I didn’t plan to end up in digitization A couple of years ago, somebody in the communications department was talking about the subject and trying to get energetic people to join the conversation. I didn’t know what digitization meant and I put up my hand to find out more.
That’s when I realized my entire career has been laddering up to digitization I studied optoelectronics – a branch of technology focused on the use of electronics and light, specifically transmitting data using light. It meant looking at subjects like lasers, fiber-optics, and medical imaging. After university, I went into sales but I realized it wasn’t really for me. Then I spent several years in telecoms, helping to increase network capacity.
When I was offered my current job I said ‘yes’ without hesitation I’m the Head of Hong Kong Digital Hub, Internet of Things, at Siemens’ MindSphere Application Center. We’re using digitization to make the city smarter, cleaner, and more energy efficient. We work across building technologies (like heating and security), energy management, mobility, digital factories, and power generation, and are constantly adapting or innovating Siemens products.
One of our ideas is a smart lamp post It’s an integrated multipurpose street lamp with CCTV to offer increased security. They use sensors to detect when people are around so that they don’t light up empty streets and waste electricity. It could even be self-powered, through wind or solar, generating energy during the day to be used at night.
All my positions have had data in common Be it transmitting data through cable networks or railways, which was part of my first job at Siemens. It’s all helped me build up skills in connections or connectivity that I’ve reapplied since.
The work Siemens does is instantly recognizable Having worked in telecoms in Australia, I was keen to move back to Hong Kong because that’s where I was born. When a recruiter mentioned Siemens, I immediately knew who they were and that engineering was a core part of their work.
We are using digitization to make the city smarter, cleaner, and more energy efficientKeith Cheng
Currently, I’m learning about data analytics and software programming I’m working closely with coders and developers, and we have a great relationship where they take me through things on a weekly basis so that I understand more about these areas.
We’re using deep learning in really exciting ways Like making air conditioning smarter and more energy efficient. This is achieved by using calculations around the temperature outside and the number of people in the building – all those sorts of things – to make sure the air-conditioning system is ready when people need it but we’re not constantly cooling the air when it isn’t required.
We’re also actively helping fight air pollution People are really concerned about it and we’ve developed a sensor to put on lampposts to track pollution numbers in real time. We can begin to forecast when the levels are going to be high and display this information on a public dashboard. The government can also use this information – the aim is to be carbon neutral by 2040, so they need to know if they are meeting their targets.
My job makes me think about how much energy I consume I’m actually trying to make my office paperless. I want to bring in some of the IoT devices we use for our clients to help my company and, in turn, the world.
Helping introverts and extroverts to learn from each other
Keith describes himself as a traditional introvert. In his experience, engineers tend to be more retiring and find interacting with lots of people draining at times.
Working in the science park – Siemens’ Hong Kong offices that are close to 400 square meters – he comes into contact with all sorts of people. “People in business development tend to be extroverts because they have to be – they deal with people all day.”
Keith says he learnt how to communicate across personality types by working on different projects. Through experience, he’s noticed that sometimes engineers are not very good at expressing how they feel and what they like, whereas business development people actively want to express themselves. “It’s about balancing all of that,” he adds, “pulling the team together and moving forward on a particular topic.”
Part of his team’s development is Inside Discovery. Based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, it’s a course that reveals personality types while helping people understand how best to communicate with others. “It’s like the traditional Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) course, but this one uses colours to help people remember and identify their type,” Keith explains.
He adds that when you manage a team that’s a mixture of personality types, a big part of your role is translating what each is saying because it’s like they talk another language. “Nobody teaches you how to express how you feel,” he explains. “People will teach you maths and the alphabet but no one tells you how to communicate your feelings.”