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Leadership recall interview with Ir. Den Low

This Leadership Recall Interview was conducted with Ir Den Low, aged 47, who is a Professional Engineer with a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Malaya. He founded his first company at the age of 30 and today he is the Executive Director of Toptrans Group of Companies with over 20 years experience in the designing and building of clean environment facilities for the industries of semiconductor, electronic and electrical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology, hospitals and health-care, food and research and development (R&D) laboratories under brand the name of IAQ and ENEFCO. His Group also manufactures and trades a wide variety of clean environment products and equipment under the brand name of MAYAIR and FLEXCON.

Ir. Den Low has contributed his time in various local and international professional organizations such as The Institution of Engineers, Malaysia and ASHRAE. He is the Past President of ASHRAE Malaysia Chapter. He is now a correspondence member of ASHRAE Technical Committee TC 9.11 which addresses Clean Space in ASHRAE Handbook. Ir. Den Low is also serving ASHRAE Region XIII as Regional Historian and was past Regional Vice Chair in Research Promotion.

1. How did you become an engineer? Was it your childhood ambition?
Ir. Den Low: To become an engineer was not my childhood ambition. When I was young, I stayed in a house nearby the airport and everyday as I looked at those aeroplanes flying in the sky, I envisioned myself becoming a pilot so that I can fly aeroplanes freely.

After I finished my Form Sixth education, I realized I am not qualified due to my height and short-sightedness.

Seeing my late father being a handy man and he always demonstrated his skills in any repair jobs at home, had inspired me to take up a related engineering course. I decided then to enrol in Mechanical Engineering and became an engineer.

2. Tell us briefly about your career as an engineer.
Ir. Den Low: After I graduated in 1989, there were many job opportunities available for mechanical engineers. I worked in a firm as an Assistant Project Engineer for 9 months and then I discovered my interest in meeting people and my strength as a solution provider. I started to look up for a job in Sales and Application Engineer and I was immediately being offered by a reputable engineering sales and services company.
With the opportunity provided to become familiar in clean controlled environment, I gained my experiences in areas of temperature control, humidity, air-flow, air pressurisation, sub- micron particulate contamination, micro-organism contamination, light density, noise, anti-vibration etc.
I was also encouraged due to meeting successful senior engineers, like MASHRAE’s past presidents and IEM Building Services Technical Division Committee members as well as being inspired by my former employers.
After 5 years of employment and I was at the age of 30, I was given a business proposal to venture into clean controlled environment engineering. After much support from my dear wife and few close buddies, I started my own engineering company. Those days were tough and challenging due to our limited resources. However, I persevered with great determination to carve my career path into higher level of excellence and to remain on the cutting edge of my profession. Today, our company is well established with track records, credentials and networks.

3. When did you become an ASHRAE member and when did you become active in the local Chapter and the Region XIII? What were some of the main events that you’ve contributed?
Ir. Den Low: I joined ASHRAE in 1991 and since then I have been supporting local chapter. In 1998 I was invited to be a committee member and was involved in Region XIII activities. Due to my passion for students and being an alumnus of University of Malaya, I would say the most significant event was setting up University of Malaya Student Branch together with Past Presidents and member namely Chea Sui Keong, Ir. Ng Yong Kong, Martin Hen, Ir. Khew Swee Lian and and Ir. Liew Huey Chyan. Subsequently, we have added University of Kuala Lumpur and University Tunku Abdul Rahman Student Branches. Other major events were ASHRAE IAQ Conference 2010 and Chapters’ Regional Conferences (CRC) in Kuala Lumpur held in 2000 and 2006 respectively.

4. What do you think how ASHRAE can contribute to society especially with issues like energy efficiency, indoor air quality and global warming?
Ir. Den Low: ASHRAE since its formation, has been actively involved and played a prominent lead role in global engineering society. ASHRAE has been setting up many standards and guidelines with the effort and unselfishness spirit from many ASHRAE volunteers for the betterment for our future generation. Standards such as 90.1, 90.2 is ventilation and 189.1 is for Energy Efficient Design for Building, Standard 62 for Indoor Air Quality and many other standards combine to contribute to address global warming issue.
In order to continue further developments and to refine the ASHRAE guidelines and standards and to keep pace with the ever-changing demands of global communities and technologies, ASHRAE’s strategic plan is maintaining its membership size and continue to wow and attract young engineers including undergraduates.

5. Green buildings and green technology are current topics of interest. How can Malaysia improve in these areas?
Ir. Den Low: With so many Green “item” happenings in our daily engineering life, I have full confidence that Malaysia is in the right path to improve in these areas.
After all, we have our very own MASHRAE members involved in drafting and implementing the country’s first Green Building rating tool – Green Building Index (GBI) and have our MASHRAE’s representatives participating in most of the technical committees and working groups related to this subject in the country. They are working together with government agencies and other professional bodies to drive Malaysia towards better green and sustainable environment.

6. Are you proud of being an engineer? Describe how ASHRAE has enhanced your career.
Ir. Den Low: Certainly I am proud to be an engineer, applying what I have learned with passion and enthusiasm. I adopt always a positive mindset and attitude, passing on my knowledge and expertise, especially to the young engineers. As an engineer, I believe in what I do and do it wholeheartedly.
ASHRAE has provided plenty of opportunities for me especially in the area of networking both local and international. In fact many of my current business partners and associates were formed through ASHRAE networking. It has helped me to build connections that provide information, ideas, resource support and intelligence both locally and overseas.

7. What is your advice for young engineers?
Ir. Den Low: My advice is to love what you do and follow your heart in truth and righteousness. Strive for excellence and cultivate good relationship with your customers, suppliers and team members. Be a blessing for others.

8. Finally, what advice can you give to the present and future BOGs of MASHRAE?
Ir. Den Low: MASHRAE has been growing from strength to strength by attaining goals, year after year. It is always my concern on what do the general members benefit from local chapter other than technical and engineering inputs. Perhaps it is time to woo more volunteers into our team with fresh ideas, energy and strength. There are ample potentials we can tap into younger generation in terms of their latest technology knowledge, skills, creativities and enthusiasm. With the combined experiences of present and future BOGs of MASHRAE, we hope to bring the society into greater competency in serving the industry.