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‘Unplanned CPD activities are the most exciting ones’ 

27 November 2019

ICE member Siu Ng talks about her approach to CPD and gives her top tips on how to seek out CPD opportunities when faced with a lack of inspiration.

‘Unplanned CPD activities are the most exciting ones’ 
Siu Ng (centre), with Dr Behzadian (left) and Dr Zhang (right)

There’s a Chinese saying that “One is never too old to learn” <活到老,学到老>.

As a female civil engineer, besides getting a lot of questions about what it’s like to be an engineer, in this blog post I want to answer some of the questions that I often get asked on how I “sharpen my saw” (from the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) and what makes me feel inspired to develop my knowledge and skills!

What does CPD mean to you?

CPD allows me to record and reflect on my learning and development. I gain skills, knowledge and experience both formally and informal learning.

An example of a formal learning includes a structured reading on flood resilience. But I find that unplanned activities are the most exciting ones.

What are the benefits that you get from completing CPD?

Everything around you, including yourself, are constantly changing and evolving. I use continuing professional development as a way for me to adapt to these changes.

My CPD helps me to focus on a few specific areas of learning development that I want to achieve in a particular year.

For example, as I wanted to have more opportunities to develop my self-confidence and utilise my engineering knowledge, my CPD plan prompted me to actively find opportunities to speak at a conference and in front of a lecture theatre.

These experiences helped me to network with leading professionals and, in turn, I feel rewarded because I’m able give back to the engineering community.

How do you plan and record your CPD?

I find that the CPD template on the ICE website provides a really good baseline to start off.

I often look for some inspiration for the types of development, subject areas and CPD activities by referring to the few penultimate pages of the ICE CPD Guidance.

I prepare a new Development Action Plan (DAP) at the start of each year by listing down at least three specific areas for development that I want to address in that particular year.

This is to help me to prioritise objectives that will contribute to my current and/or future careers and my own personal development.

For example, I added an objective this year to raise my own awareness to take a more mindful approach in managing my own and others’ welfare, health and safety.

An engineer who has an interest in Roman history recommended an article on Stoicism, a Greco-Roman philosophy. Another professional contact and I discussed the benefit of mindfulness and how it helped her overcome stagefright presenting a talk to a room full of chief executives.

At the end of these PDR activities, I start jotting things down and I cross-referenced this with my DAP objective.

Explore different ways and find the ones that you feel most comfortable and effective with.

I know a fellow engineer who set up a weekly reminder on his electronic calendar to record his learning, review and update his CPD. I also find inspiration from reviewing some examples of other people’s CPD records.

What is the most common misconception people has about CPD?

The most common misconception people have about CPD is that it's limited to attending training courses, lectures and/or general technical visits.

In my home kitchen, while preparing for a dinner, besides listening to music, I listen to the “How I Built This” business podcast on a smart speaker as part of my less formal CPD.

I enjoy listening to stories behind the tribulations, triumphs, serendipity and insights told by innovators, entrepreneurs and founders of the companies themselves. Their inspiring and humanising stories often humble me, as no one’s life skates so swimmingly without any hiccups.

Failures are of course difficult and rejections are hard. Their stories become my learning points and values are added to my learning development that I can then add commentaries to in my PDR.

What do you do when you run out of ideas on what to plan and record on your CPD?

When I feel lack of inspiration on what to record on my CPD, I create an unplanned CPD by striking a conversation with someone I think is inspiring in his or her own field and/or admirable professionally, over a drink or lunch.

>More recently, during a meeting break, my impromptu conversation with Dr Behzadian prompted me to undertake a series of unplanned CPDs in order to understand the research undertaken by Dr Zhang (pictured above) about artificial intelligence.

In particular, the experience taught me what artificial intelligence can and cannot do, its importance to the UK economy, and subsequently its applications in different engineering fields.

  • Siu Ng , Flood Risk Manager in London at Flood Risk Manager