Rachel Lai Transitions into the Offshore Wind Industry in Taiwan

5 March 2022

A career in offshore wind will never disappoint, according to Site Assistant Hsueh-Hui (Rachel) Lai, who works in construction in the Renewables industry in Taiwan.

Rachel, who is supporting the construction work of onshore substations for offshore wind farm projects in Taiwan, has an impressive track record. Next to working on the construction of Taiwan’s largest railway, bridges, and factories, she was principally involved with supporting the negotiation process for one major civil work contract with an amount of 3 million euros and more than 120 contracts with sums of more than 6 million euros for a billion-dollar project in India for Apache SEZ Development India Private Limited.

When we discuss the low female-to-male ratio on the various group pictures she shows during the interview with Atlas Professionals, she laughs: “to Taiwanese women, the office environment on a construction project is not so appealing!”. Rachel says she has no issues with this as she grew up helping her father out with his forklift and crane rental company. 

Coming from a family with five children, Rachel has accepted the difficult balance of life as a good student with the duties imposed upon her by the family business. This meant that simple childhood pleasures such as playing with friends had to be sacrificed. If she was not assisting her father with the accounting and the bookkeeping, she would join him driving crane trucks around the country. “I helped my father with his business since Year 6 and my work was not confined to an office desk. For example, I would join him and navigate (without GPS!) when he was delivering the heavy cargo and giant milk tanks to other counties. This is why I told my project manager in the interview that I am born for construction,” she says, laughing.  

She notes that her work as a Site Assistant in the offshore wind industry is relatively new but she is able to leverage previous experience. “The offshore wind industry is very different from the construction projects I’ve participated in. One example is the high level of quality, health, safety and environmental standards that are observed. This is something we need to continue working and communicating with our local EPC contractor and sub-contractors so we talk the same language when it comes to ‘safety first,’ – we mean it and there is absolutely no compromise on that.” 

Continuous improvement 

When Rachel resigned from her job at one of the biggest engineering and construction service companies in Taiwan, some colleagues asked her if she was sure about her decision to leave her stable position after 12 years. Rachel stated that it was because all this time she had focused on continuously improving herself. “People said I was very brave to leave a job at this age, but to me it was like – what’s the big deal? I am very confident about my ability and have no fear.” 

This continuous improvement is a common theme in her life. Wherever there is a learning opportunity Rachel takes it with both hands and soaks it up like a sponge. Especially making sure her English does not get rusty is crucial for her. “I have this passion for learning English and continuously improving myself. Constantly being in an English-speaking environment keeps me from forgetting some vocabulary, expressions and understanding, and there are always new and interesting things to learn!” 

She also has utilised this passion for English to the benefit of others as a chairperson of the English Study Group of her previous company, organising numerous events and seminars. It does not come as a surprise that focusing on improving in English is her key recommendation to any local that wants to start working in the offshore wind farm industry in Taiwan. “The better your English, the easier the day-to-day communication on the job will be.” She adds that especially in these difficult times with the global COVID-19 pandemic, Offshore Wind is a very good industry. “Offshore wind is a new industry in Taiwan. However, it’s the future. And it is a bright and clean future. The opportunities are endless if you are starting now. It will never disappoint. We are so lucky to do this work and to have such a good working environment. The Western companies provide a lot of good benefits for the employees.”

Real-time interpretations

The combination of her English proficiency, organisational talent and experience in the construction industry make Rachel the perfect candidate for the position of Site Assistant. When asked what the most satisfying aspect of her job is the answer is clear: doing real time interpretations in the construction field, a skill she is very proud of. 

“During the meetings or other events my manager gives speeches and I translate them into Chinese for a lot of workers on site to understand with accuracy and fluency. If you would simply translate from English to Chinese without proper terminology, it can lead to misunderstandings. Then it’s just words and the audience may get confused. I wouldn’t let myself do that. It takes skills to do so, it’s mentally tough and it’s very rewarding to see my colleagues being confident, knowing that they are understanding one another”, she says. 

Rachel is also very proud of a big celebration event she helped to organise as a Site Assistant for the company she is contracted at. “It was a memorable moment. On that day, we handed out more than 600 T-shirts and polo shirts to all the workers and served around 800 breakfast packages. It was the third time we organised such an event. Everybody was so happy.”  

Rachel points out that organising these events on such a large scale is a new experience for her compared with her prior work experiences. “The previous companies I worked for wouldn’t think about giving away these free meals to the workers of subcontractors to show their devotion to the local companies and people. We do it because we really want to show to the local people that we care about them and we care about their safety and well-being. These events demonstrate my company's happiness and gratitude to the workers, for helping to make the workplace a safer one for everyone.” 

Atlas Professionals is always looking for competent and motivated personnel. Are you interested in working in the Renewables industry in Taiwan? Let us know by registering and uploading your CV for our recruiters to review here: https://pages.atlasprofessionals.com/taiwan.

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