From Research Engineer to Patent Lawyer
Thet Htar is a patent specialist at Rouse Myanmar, a member of the Rouse Network
Thet Htar isn’t yet qualified as a patent lawyer, but she soon will be – and when she is, she will have fulfilled what she says is currently her greatest ambition. Knowing Thet Htar, once that ambition has been fulfilled, it is likely to be replaced by another one: she is always looking ahead. But despite her busy professional life, and the challenges she sets herself, she is devoted to her family and always careful to ensure that she maintains an appropriate balance between work and family.
Thet Htar grew up in Thanlyin Township, a major port city on the other side of the Bago River from Yangon, and she still lives there with her family. Her childhood was a happy one, even though for nine years her father was away working as an Administrative Officer with UNICEF in Dar es-Salaam in Tanzania. It could have been a difficult time, but Thet Htar says it didn’t seem difficult at all because, even as a child, she understood that he was working for the family. And anyway, they spoke on the phone several times each week and he returned regularly for holidays, so she always felt she was in close contact with him. In 2000, he returned to Yangon permanently to take up a position with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Now he is retired.
At home, her mother was always there, looking after Thet Htar and her younger sister, giving them an appropriate amount of freedom, but at the same time imposing reasonably strict discipline. Her grandparents were there too and Thet Htar has very happy memories of the time she spent with them, particularly during school holidays. Her grandfather was Deputy Factory Manager at the Government Glass Factory in Thanlyin, one of Myanmar’s major glass bottle producers, and her grandmother a nurse there. They played a very important role in Thet Htar’s early life and still do. She is very close to them.
Thet Htar’s interest in Engineering started when she was very young, probably partly because of her father’s influence – he trained as a mathematician – but also as a result of a visit she made with her parents to Yangon Technological University to visit her uncle who was studying engineering there. She was only about seven at the time, but she remembers very clearly thinking how much fun it would be to make and invent things as he was doing. Very soon she began to dream of one day becoming an Engineer and she decided to focus on the relevant subjects at school.
At no stage did her ambition waver and when she matriculated, going on to university to study Chemical Engineering just seemed the natural and obvious thing to do: she enrolled for a Bachelor of Technology course at the Technology University Thanlyin, focusing on applied Chemical Engineering. On graduation, she was qualified to undertake a Bachelor of Engineering course, this time focusing on the theoretical side of Chemical Engineering, and that is what she decided to do. She enjoyed study and did well in both undergraduate courses and when the opportunity arose to continue her studies she was keen to do so. She graduated with a Masters in Chemical Engineering from Yangon Technology University in 2007.
On graduating, she took up a position as a Research Engineer with Myanmar Chemical Engineering Group Co. Ltd, the country’s leading chemical technology company. It was an interesting role and involved a year’s training in Singapore, which gave Thet Htar the opportunity to experience another culture at first hand. In the course of preparing her Master’s thesis, however, she had become interested in patents and was keen to expand her horizons, so when her Supervisor told her about an opportunity to work in the IP department of the Integrated Refinery Petrochemical Complex Public Company Ltd (IRPC) in Thailand, she decided to apply.
Her application was successful and from 2011 to 2014 she worked for IRPC in Rayong, a city on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand and a centre for the chemical and auto industries. She was employed there as an Intellectual Property Officer to assist researchers with patent filing, both within Thailand and overseas. It was a very steep learning curve, but she found the work fascinating and gradually began to think of expanding her knowledge and becoming a Patent Lawyer. After a few years, she was also beginning to think of returning home so when, in 2014, she read a news item about Rouse opening a branch office in Yangon, it seemed the perfect opportunity: and so it proved to be. She joined Rouse later that year and returned to live with her family in Thanlyin Township.
From Thanlyin Township it is about 21 km to the office in Yangon, and by it car takes Thet Htar at least one and a half hours, sometimes more, crossing first the long Thanlyin-Yangon bridge over the Bago river, and then, closer to the city, the Thakata bridge. Still, she is happy to be living in Thanlyin – Yangon is a wonderful city for shopping, entertainment, and eating different varieties of food, but it is densely populated and these days, as in most big cities, there is heavy traffic. Thanlyin is much more peaceful and appealing in many ways. It also has a famous pagoda, the Kyaik Kauk Pagoda, which has an imposing golden stupa similar to that of the Shwe Dagon pagoda in Yangon.
Now that she is studying for her Law degree, life is particularly busy for Thet Htar and evenings and weekends are mostly spent either studying or spending time with her family. She loves travelling, however, and whenever she can during holidays likes to visit different places, either within Myanmar or abroad. She will certainly be doing more of that in the future, but for now, her main focus is on qualifying as a Patent Lawyer.