After obtaining his first Degree, Dr. Ao Peng Kong started his career life as a site engineer. He was a laboratory technician when he first joined the Civil Engineering Laboratory of Macau (LECM). He was promoted all the way up from the post of Engineer, Head of Division, Head of Department and the Chairman of LECM. During this period, he obtained three more degrees and served as the President and Chairman of the Macau Institution of Engineers and the Chairmen of University of Macau Alumni Association (AAAUM). To him, his success was brought by his “never give up” spirit, which gave him the drive to move forward to create his career path, rather than talent or luck. There is a very good saying, “Winners never quit, quitters never win” and Dr. Ao serves as a perfect example of this.
The Backroom Boy of the Urban Construction in Macau
Since 1980s, Dr. Ao was involved in large-scale construction projects in Macau including Luso International Bank Building, Macau Forum, Liceu de Macau (now as Macau Polytechnic Institute), Macau International Airport, Macau East Asian Games Dome, and recent projects like Macau light rail and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge which are still under construction. He is very much the backroom boy of the urban construction in Macau. When we asked Dr. Ao to choose his most impressive project, joy and excitement shown on his face, “There were too many to tell. But I am tightly bounded to Macau International Airport.” Speaking of the Macau International Airport, he recalled, “It was my first project in LECM, and I gained much experience there. I have long been involved in its exploration, reclamation and construction of its runway to the long-term monitoring after completion. Even the new office of LECM has been moved to the area of Taipa Grande, which is just opposite the airport.” Before the interview, we thought he was a solemn Chairman. But in fact he is very kind, approachable and humorous.
Dr. Ao has contributed most of his time and effort to Macau’s civil construction. His outstanding performance has been well-recognized by the society, and he was awarded the Medal of Merit in the category of Profession by the Macau SAR Government in 2012. Despite his modesty, he felt glad to receive this award and said, “To be honest, I just love my job. It is a truly perfect combination of interest and occupation. I never dreamed of winning this medal, but I am happy to be awarded. It proves that all my efforts and hard work is paying off and being recognized by the society and the government.”
To Persevere and Never Give Up
In the late 1970s, there was no university in Macau. Anyone who wanted to go to college had to go to Hong Kong, Taiwan or overseas. Dr. Ao was no exception, so he chose to study Civil Engineering at the National Taiwan University in Taiwan. After graduation, he returned to Macau and landed his first job in a Portuguese engineering consultant company. After working on a construction project for 7 years, he joined LECM. He recalled, “In 1989, the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) of the University of Macau (UM) was established and the colleagues of LECM were also involved. At the very beginning, the University could not provide all testing facilities for the University students’ practice. Therefore, LECM had a mutual cooperation agreement with UM in providing an experimental site for students’ laboratory work and in return, our colleagues could study at the University with discounted tuition fees. At that time, I already had a plan for further study as there was a growing need for technical advancement in my working field. So I immediately submitted my application when UM launched its Civil Engineering Master program.” And that was the moment when Dr. Ao started his never ending relationship with UM. He began his work-study life by gaining experiences from work while practicing self-advancement by studying in his free time.
Reminiscing about the campus life, he said, “Those years was very hard to me as I had to work during the day and study at night from Monday to Friday. But I finally got through.” Facing the pressure of a work-study life, he admitted that he had once thought about giving up. Yet, his spirit kept him going. “I remembered it was a chilly rainy night when I was on my way to class after a hard day’s work. I wondered why I should continue on with my wife and daughters waiting for me in my cozy house. What’s more, I just could not even recall those basic engineering mathematics formulas after leaving campus for 7 years. At that moment, the thought of giving up stroke my mind. But I just didn’t want to be defeated. It was my internal unyielding spirit to keep on fighting.” Finally, Dr. Ao completed the program and joined the first batch of graduates receiving a Master’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering. However, he wasn’t satisfied and he continued by enrolling in a PhD degree in the same major and receiving another Master’s Degree in law.
Despite his busy working and study life, Dr. Ao did not neglect his family and was able to make both ends meet. He felt glad that he did not miss any moment of his children’s growth or education. When he talked about his two daughters, he couldn’t help smiling and said, “I am very grateful to my wife for her support and taking good care of the family. Now my two daughters are well-educated. We have good relationship and often play and talk like friends. My elder daughter, who is Student Council president, often consults me on managing the council and shares her experience with me. Also, for my younger daughter, I was the one who delivered her all the graduation certificates for her completion of primary to secondary school.” Besides achieving success in his career, Dr. Ao fulfills a well-balanced life on his family, career and social affairs. For him, that is the real meaning of success.
Contribute to the Development of Alma Mater
Even though Dr. Ao has been so successful in his career, he never forgets his Alma Mater. He is now the Chairman of the AAAUM. When asked why he was so enthusiastic about participating in the alumni association, he replied, “In fact, I love to make friends. Once I had a chance to be a guest speaker for the seminar held by the association. After that, I was invited by the senior members and joined this big family. It gave me an opportunity to meet new people from different areas. We shared common beliefs and organized activities without any commercial preference. I enjoyed spending time with them.” Dr. Ao also participated actively in alumni activities and was eager to give guidance and support to the younger generation. He joined the “Alumni Mentorship Scheme” twice as mentor to share his successful experience with students. Meanwhile, he also provides internship opportunities to FST students in his company. In addition, Dr. Ao is also a member of the University Assembly of UM who supports the development of his Alma Mater. This year, it is the fifteen anniversary of AAAUM. Dr. Ao said they will continue to move forward and be the bridge between alumni and his Alma Mater, as well as contributing to the development of his Alma Mater.
At the end of the interview, Dr. Ao shared his own experience as an example to encourage all alumni. He said, “We have to leave the ‘ivory tower’ someday to experience the ups and downs in life when living in the outside world. The difficulties and failures are an inevitable part of life. We should learn from failures, to stand up from every fall. As long as you keep your direction and stick to your goals with persistence, perseverance and a determined spirit, you will finally find a way to success. Otherwise, you will never reach your destination.”