The energy sector as a whole is changing rapidly with new innovations in technology and business models appearing constantly. One of the reoccurring themes is the idea of sustainability, and more broadly, making sure the operations are green and businesses are sustainable as a whole. Within CLP, Smart Energy Connect (SEC) is a recent addition to CLP’s offering where there are a range of decarbonisation solutions (energy saving automation technologies, offsets, analytics) that are offered to businesses to help them with their decarbonisation journey. CLP develops these solutions by both nurturing technology and nurturing talents.
The internship programmes at CLP as a whole is a crucial part of nurturing young talent and has been a key area for CLP to both develop individuals internally and also to give back to the wider community. Within Smart Energy Connect, the range of smart energy saving solutions that we develop contain a lot of technology behind them. This could range from IoT devices, cloud infrastructure, secure integrations to building infrastructure and hardware and many more. Hence, a great deal of R&D work goes into developing these products before CLP offers these to customers. This is one of the fast-paced areas in which CLP has been offering internships to Hong Kong’s next generation of innovators.
The internship programmes have been operating for a few years now, and we’ve prided ourselves on ensuring that our interns gain a lot of value from the time they invest. We move beyond task-based shadowing, giving our interns the space to make tangible contributions and learn, grow and adapt as part of SEC’s culture of innovation, openness, ownership and accountability. To shed light on this, we explore the stories of two very bright young interns that we had the privilege to host: Jay Au-Yeung (Mechanical Engineering at The University of Hong Kong) and Zack Fan (Electrical Engineering at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Initially, Jay had his heart set on an internship position with SEC that leveraged just his Mechanical Engineering skills. However, when presented with the opportunity to also take on a cloud technology role, he realised it was “such a valuable opportunity” to move beyond his usual area of expertise. “I wanted to grab that chance to learn more” he shares. Prior to his internship, he admits, he’d had a fairly limited view of the potential of working in IT. He’d thought of IT as just spending hours coding and programming without really seeing the outcome. Throughout his internship experience with SEC, though, his standpoint has changed radically:
It’s not the same thing here, because IT is not about just coding, but the actual business value that it brings. There’s a lot of emphasis on making sure what we work on has real adoption and value.
Overall, it’s fair to say his internship with SEC has stretched far beyond his initial expectations.
Zack’s route to accepting his SEC internship was rather different. Having completed a research-based internship in Taiwan, he felt he needed more practical work experience under his belt. As luck would have it, CLP came to him. Recruited directly from his Electrical Engineering university studies by the SEC team, Zack first joined a microgrid project utilising solar panels and batteries to help communicate the idea of energy resource orchestration. An emerging area that is being played out across the globe. It was that rare exposure to unique industry experience which inspired Zack to expand his skills in cloud and IoT technologies.
Our work at SEC requires a combination of disciplines ranging from technology, communication, engineering, planning and creativity and design. We use these skills to develop solutions such as chiller optimisation solutions, smart office solutions, and building health solutions which leverage big data and AI technologies. All of these are driven by technology but help our customers on their energy saving and decarbonization journey.
On reflection by Zack, Jay and other interns, many internships at corporates focus on shadowing existing experienced staff, as they explain what they do day to day. This type of learning is certainly helpful as interns get to experience real working environments in “3D”, but there are still gaps when it comes to truly internalising the concepts they experience. At SEC, both Jay and Zack weren’t just limited to listening to explanations from experienced staff, instead they were handed both the opportunity and expectation of delivering tangible and client-facing outcomes.
For Jay, the call to step up came in the form of crafting transformative solutions for office environments. There are plenty of workspaces, for example, that operate excessive cooling or appliances running when there are no staff present. To help address this challenge, Jay was tasked with integrating various IoT devices into a cohesive solution which could automatically turn appliances on/off based on a variety of sensors and algorithms. These IoT devices would need to understand the environment and then have the data processed in a cloud backend securely. Jay worked on writing the code for connecting these field devices in a secure fashion to understand things like air quality, energy usage, people presence and many more. For Jay this meant the chance to develop “solid knowledge… and use the right tools to use to develop these solutions.” The processes of taking an idea from a whiteboard to a smart solution that is deployed to customer site has been an incredibly rewarding experience for Jay.
For his part, Zack was tasked to integrate a live solar system for a customer to ensure the data can be accessed and visualised easily. In the process, Zack learned how to securely connect to field devices, developing networking skills such as setting up a VPN, and remotely receiving customer’s data securely and reliably.
For both interns, these were real life work experiences with real deadlines where they were given knowledge but also room to experiment and fail. They both encountered challenges, but then leveraged advice from mentors within the SEC team to pinpoint optimal solutions
At SEC, our mentors are a vital part of creating an internship experience that goes above and beyond what might usually be expected in the corporate world. Rather than being limited to a more traditional trainer role, focusing solely on interns’ performance, SEC’s mentors work to ensure our interns blend in with the company culture and feel comfortable, welcome, valued and content during their time with SEC. This approach supported both Jay and Zack to develop skills and understanding, internalising fresh knowledge to equip themselves for their future careers.
SEC prides itself on an open, collaborative working culture, where colleagues proactively share ideas in order to maximise innovation. “It’s a fundamentally dynamic workspace”, Jay tells us, "we can be conventional, but at the same time be innovative."
It’s a highly creative and driven atmosphere, Zack adds,
We always create something new, and then always try to do something no-one has done before… we have so much energy to push forward.
It’s challenging at times, of course, but that’s counterbalanced by a warm-hearted working culture. “Everyone at SEC always loves to teach me things,” Zack says, fielding answers to his queries and solutions to any issues that arise. This means he’s been able to fully leverage his relationship with his SEC mentors to propel his own personal and professional development.
For Zack, the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with the wider SEC team and the company’s clients has been the most rewarding part of his time as an intern. “I can see the data is really coming to our SEC Cloud… I really love to see that things are working,” he shares. For his part, Jay’s driven to continually learn from new IoT products added to the SEC platform. There’s usually a “different set of new tools we might need to learn to apply them, or to integrate them into our service,” he explains, which is a key part of pushing the boundaries of innovation.
Both Jay and Zack share that their time at SEC has given them the chance to develop skills beyond those they initially expected. “As a technical guy, I tend to use a technical tone,” Jay admits. Yet, he’s now able to more effectively communicate his ideas with a cross-disciplinary audience after collaborating with SEC’s Product and Marketing Teams. Zack has experienced a similar change: “I’m not usually a very talkative person, but my colleagues encourage me to talk more about my ideas… I love it.”
For both, it’s the constant novelty of the internship that’s reeled them in: there’s “freedom to innovate,” Zack says. “I’ve achieved much as an intern, or as an innovator-to-be, as I continuously learn from people around me,” Jay adds.
I would advise my friends to find the right internship for them; you never know what you’re going to learn.
Might you be the right fit to follow Jay’s and Zack’s footsteps? If you are driven to innovate with SEC, contact us for information about upcoming internship opportunities.