Published on 19 Jul 2021

The tinkerer now building communities

Alumna Vivian Lim is an accomplished entrepreneur who wants to inspire social good. A 2019 Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader and 2020 Generation T Asia honouree, Vivian shares how her NTU education shaped her into the community builder she is today.

By Janis Zhang

Vivian Lim Profile Photo

Meet School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) alumna Ms Vivian Lim (Class of 2013), who is a community builder and co-founder of Women In Asia - a platform that aims to bridge cultural and gender differences in the Asian community by showcasing the different perspectives of Asian women through the stories they tell. Women In Asia also serves as a space for people to come together to share thought-provoking ideas and actionable plans that bring about sustainable change.

As a community builder, Vivian brings together people with different skills in communities that aim to inspire social good. She is the lead curator and license holder at TEDxSingapore, and in 2019, Vivian was selected as one of the 200 changemakers in the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific leaders , where she met former US President Mr Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, at the Gathering Of Rising Leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vivian was also one of 400 people across the region to be honoured in the 2020 Generation T Asia , a list by Tatler Asia that recognises young changemakers and leaders of tomorrow shaping Asia’s future. 

Her years in MAE were spent working on solar cars, robotic arms and orthotic-friendly footwear. Vivian has fond memories of interacting with people with the most creative and imaginative minds, one of whom was her mentor and final year project supervisor Professor David Butler, who introduced her to TEDxNTU.

Alongside Prof Butler, she also met mentors and seniors like Prof Sridhar and Vivek Manoharan, who were crucial in shaping the work she does now. "In all my conversations with them, they sparked new thoughts about the world and new perspectives about the community. That drove me to want to do more for this community I live in," she said.

 Ms Vivian Lim sharing about her work at Women In Asia, TEDxSingapore and TEDxNTU.
 Ms Vivian Lim sharing about her work at Women In Asia, TEDxSingapore and TEDxNTU.

Whenever she hit a roadblock as an engineering student, it was her innate curiosity that spurred her to try new things. "I remember when I was in first year, I wanted to dabble in car designing and signed up to be part of the solar car challenge team. My first task was to submit a chassis design. Even though I did not make it to the team, this kickstarted my journey of learning and experimenting," she said. "Till today, tinkering is still a huge part of me."

Vivian’s training in science and engineering has developed her "sense of wonder and discovery of the unknown", which she has brought into her current work in society. "MAE training was not just about engineering applications and triple integrals, it was also about building curiosities of the mind and problem-solving skills," she said while relating an encounter she had back in NTU where she spent hours in Sim Lim Square trying to find a vendor who would build a prototype that one of her teammates had sketched.

Ms Vivian Lim representing Singapore at Obama Foundation’s first Asia-Pacific Leaders Program in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
Ms Vivian Lim representing Singapore at Obama Foundation’s first Asia-Pacific Leaders Program in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

"An engineering education taught me persistence and tenacity when working on one single problem for nights. Error messages in SolidWorks and C programming trained my ‘inventiveness’ to solve problems."

In her current role as the co-founder of Women In Asia, Vivian’s day-to-day work mostly revolves around civic engagement and community participation. She enjoys meeting amazing people in the community who are committed to creating positive impact in society.

"The conversations that I have when I meet them inspires my work, and keeps me going," she said. "Working alongside volunteers who give selflessly spurs me to do more in my role as a community builder."