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A Conversation with Kevin Su About Learning from Failures and Creating A Successful Career

Kevin Su is a skilled mechanical engineer and designer located in Vancouver, British Columbia. With 8 years if technical and project experience focused in the building systems sector, Kevin brings an extensive amount of knowledge from the perspective of an engineer. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Applied Science […]

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Kevin Su
Kevin Su

Kevin Su is a skilled mechanical engineer and designer located in Vancouver, British Columbia. With 8 years if technical and project experience focused in the building systems sector, Kevin brings an extensive amount of knowledge from the perspective of an engineer. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Physics and then moved on the receive a diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Architectural and Building Technology.

Kevin has held positions as a mechanical engineer/product designer and project engineer and numerous different companies.  In January of 2019 Kevin was the Project Engineer & Project Manager of tenant improvement renovations from a warehouse space to a GMP compliant distribution center. In May of 2019, he was the Project Engineer & Project Manager of renovations to transform an office space to a GMP compliant lab, with housing equipment for multiple lab groups and in February of 2020 he was the Project Engineer of a state-of-the-art 40,000 square foot warehouse development that came complete with GMP qualified temperature and environmental controlled rooms. Kevin has a Simplilearn PMP certification and is skilled with AutoCAD, ANSYS, Inventor, and Solidworks.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

Starting out as a mechanical engineer from way back, I was only focused on one small part of the project, one component, and then when I got promoted to be a team leader, I have been focused more on the entire project.  That helped me to take a step back and view things more as a whole, whereas before I was focused on details and checking over small things.  Being more accepting of smaller defects would actually help with the overall outcome of the entire build. 

That also helps me in my personal life where I’m no longer focusing on these small issues.  I’m thinking more about whether or not I have a misfortune now, is that going to help me later on to be happy?  I am more interested in the bigger picture than getting stuck on smaller issues. 

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

When I am unfocused, I veer off from the path.  I don’t think it helps if you’re unfocused to try and force yourself back into a task.  You’re unfocused for a reason.  Your mind is unfocused for a reason.  You might as well follow that and maybe go exercise or do something completely different that what you were doing.  You can come back later on with fresh eyes.  It’s always better to come back with fresh eyes than to try to force yourself to do the same thing over and over again. 

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

The advice I would give is don’t be afraid to accept the no’s.  When you come out of university and are looking for a job, you’re going to get a lot of people saying no because others are more qualified than you, they have more experience than you.  It’s bound to happen but take that as more of an experience and move onto the next.  There are lots of positions to apply for.  You’re going to get that one yes and that one yes is going to be far more than all the no’s. 

Growing up, even is school and everything, people are going to always talk about successes and not the failures.  Don’t focus on being successful.  I think that’s what causes people to fail in the first place.  Rather than focusing on being successful, you should just focus on the path that you’re going to take and every challenge that you’re going to face along the way.  Take the steps to get there instead of focusing on whether or not you are a success. 

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

I am a techie.  I always follow the latest tech trends.  I’m very interested in any advancements in technology, so that’s virtual reality, augmented reality, and motion capture systems.  Those are things that really inspire me, particularly these are areas in which I would like to design things. 

My dream as in engineer is to have one product that I can see people using as I’m walking down the street, so something that people will use all the time on a day-to-day basis.  Like the accomplishments of Steve Jobs, now you see iPhones everywhere.  That is something I would like to experience at some point in life. 

With or without naming names, who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

My father has been a pretty big influence in my life, the main influence.  He immigrated from China to Canada in his early 20s with very little education and very little money.  I saw how he struggled with raising his three kids and trying to provide us with a stable life.  He put us through school, and he gave us a good future.  That inspires me, and I want to do the same when I have kids as well. 

At one point, my father encouraged me to go into architecture.  He was more creative.  He was a sculptor, and he worked with his hands a lot.  He made little animal sculptures of jade and soapstone.  He had encouraged me to work more with my hands and to be creative, so it seemed that architecture might be a better fit for me.  It was something I wanted to consider.  I did give that a try at one point, but it was a hard adjustment after I hard learned the technical skills from studying engineering, so I decided to continue to pursue engineering opportunities. 

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned (can be personal or business related)? 

You are going to fail a lot.  That is one thing I’ve learned.  But every failure is another lesson learned for what to do the next time.  Eventually you are going to get something that has benefits.  It may not be the one big thing you are looking for, but it will be something that you can use to propel yourself to the next one.  Accept every failure as a steppingstone.  There is no point in looking back after one failure and moping about because of it.  You’re not going to move ahead in business or life if that way.   

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

People are always focused on becoming rich at the end.  A lot of people define success as being a billionaire or being famous.  Success in determined by how you feel at the end and whether or not you have your family relationships.  Whether or not you have friend and family to spend time with, seeing them everyday and seeing that they’re happy, I think that’s a greater success that having money or status. 

How do you stay motivated?

Before I mentioned that you should focus on your path, rather than success, but I do have some short-term end goals that I would like to see fulfilled.  It helps me to stay on my path and that’s how I stay motivated.  I have goals of having a house and having a family.  As long as I can keep those people happy and see them everyday, that’s something that motivates me.  I want them to be proud of me for what I do. 

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

With my interest in technology, I would like to have a product that many ordinary people on the streets would be using, something commonly used every day.  I would like it to be something that everyone would want to have.  An idea I had in university was long range wireless energy device, basically giving people free energy without the need of wires, like wherever you are.  You can walk down the street and your devices would be charging.  I would like to be able to develop a product that so you could actually pass energy even long distances and without needing a power grid.  Some friends of mine in university, we worked on the idea together.  It’s always remained in the back of my mind. 

In terms of family, like my dad, he came here and worked hard to put his family first and gave us a good life.  I would like to have that for my kids as well.  I would like to pass down what I’ve learned.  I would like to have a small legacy for my family. 

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