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Seattle City (spot)Light: Desmond Chan

Transmission System Planner Desmond Chan has worked at City Light for 27 years. “Time flies,” Desmond exclaimed. “I began as an engineering aide in vegetation management. I did that for a year before taking the Civil Service Exam to become an Electrical Engineering Specialist. After that, I was offered two jobs; I could either be an inspector or a mapper. I chose the mapping route because I knew I would like to further my studies with that work schedule.”

And further his studies he did. Desmond completed his electrical engineering degree at the University of Washington (UW), while working full-time at the utility. Desmond didn’t stop there as he continued his studies at UW, earning a master’s degree.

Originally from Hong Kong, Desmond has lived in the Northwest for 30 years. “I still remember the day I came here,” Desmond shared. “It was December 3, 1988 which was a particularly foggy day in Seattle, “It was so foggy that they re-routed us to San Francisco, which became my first port of entry. My parents were waiting all day at SeaTac for me. I ended up showing up much later—I’ll never forget it.”

Desmond lives on Mercer Island with his wife of nearly 30 years, Fung (a fellow City Light employee). They have two children, Rachel and Austin. In this week’s (spot)Light, Desmond shares what he loves about the utility.

Desmond and Fung at Mount Evans Colorado

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked to explore and fix stuff. I also like electronics, hi fi audio and enjoy working on computers. It’s fun to help my friends with their computers; I see it as a means for socializing. I also like camping with my family. We like to go razor clam digging at Ocean Shores.”

“In Hong Kong, I worked in construction as a Quantity Surveyor. I didn’t like it, so I moved to the United States to pursue another career. Seattle is the first city I stayed in after moving here. It’s my American dream. I got into this field because I was looking for a challenge and electrical engineering fit the bill. I was always good in math and engineering seemed like a logical career path.”

“Being a System planner is a continuous effort; it’s more than just a single project. We have many different tasks. Our system is interconnected throughout the West Coast, so we need to study it continuously. Whatever happens to us also affects our neighbors.”

“I really like the people at City Light. We spend a lot of time at work, more so than what we do at home. Life isn’t about making money; it’s about relationships and enjoying how you spend your time. At City Light, we take care of each other. When my father passed away 20 years ago, my director approved time-off, so my colleagues could be at the service. They all carpooled together and showed up in support of my family. The same thing happened when my mom passed away. Even when I moved from Federal Way to Mercer Island, my colleagues were there. They showed up to help me; they knew how frantic I was. Those moments meant a lot to me. I’m part of a family which makes me feel really good about working here.”