One thing I have been noticing more and more is the number of women entering the field of Asset Investment Planning & Management (AIPM). Certainly, the prevalence of women is not evident by attending an asset management conference…yet. But it occurred to me that this is a great role for women in a field where you might not expect to find many women! And I believe this is the beginning of an exciting trend and would like to highlight some of these women—and the interesting work they’re doing—to establish some role models and shine a light on this as a possible career path for young women.
In this article, we are featuring Vikki Kwan, Senior Manager, Surrey Langley SkyTrain Integration, at TransLink. TransLink is Metro Vancouver’s transportation network, providing residents and visitors with public transit, major roads, bridges, and Trip Planning services.
Can you tell us a little about your career background?
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and Master’s degree in transportation engineering from The University of British Columbia and began my career at TransLink as a transportation engineer 15 years ago. In the past 15 years, I worked on various initiatives at TransLink, including managing a number of portfolios such as TransLink’s Major Road Network and Municipal Funding Program, and TransLink’s enterprise asset management program. In my current role, I work with the Province and TransLink stakeholders to plan for the new 16-kilometre rapid transit line in City of Surrey, Township of Langley, and City of Langley.
How did you get involved in the field of asset management?
TransLink’s asset base is extensive, consisting of trains, buses, seabuses, systems, stations, tracks, and facilities, etc. We also provide funding to municipalities for the management of the Major Road Network. Managing our assets so they remain in a state of good repair has been one of TransLink’s corporate priorities. Assets are always aging, and we realized that we needed to be more proactive about managing them to avoid incidents and shutdowns.
From 2014 to 2018, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to lead TransLink’s asset management effort. Working with asset management experts from across the TransLink enterprise towards a common goal was a fulfilling challenge.
The most rewarding aspects of my work is the change and improvements that we can make through asset management...
What attracted you to the field of asset management?
Asset management is an important field, and I was attracted to the many challenges it encompasses. TransLink’s mission is to provide a sustainable transportation system network in a way that protects the environment and supports the economic and social objectives of the region. Asset management is key to delivering on this. Creating a proper inventory of assets and understanding the needs and condition of those assets benefits our customers by ensuring reliable service. It also gives us better foresight into our financial commitments. I also like that this field allows me to learn different parts of our business and to communicate and build connection with different stakeholder groups with diverse interests and to work towards a shared goal.
What were some of the key accomplishments you achieved in your role?
The key accomplishment in my previous asset management role was to successfully bring people with diverse interests to work towards a common goal. Working closely with various TransLink stakeholder groups, my team successfully launched TransLink’s Enterprise Asset Management Program, including:
- Creating TransLink’s first asset management policy
- Developing TransLink’s 5-year asset management roadmap
- Delivering TransLink’s capital planning decision support framework
- Creating a high-level asset inventory
- Implementing an effective change management process
What excites you most about this field?
Asset management touches almost every aspect of our business. What excites me the most about being in the field of Asset Management are the opportunities to expand my connection and network within TransLink and to better understand the various business units and how they contribute to our overall Enterprise Asset Management goals. I also love going to conferences and meeting peers who are dealing with similar challenges. When I was new to asset management, many of my peers were helpful and willing to share their experiences and best practices.
If you’re curious, like to learn, and are passionate about driving change, asset management is a great career choice. It allowed me to build a lot of connections . . . which is extremely beneficial in my current role.
What are the most rewarding aspects of the work you do?
The most rewarding aspects of my work is the change and improvements that we can make through asset management including improved and more objective decision support frameworks to aid in capital planning decisions as well as better foresight on asset reinvestment needs, etc.
What do you think are the biggest challenges?
A big challenge is creating a common language of what asset management is so that people in various departments and roles within the organization can align their goals.
Asset management isn’t something that can be done off the side of a desk. So, another challenge is securing dedicated resources to do it properly. For that, you need good leadership support, champions to advocate for it, and change management so that people can see the value of proactively managing our assets.
Would you recommend asset management to other women as a career?
Yes, women can do anything! If you’re curious, like to learn, and are passionate about driving change, asset management is a great career choice. It allowed me to build a lot of connections across the TransLink enterprise, which is extremely beneficial in my current role.
To learn more about other women making an impact in this emerging field, feel free to check out the rest of the articles in this series here.
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