#HerWorldHerStory: Meet one of SG’s first few female engineering contractors in the ’90s

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   May 20, 2020

Curious stares didn’t stop her from excelling in what was traditionally a man’s job


#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Jessie Soh’s story…

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore Makeup Marie Soh, using Shu Uemura

I remember the shock on people’s faces when I put on a hard hat and met with my clients, suppliers and sometimes, the authorities, at the construction site. They couldn’t believe what they saw – a woman! I found their reaction amusing as it was an uncommon sight to see a female contractor in the 1990s. I got used to the curious stares, and was often asked why I took up engineering – a man’s job.

At that time, I had just set up my own engineering business Joho Engineering with two business partners. I was then in my 20s… gung-ho and still inexperienced in many areas.

But I was determined to continue where my father, who is also my mentor, had left off after his electrical engineering business closed. I also took an interest in this field because I found it so fascinating.

What I love most about engineering is the level of innovation and creativity required to meet the ever-changing demands.

I took up a Technician Certificate in Electrical Engineering at Aljunied Technical Institute. I remember I was one of the three females in a class of 40. After graduating and completing a one-year internship at a mechanical and engineering consultancy firm, I joined my father’s company in 1987.

Over the decades, I have seen more women joining the engineering sector. They’re good at what they do as consultants, managing projects for the mechanical and electrical (M&E) consultancy offices.

This desk-bound role is more appealing to women in this field than being an engineering contractor who dons the hard hat and surveys the construction site, which is perceived to be a demanding job or an inconvenient role for women to take on.

It’s also the reason why being a contractor remains very much a man’s job till this day.

But for me, I never felt intimidated working with the opposite sex. Gender is never an issue in any type of work for me. As long as you have the skills, positive attitude, integrity and discipline, that’s all that matters.

This article was first published in Her World’s May issue. Grab a copy today!