Thursday, 23 August 2012

Riding the hi-tech waves

Penangite to return home soon as R&D director after 37 years abroad


GEORGE TOWN: A small electric fan and transistor radio were the only ‘luxury items’ his family possessed, but today, US-based Yong Kit Chin is a high-tech success story.

The 56-year-old National Instruments (NI) R&D director recalled that back then, his father owned a small shoe store in George Town.

The business was barely enough to feed the family and pay the workers’ wages.

“On occasions, when my father couldn’t sell a single pair of shoes and he had very little cash for groceries, we’d have only vegetarian meals,” he said.

Yong said the family didn’t own a car or a telephone and they had their first refrigerator and television set when he was 17.

“Hence, my siblings and I were brought up to be thrifty and we vowed to work hard to improve our lot.

“We couldn’t afford tuition classes, so we learned to be independent and to work harder than other kids,” he said.

When he was about 10, Yong became very interested in technology.

“Later, I became fascinated by electricity and would dismantle and re-assemble the rice cooker, electric iron and radio,” he said in an e-mail interview.

He remembered being “so thrilled” when his uncle gave him a RM5 reward for repairing a transistor radio’s corroded battery terminal.

The former Chung Ling High School boy did well in his school exams and was among the state’s top MCE achievers invited by then Chief Minister, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, to a tea reception at his official residence to celebrate the achievement.

He left the country in the mid-70s after securing a scholarship from Columbia University in New York and has been living overseas for 37 years.

“It was a totally new experience as I moved from the lovely and peaceful Penang island to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan,” he said.

Upon graduating with Master and Bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering, he worked as a Hewlett-Packard production engineer in Singapore.

After over three decades of technical, business and managerial experience in the high-tech industries abroad, Yong is coming home.

He joined NI, a pioneer in modular and software-based instrumentation in Austin, last year.

Yong will return to his home state by the end of September as R&D director at NI’s facility here.

“I am very excited as I finally have the opportunity to work and live in Penang since I left for studies in the United States.

“I am willing to be a mentor to young engineers in Malaysia and share my experiences with them,” he added.

Yong said the thing he missed most about Malaysia was Penang’s delicious hawker food.

“The experience of savouring a plate of freshly prepared ‘char koay teow and sipping a cup of ‘teh tarik’ while chatting with friends is just priceless,” he added.

By CHRISTINA CHIN sgchris@thestar.com.my  

Related post:
National Instruments to set up its largest R&D facility outside US in Penang
 Supporting Engineering and Science Education Worldwide

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