guidance, particularly in emerging professional fields, and establish a certification mechanism to enhance the competitiveness of the members.
  2. Provide suitable physical spaces and online platforms to promote knowledge sharing and innovative culture.
  3. Collaborate with relevant institutions to provide quality professional training as well as tangible membership benefits.
  4. Strengthen cooperation with various engineering industries to reinforce HKIE’s role in serving the industry and society, and thereby attracting more engineers to join the institution.


Ir Dr Lee explained four highlights of new efforts in his presidency term.


  1. Encourage a combination of physical and online activities. The HKIE will open a brand new facility, the EngHub「工程薈」 in Kwun Tong in July to provide members a new experience of knowledge sharing and networking through face-to-face activities in a modern and relaxed environment. Meanwhile, HKIE’s website will be revamped to project a younger, vibrant yet professional image for the Institution. The revamped website will also provide a more user-friendly platform for members to acquire the necessary information and for online interaction. Social media platforms will be another focus for this Session to enhance our presence and to draw both HKIE and the public closer together.
  2. The shortage of engineering talent has become more severe due to low birth rate, a retiring workforce, and the recent waves of immigration. Nurturing talent should start while they are young. The HKIE will encourage students to pursue engineering study through their newly consolidated STEAM education promotion programme, namely, “Back to School”, “One School One Engineer”, “School Ambassador” and “Engineering Cadet” scheme, etc. The formal launching ceremony of this consolidated programme, with the support of the Education Bureau, will be held in August this year to share with all divisions and disciplines the objectives and functions of each individual scheme so that all the volunteers within the Institution can make a joint effort to promote the STEAM education.
  3. To widen the member base of HKIE, especially in those emerging expertise areas, the Institution will visit leading engineering companies in various fields proactively to let them know the tangible and intangible benefits for their company and their staff after joining the HKIE. A “Charter of Cooperation” between HKIE and those interested companies will be signed so as to reinforce the tie between the Institution with various stakeholders in the engineering fields and also to expand our membership base, says Ir Dr Lee.
  4. Promote exchanges and cooperation with engineering organisations from the Mainland, especially those in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and other countries. This will help broaden members’ horizons, facilitate knowledge exchange, and provide more opportunities for development.


Nurture young talents


According to a survey by JCI Bauhinia in April, about 65 percent of primary and secondary school students said they do not want to work in the engineering industry in the future.


With an aim to encourage more young people to choose engineering when choosing their academic path, other than the consolidated STEAM education promotion programme as mentioned above, Ir Dr Lee says the HKIE will continue to promote the importance and value of engineering through diverse channels such as social media, websites and school promotion programmes, so that young people can have a deeper understanding of the profession. The new protégés intake in this session will be assigned a special task to uplift the image of the HKIE through their own social media network together with the newly branded HKIE’s mascot “Hally 2.0”.


Various activities, including technology exhibitions, lectures and workshops, will also be arranged to allow young people with hands-on experience in engineering and technology. Scholarships and internship opportunities will be provided to encourage active learning and participation in activities related to engineering.


Enhanced cooperation with universities, professional associations and government agencies will also be formed to jointly promote the development of engineering professions.


To young people who have just begun their engineering career, Ir Dr Lee said purpose, enthusiasm and perseverance are the three key elements to success.


“Just as Nelson Mandela said: ‘It always seems impossible before it is done’,” says Ir Dr Lee.



Self Photos / Files - theme



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