Mei Ling Cheong, Senior Software Engineer, works at Motional's Singapore office.
Each month, we're highlighting the people who are using their talents and passions to help make driverless vehicles a reality.
Mei Ling Cheong, a Senior Software Engineer, talks about what led her to working on autonomous vehicle technology here at Motional, how she decompresses from her busy life in Singapore, and even dishes on an unexpected talent she won an award for in high school.
What do you do at Motional?
I am a senior software engineer working on the vehicle interface controller. My team develops the software that helps to control the steering, braking, and propulsion of our AVs. My daily work involves discussions with system engineers on software requirements, coding the software to work with the hardware controllers, and building a bench test system to verify and validate our software.
What inspired you to start a career in the AV/tech industry?
I have been working in the automotive industry for the past 15 years. It was an exciting journey when I was given the opportunity to work in the very first autonomous driving project for Motional (formerly part of Aptiv and nuTonomy) in Singapore. I had always hoped to use my engineering knowledge to build a product that will benefit humankind, and this was a chance that I knew I could not miss out on.
As an engineer, what are some of the most interesting or complex projects you have worked on?
I started my engineering career building two-way radios – walkie talkies. Then I moved on into the automotive industry working on a hybrid controller unit that controls the usage of battery and gasoline in a hybrid vehicle; a surround-view camera system that provides parking assistance; and lastly the Motional robotaxi.
What drives you to come into work day to day?
I believe in creating a meaningful life by doing meaningful work. Having this value ingrained in my heart, I know that each hour that I put into my job in Motional will be translated into a meaningful product that could in the future save people's lives and bring convenience to the community. So my advice is find a career with the core value that you believe in, and you will then find fulfillment in the job that you do every day.
What’s a fun fact about you that people may be surprised to learn?
I participated in a drama competition in high school. As I was in an all-girls school, I acted as a male role in the story – a drunken father. I won the best actress in my school and my team won first prize in the state drama competition! I enjoyed performing on stage.
Outside of work, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
I love playing the piano. My favorite pieces are from Chopin, Richard Clayderman, and Yiruma. I also love to read. I read a wide range of books, including fiction, biography, investment, self-help, dieting, cooking, baking, and parenting. Lastly, I like to explore nature. Being in nature calms my mind and allow me to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
Mei Ling loves to play the piano in her free time.
How would you describe the culture at Motional and what are your favorite things about working on the team?
The culture at Motional is very flexible and dynamic. Due to the fast changing nature of the AV industry, the employees in Motional are strong and flexible. We adapt to changes quickly. We strive to do the best by putting in the best effort. I am glad that I have a collaborative team where knowledge and opinions can be shared freely. The team is very understanding and supportive of each other’s life commitments.
What has been your experience being involved in the Women in Tech Employee Resource Group (ERG) in Singapore?
Women in Tech ERG in Singapore is a platform that allows me to connect with other ladies on different teams in the company. We share ideas, experiences, and laughter with each other, knowing that we are not alone in this male-dominated engineering field.
If you could select anyone to be your mentor, who would it be and why?
My parents are my best mentors. They are the only people in the world who know me best. They give the best advice in different parts of my life. They would make sure that I am equipped with the right attitude, character, and values in life to overcome whatever challenges that I am facing at that moment.
In honor of National Robotics Week, what advice would you give STEM students interested in an engineering career?
Do you like the process of tinkering with things, making things work?
Do you feel a great sense of satisfaction when the project that you are working on comes to life?
If your answer is yes, then an engineering career could be for you. Continue to follow your passion, do not give up, have courage to explore new things, never stop learning.
What advice would you share with someone looking to start a career in the engineering field?
Lifelong Learning: The engineering field is a field that keeps changing and is continuously evolving with new technologies. Never stop learning. Keep an open mind and keep updating yourself with new skills and knowledge. Learn to use new tools or create one to make your work more efficient.
Patience: Building a tech product requires a lot of patience. You will face many problems and challenges, but always believe that if there is a will, there is a way. Never give up. If you try hard enough, there is always a way to overcome the problem that you are facing.
Good Ethics: With great knowledge comes great responsibility. We can choose to use our engineering knowledge to build a good product to benefit the community or we could choose otherwise. I hope new engineers in the field have good ethics. Speak out if you think something is not right. Fix it if you find a flaw. Do not take short cuts, and ensure your product is of the best quality that you can ever build.
Where do you see the AV industry in the next five years? Ten years?
The AV industry is like a roller coaster ride. Five years is not a very long time and we have so many things to achieve to produce a safe and mature AV system. I believe that there will be many changes and new breakthroughs in the AV industry in these five years. It will be exciting! I hope that by 10 years, we can see a stable AV industry with various companies commercializing self-driving vehicles in the transportation services.
What is one thing that you cannot live without?
My Family! My family is the safe haven on which I can rely when I am having a tough time. Because I have emotional support from my family members, I have greater energy to do greater things and reach greater heights.
To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Mei Ling explores nature.
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