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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

EUR ING Dr Shengke Zhi PhD MBA CEng FIET FNucl

Published: 13/09/2022

Smiling man wearing a blue suit and a red tieEducation and qualifications:
Master of Business Administration (MBA), Alliance Manchester Business School
PhD in Mechanical Engineering, The University of Manchester
Engineering degree, Liaoning University, China

Job title:
Director of Growth and Development, Projects Business Unit


What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
As a child in the 1980s, I grew up in one of the largest industrial cities in the North East of China. My parents are both hard-working engineers - a civil engineer and a mechanical engineer. I was always curious to understand busy drawings, wanted to touch strange models and play with the moving machine that was making a loud noise in my father’s workshops. I dreamed of becoming an engineer who could apply cool technologies to make something special.
Fast forward a few years and I have combined these early foundations into my career in the energy and built environment sector where I am working to achieve carbon-neutral by 2050 and solve the climate crisis for future generations.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I began my career at EDF Energy as a reactor operation engineer and went on to lead major projects and world-class engineering and operations teams. In 2012, I joined Wood’s nuclear business (formerly Amec Foster Wheeler), a leading reactor technology, consultancy, engineering and project management provider in the nuclear sector.

My work has involved working with various reactor types including advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs), pressurised water reactors (PWRs) and the HPR1000, encompassing ageing management, plant lifetime extension and regulatory generic design assessment (GDA).

I am currently the director of Growth and Development in the Projects Business Unit of Wood. My role is to continuously grow Wood’s business associated with energy transition, decarbonization and digitization to achieve medium- and long-term objectives by providing strategic direction and insights.

Can you describe a typical working day?
As a practitioner in the Energy and Material markets, my responsibility is to apply low carbon technologies to achieve the carbon neutral target by 2050. Every day is different, but the common thread is looking after our customers and helping them with their challenges. For instance, I am a proactive advocate of shaping and developing collaborations for low carbon hydrogen, Carbon Capture, Use and Storage, (CCUS) and decarbonization clusters through sourcing and developing crucial expertise and capacity building.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
The United Kingdom plans to become net zero by 2050. The country has embarked on a new nuclear reactor build programme for the first time since the 1990s and is also developing a large renewable fleet, underlining its strong commitment to clean energy and the creation of a low-carbon economy.

Working around the energy transition is a huge challenge, technically and commercially, and it requires lots of international collaboration, technology innovation and policy reform. Thanks to my practical experience in the clean energy sector, I can navigate through this complex situation by understanding the needs of policymakers and working with business leaders to ensure a better understanding, and thereby help them to collaborate and find innovative solutions to the challenges they jointly face.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
As an engineer, it is very fulfilling to be playing a part in responding to the changes and trends shaping tomorrow’s world: the global energy transition, accelerating digital technology, growing urbanisation and demand for sustainable infrastructure. I want to be a subject matter expert on the transition to a low carbon economy.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I have been heavily involved in the new nuclear build programme in the UK in the last decade and have helped Wood secure a framework contract to provide technical support to the UK’s new nuclear programme.

Since 2020, I have been involved in the transformation of Wood to become the UK’s largest engineering and project service company, and a key enabler of the global energy transition. I have been integral in developing Wood’s business associated with decarbonization clusters, hydrogen, CCUS and clean energy.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Professional registration is well recognised in the energy sector, particularly by my employer, Wood. Every engineer is encouraged to join a professional institution such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) etc. We all work with them to pursue professional registration.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Professional registration gives my managers and our customers confidence in my professional competency. It has also provided a solid foundation for my career development and the progression from engineering to business development and business management.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
Continuously supporting employees’ professional registration and maintaining their skills and knowledge at a suitably high level demonstrates that my employer is a competent organisation which provides world class engineering, technical and project services.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
I would encourage them to join a professional body, such as IET, IMechE or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), who can provide broad services such as mentoring and professional registration advice and can also assist them to work towards professional registration. Based on my own experience, I found it very useful.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I have been integral in developing Wood’s business associated with the energy transition, decarbonization and digitalisation in energy and built environment markets. I expect to continue leading a corporate stream working with our global clients towards the net zero target, as well as continue growing Wood’s business.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
In 2018 I became the first Chinese person to be elected as a Fellow of the Nuclear Institute (NI) and I am also a Fellow of IET.

I was the Nuclear Envoy for the Manchester China Forum, which was launched by ex-Chancellor George Osborne in May 2013. I am also the Deputy Chair of Nuclear Future, the official journal of the UK Nuclear Institute. Since January 2018, I have been a guest lecturer for the International Masters Programme in Nuclear Engineering and Management at Tsinghua University, Beijing.

In January 2018, I was appointed as a Professional Registration Advisor for IET, in which role I provide members with information about how to achieve professional registration. Meanwhile, I am also a professional registration interviewer on behalf of IET, which involves interviewing candidates who have applied for professional registration.

In September 2019, I was elected as a Board Member of the China Britain Business Council, which is a leadership role that works on broad issues and a wide variety of business sectors between China and the UK.

Outside work, I have held voluntary roles in the arts and education sectors, serving as the Vice Chairman of the Centre of Chinese Contemporary Arts (CFCCA) from 2012 to 2019 and I am currently serving as a school governor of Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

I enjoy cycling and have completed a number of cycling challenges and raised more than £33,000 for charities including SOS Children’s Villages. Since 2019, I have been raising money to build the Chinese Streamside Garden, a unique fusion of Chinese and British horticulture being created by the Royal Horticultural Society in Greater Manchester.

Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
I am proud of my Chinese heritage and enjoy working with colleagues across Wood - which has 40,000 employees over 60 countries. As a regional chair of an employee network, Wood Race and Ethnicity Network, I work together with colleagues to ensure the contributions that people with Black and Asian minority ethnic backgrounds have made can be properly recognised and celebrated. I also campaign for equal opportunity in terms of career development of minority groups.