Sitha Chhum b

Focal Point: Sitha Chhum, PE, Electrical Engineer

Meet Sitha Chhum, an electrical engineer at Wold who is dedicated to delivering innovative engineering solutions to commercial, institutional, industrial, senior living and healthcare facilities. With project experience in planning and designing lighting, power and low voltage systems, Sitha is a sustainability champion, actively advocating for more sustainable strategies across projects.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where he developed a passion for transforming industrial spaces. Following graduation, Sitha and his family decided to stay in Minnesota, where he began his career in engineering, eventually joining the Wold team in 2014.

How did you first become interested in the architecture and engineering industry?

When I was 10 years old, I got an electronics kit that allowed me to make simple circuits, like a flashlight and radio. I thought it was magic, and I’ve been interested in engineering ever since. It wasn’t until I started exploring career options that I discovered the importance of electrical engineering in architecture. I realized I could still do electrical design but on a much larger scale, versus tiny microchips. To me, walking through a building I designed as an electrical engineer was much more fulfilling than creating a new antenna for cell phones.

If you weren't an engineer, what would you be doing?

The satisfaction I get from watching the pieces of projects come together makes me think I could be happy working in any number of fields, but I especially love architecture. I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands, using my skills to build something from scratch and watching my ideas form into tangible, lasting creations. One thing that I personally enjoy at Wold is the opportunity to see challenges through to their conclusion. In high school, I spent hours designing programming games on my TI calculator and most recently, I made a bench by hand for my dining room.

IMG 20191010 143319

How does your personal experience influence the planning and design of healthcare environments?
Growing up in a diverse community made me more aware of people’s different values and beliefs and the importance of respecting those differences. I actively try to implement the same mindset when designing healthcare, education or government facilities. The overall functionality, experience and well-being of those that inhabit the space is always my priority. These spaces should make everyone feel safe and comfortable, regardless of what brought them there.

20230122 122931
Sitha and family on a recent visit to Vietnam

What advice do you have for new professionals in the industry?
The architecture industry is a team sport. The field is continuously changing with updated codes and new technology, which requires a constant pulse on what’s new. Knowing who to ask when the code stumps you or making time to see new equipment in action to gain a better understanding of how it works often requires help from others.

What’s something unique to Wold that you love?

Wold’s emphasis on mentoring means a lot to me as someone who received a lot of support from others. Taking the time to help young people grow and continuously push them to surpass their limits is an amazing process to be a part of. Participating in our EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Committee helps us organize activities that not only help our staff give back but also expose young students to potential careers in our field. One of my favorite events is the EX.I.T.E. Camp for the Pacer Center, where we engage in architectural and engineering activities with middle school girls with disabilities.

20230811 140252
Sitha at a recent EX.I.T.E. Camp event

More About Sitha
My family immigrated to Minnesota when I was little, and I grew up in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul. I really value my time living there as it provided me an opportunity to see the lives of both newly arrived immigrants like us and those from diverse cultures working in the nearby affluent area of Summit Ave. I met my wife at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. We now have two kids whose dislike for taking photos has made getting a quality family portrait a life goal for me. Until then, a caricature of the four of us proudly hangs in our home as a placeholder.

20240121 120631
Recent cartoon caricature of the Chhum family

What type of music is on your workplace playlist?
I don’t listen to music while working unless I’m doing simple tasks like updating details. I easily become distracted and start jamming to the music instead. I like all kinds of genres depending on my mood but can’t resist a good bass line with a falsetto hook. Music is a great way to relax, and I always enjoy finding something new to listen to on my own and share with my family and friends.

What's a fun fact about yourself that many people may not know?

My wife hasn’t been back to Vietnam since she immigrated here as a child. For New Year’s last year, we finally decided to go back to see the country and visit relatives. When her family in the States found out, they all wanted to join in! Our trip ended up being a large family reunion trip that spanned a few cities, including my wife’s old hometown. It was amazing to meet distant relatives and handing out the traditional lucky money for New Year’s was wild!

What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

My advice to my 21-year-old self would be to not be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You will never know what you’re capable of unless you’re willing to fail.

To learn more about Sitha Chhum, his experience and his insights, visit here. Our Focal Point series provides a behind-the-scenes look at the talented team members that bring our work to life.

More Insights