Lillian Siu – Creating magic and a legacy for the future
October 4, 2023
Senior Structural Engineer, Lillian Siu recalls that, as a child, she was always interested in buildings and structures. Lillian's love of structures was inspired by family trips to Disneyland, Disney World, and Universal Studios. She shares, "I loved the magic of the 'Happiest Place on Earth' and remembered wondering, 'How did they build that?' I remember declaring to my parents that in the future, I would work for Disney and be part of the magic."
With hard work and perseverance, Lillian's dreams came true. After completing Bachelor and Master degrees in Applied Science at UBC, Lillian went on to work for a steel fabrication company that designed and built optical telescopes and their enclosures. Designing large and complex steerable, optical/infrared telescopes enabled Lillian to build her expertise in precision structural/mechanical systems. She transferred these skills to the amusement ride industry, helping to create rides such as ET, Roger Rabbit, Test Track, and Soarin’ Over California, and fulfilling her childhood dream to create Disney magic! Lillian tells us, "I’m especially proud of our work on Soarin' Over California, as I was the Structural Lead and Project Manager for this flight simulator ride."
Today, as Associated's Division Manager, Buildings Engineering, in our Vancouver office, Lillian leads a structural, mechanical, and energy engineering team focused on buildings, low carbon energy, and district energy projects. Lillian advises she is seeing a shift from traditional structural and mechanical services to sustainable and resilient buildings.
"Climate change and legislation for zero carbon and emissions reduction requires new ways of doing things. This transition includes calculating for embodied carbon, modelling energy use, and implementing low-carbon services, such as district energy, biomass, and geoexchange services. Our team is constantly developing and adapting to the emerging energy sector and the changing requirements for buildings services."
Over three decades working in engineering, Lillian tells us that she has had the pleasure of learning from and working with some extraordinary people, including professors, engineers, technicians, and support staff. Their generosity with their time and advice provided important feedback that helped her career development
Today Lillian is giving back, as a mentor. She is a member of YWCA’s Mentoring Program for high school students interested in STEM careers. She says, "We meet regularly to explore career options. I provide guidance and advice to my mentees on post-secondary options and help them to identify the required skills and courses." Lillian adds, "This Mentoring Program has been a fabulous experience. I started mentoring at the YWCA when my daughter was a teenager so that I could develop my 'teen-speak' skills. Being a mentor helped me better communicate with my daughter."
In addition, Lillian is a mentor to a number of engineers-in-training (EITs), within and outside of Associated Engineering. She says, "Mentoring EITs allows me to share some of my lessons learned and in return, they have guided me on how to be a better communicator and coach."
For young professionals entering consulting engineering, Lillian advises that going through a university engineering program teaches you to have an open mind and to continuously learn.
"The consulting world is so vast, as are the opportunities. My career has evolved over time. I began my career specializing in structural steel and working on structural-mechanical systems. My latest project involved building a campus on top of an existing landfill, which required the design to account for differential settlement and the effects of landfill gas on the development."
In between, Lillian was involved with mission critical facilities, including hundreds of cell sites (Alberta SuperNet) and data centres for Telus, E-Comm 911, and the City of Vancouver. She also worked in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors. She explains, "What you work on today may be substantially different from projects you will work on in the future. The journey may be a road less travelled rather than a straight path. It's important to embrace opportunities, and see them as a way to expand your skills and knowledge."
For Lillian, working on structures gives her the satisfaction that she has contributed to society. She tells us, "I feel a sense of accomplishment from being able to see and touch the buildings we design. Engineers have a direct and tangible impact on our communities and everyday life. It brings me joy to see people appreciate our efforts and the lasting legacy."
Outside of work, Lillian describes herself as an avid foodie. She loves trying new cuisines, cooking, and baking. She also enjoys travelling. This past June, LiIlian also joined the ACEC-BC Board of Directors, on a one-year term as a Director.