A highly regarded engineer and transit expert, Siu Ling Ko has dedicated her career to serving New York City Transit, part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. To prepare for her career, she attained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Technology, now New York University Tandon School of Engineering. She was encouraged to pursue electrical engineering by her teachers at Brooklyn Tech due to her aptitude for mathematics, leading her to apply and attend the highly regarded institution. At the time, she recalls well under 10% of the students were women, and it was not unusual for her to be the only female student in any given class or lab. Despite the lack of diversity in the program, Ms. Ko excelled in her studies and prepared the groundwork for a successful career.
When the opportunity came to work for New York City Transit, Ms. Ko thought it was interesting, but did not picture a tenure of more than 35 years with the organization in her future. She began her professional endeavors as an associate engineering technician, working with subway car equipment within the Department of Subways. Progressing in her abilities and skills, she was later promoted to director of new car quality assurance and, later, to assistant chief of quality assurance in the division of car equipment. She also spent time as an assistant chief mechanical officer, in which she oversaw maintenance, audits of the overhaul shop and new car procurement, all new car contract warranty programs, and technology services that report key statistics on subway car performance, maintenance and repair.
Since 2021, Ms. Ko has excelled as the vice president and chief mechanical officer for the subway car equipment division of the organization. Proud to have achieved recognition as the first woman to serve in this role, she focuses her efforts on the maintenance of more than 7,000 subway cars and work equipment while managing nearly 5,000 employees. She is also in charge of production oversight and the commissioning of approximately 4,000 cars for New York’s subway system.
In recognition of her outstanding body of work, Ms. Ko was named as the Vehicular Technology Engineer of the Year for the New York division of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2015, of which she is a former member. In addition, in 2021, she was nominated and selected as an honoree in Railway Age-Women In Rail, a U.K.-based organization promoting the rail sector as an attractive career path for young people. Ms. Ko attributes her success to hard work and accountability, as well as not being discouraged by anyone.
Looking back on her career journey, Ms. Ko feels proud she can serve as a role model for young female engineers. In the early years of her career, she recalls the number of women in engineering was so scarce, she was one of only two women working in her department, and there had not even been a women’s bathroom. Today, she continues to offer her story and words of advice to young women breaking into engineering though an internal mentorship program part of New York City Transit.
In the next five years, Ms. Ko hopes to re-establish the subway car equipment division, as she notes the agency has not been as functional as they have been in the past due to the lack of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goal is to help recover the agency and push it back to where they were prior. In addition, Ms. Ko plans to ease into a well-deserved retirement and dedicate more time to travel. With her husband, she purchased a recreational vehicle so they can soon begin their cross-country journey. During this time, she also has plans to write an autobiography, where she can also honor the legacy of her late parents.