Dr Shengke Zhi, Director of Strategy & Development
Shengke grew up in one of the largest industrial cities in China. Both of his parents were engineers and he was always curious to know what was going on inside his father's workshops. Fast forward a few years and Shengke has combined these foundations of his early life in his career in the energy and built environment sector where he is working to achieve the carbon neutral target by 2050 and solve the climate crisis for future generations.
Job title: Director of Strategy and Development
Company employed by: Wood
When you were a child, what did you dream you’d be when you grew up?
As a child in the 1980's, 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 played 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.
What is the biggest impact your work will or could have in the future?
I am now a practitioner in the Energy and Built Environment markets with the responsibility of applying low carbon technologies to achieve the carbon neutral target by 2050. It is about energy transition, digitisation and sustainable urbanisation.
What excites you most about STEM?
Life is full of mysteries. When I understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics, I feel I have a key to open a door so that I can start my adventure.
What do you love about your job? What would you change?
I love my job where I can utilise the knowledge I learnt during my undergraduate and PhD studies to solve problems for our society, particularly to solve the climate crisis.
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
I have been deeply involved in the new nuclear build programme in the UK in the last decade and am now helping Wood to lead the energy transition, digitisation and sustainable urbanisation in the Energy and Built Environment markets globally.
What does a typical day at work involve?
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 between the UK and Chinese supply chains through sourcing and developing crucial expertise and capacity building.
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?
The United Kingdom plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. The country has embarked on a new nuclear reactor build programme for the first time since the 1990's 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.
Did you have any role models when you were younger? What inspired you to do the job you’re doing now?
It was Michael Jordan – NBA star. He always stood out for me when his team was facing challenges and desperately needed help. He was bold and confident, and he gave hopes to the match, to his team and to his fans in extreme conditions.
Any influential toys during childhood?
Bicycle – this may not be a typical toy for others, but I loved it then and still do today! I enjoy cycling and have completed a number of cycling challenges and raised more than £20,000 for charities including SOS Children 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.
Your favourite subjects at school?
My favourite subject was Strategic Management which was part of my MBA study in Manchester. It really burnt my brain but it was fascinating.
I hold an Engineering degree from Liaoning University in China; a PhD in mechanical engineering from The University of Manchester; and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Alliance Manchester Business School in the UK.
In 2018 I became the first Chinese person to be elected as a fellow of the Nuclear Institute. I was then elected as a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Your reason for choosing this career?
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 am well placed to participate and pass on the learning from its experience and I want to be a subject matter expert.
Tell me about your career path to date?
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 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). In the last 3 years, I have been a framework manager of a multi-million pounds contract providing technical support to a nuclear reactor vendor who will deploy their reactor technology in South East of England.
Currently, I am the Director of Strategy and Development for Wood in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. My role is to continuously grow Wood’s business in the East Hemisphere and to achieve medium and long-term objectives by providing strategic direction and insights.
If you could have any job what would it be? How does it differ from what you’re doing?
I won’t change and will stay in the Energy Sector and solve the climate crisis for future generations.
Your advice to a young person considering a career in STEM?
I would encourage young people to work with a professional body, such as the IET, IMechE and ICE etc, who can help them broadly with their career plans, mentoring schemes and professional registration that is well recognised in STEM related sectors, particularly in the energy sector. Based on my own experience, I found it very useful.