David on Mount Kinabalu


David Lee, Automation Engineer

Position at SIGMADESIGN: Automation Engineer

Time at SIGMADESIGN: 1.5 years


I grew up in a fishing village in Malaysia. This is where I lived until I was about 18 years old. I took my education very seriously and studied very hard. When I was about ten years old, I began working after school, helping my parents in their grocery, produce, and bake shops. Working in these shops, I learned valuable lessons that contributed to my work ethic. The work was labor intensive. We had to carry all of our products to and from the shop and work for long hours. When I started working long hours as an engineer, it actually felt easier than the work I had done as a kid twenty years earlier.

Another aspect of growing up in a fishing village was that we paid respect to everyone. It was such a small village that we did not have many customers. If you were not respectful, you would lose customers and thus hurt your business. You had to treat everyone well. I grew to discover what the customer needed and direct them to the best product. From a young age, my parents taught me customer service and this still guides my thinking as an engineer today. Growing up, I sometimes had a negative attitude about work, but I learned the result of this type of thinking, and became more positive in my approach to hard work.

David in his hometown

How did you become interested in Electrical/Automation Engineering?

Curiosity. I always enjoyed discovering how things worked. I would take items like a hair dryer, remote control, cars and open them up to see how they worked. Sometimes I put them back together successfully, sometimes I did not. Uncovering the insides of products sparked my interest in electrical engineering.

What did you study?

I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the North Borneo University College in Malaysia. In a Microcontroller class, I became very interested in programming and making things out of a small IC chip. This led me to programming all types of things including controllers and robots. My university studies started with a very interesting project. We integrated electronics onto a glove, which allowed hand gestures to be displayed on an LCD screen. This project and others built my interest in using Electrical Engineering to create fascinating products.

David’s university project


How did you find SIGMADESIGN?

I discovered SIGMADESIGN by doing internet job searches. When I read the job description, it sounded very interesting to me. As I looked at the website, I noticed that people had been with the company for quite a long time. SIGMADESIGN appeared to have a good company culture and it seemed like people enjoyed working there. I have now been hear almost a year and a half. The company is very flexible but very result-driven. I really enjoy working here!

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

Since I was a child, I have enjoyed solving problems. I love working as an automation engineer using my mind and my hands to make remarkable products and machines that solve problems. I get to work with a variety of customers who all have their unique set of challenges that need to be solved. Being an automation engineer greatly exercises my mental capacity as I am faced with the task of producing a solution for clients. And of course at the end of the day, after resolving challenges, engineering and designing a solution gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.

What do you enjoy most about work at SIGMADESIGN?

At SIGMADESIGN, the engineers are involved in all stages of a project – from sales, to design and build, to buy-off. We are also involved with a wide variety of industries so we get to explore a wide variety of technologies and products. We recently built a mostly-automated gluing system for a wood flooring company. Because we were successful in the design and installation, this machine is seen by representatives of the customer’s various locations. With our thorough engineering at every stage of the process, the customer is able to provide very positive feedback and we are able to sell the same system to more factories. This is what we enjoy. We design a great machine for our customer, and they come back to us. We support the product and they continue to come back to us and even tell others about us. I enjoy working in an environment like this.

What are your favorite projects or project types?

My favorite projects are Process or Test Automation Projects. These are projects where we take a task that is currently being performed very repetitively by a human and we fully automate that task. Here in Singapore, there is a strong effort to reduce manual labor because labor costs have increased so much. To walk onto a production line and see your robot on a station doing every task automatically gives me a feeling of great achievement.

The challenge with an automation project is that the design work is all being done for the first time. If it was not the first time, the machine would already be available. So when clients come to us, they are usually looking for something very unique and precise. It is hard to meet their requirements.

Automation projects are very involved from the initial concept architecture all the way through the site acceptance test. There are many design reviews and many design changes before we can even begin building a machine. Once built, we test and code the robot, controller and HMI keeping the customer’s requirements at top of mind. Automation is difficult yet very satisfying which is why it my favorite project type.


Do the SIGMADESIGN core values influence your work?

Of course. The Core Values are always in my mind. The ones that stand out the most to me are:

  1. Helping Clients and Each Other. A happy customer will return and will tell their friends about you. I always try to work in such a way that I am offering the best solutions to our customers to earn their trust.
  2. Respect Each Other. Knowing your colleagues respect you is something that contributes to this company culture greatly.
  3. Taking Time to Laugh. Everyone here is so understanding and kind. We are like friends and family in a small office. We actually try to go to lunch together every day.

What do you value at work?

I value working in a place that keeps a positive perspective and where your coworkers are always ready for a challenge.

If an issue arises, you can see it one of two ways – positively or negatively. At SIGMADESIGN, we keep a positive mindset. If we make a mistake, we do not blame each other. Instead, we ask why we made the mistake. We ask ourselves how to avoid that same mistake next time. Then we ask ourselves how we can best resolve the mistake. The result? We happily work as a team to solve our problems. This positive attitude and teamwork make it possible for us to willingly take on challenging projects. Sometimes this means staying up until midnight working on the project. But we stay positive and view it as a good experience. Then, the next time we are presented with a similar challenge, we already have the experience and have found a solution to deal with that type of issue. This helps us grow as a team and in our capabilities.

Clients come to us because they have a challenge that they are cannot resolve. The very nature of our work is solving problems. As solution providers we have to be willing to take the difficult projects. The positive attitude and willingness to take on challenging tasks are very valuable at SIGMADESIGN.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?

I enjoy hiking and exploring new places. My work as an engineer has given me the opportunity to visit many countries and meet nice people. I have visited Romania, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, USA, Japan and many Asian countries for business. When I travel for work, I take the weekend to explore and spend time with people from various cultures.

David on Mount Kinabalu