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A Soaring Global Career At CAAS

CAAS_kwanQuah Ming Ren helps to ensure that flying gets safer and more comfortable.

Why did you choose the CAAS ­Scholarship?
Deciding what scholarship to take up can be pretty daunting. Coming out of JC without a clear idea on the career path to take, the decision-making process was a challenge. Thus, when I was looking for a scholarship, some of the essential questions I asked myself were: What kind of career am I looking for? What future prospects can I look forward to? Are my interests aligned with the job scope offered in the organisation? Answering these questions led me to choose an organisation which would ensure that I have a fulfilling and enriching career. Guided by my keen interest in the aviation industry and the attractiveness of the public sector, I set out to look for a scholarship with these in mind.

With its role in shaping Singapore’s ­aviation landscape, the CAAS Undergraduate Scholarship easily stood out from other scholarships. A career with CAAS offers a wide array of possibilities. Aviation is global business and with CAAS being the leader in international aviation, a career here would naturally involve international work. There is a wide variety of job functions within CAAS, with roles like policy-making, international relations, industry development as well as engineering-related functions where officers can choose what suits them best.

What are the career prospects for the CAAS Scholar?

The diversity of career prospects for a CAAS scholar is what really sets it apart from other scholarships. Besides rotations to different divisions in CAAS, officers are also seconded to the Ministry of Transport or other statutory boards within the ministry to widen their understanding of the transport landscape in Singapore. CAAS also provides numerous opportunities for its staff to contribute on the global stage; in various regional or international conferences, or even as a Singapore representative in the International Civil Aviation Organisation at Montreal. Having a wide range of both local and international opportunities provides CAAS scholars with a great amount of flexibility in terms of career progression and personal development.

What do you think are your strengths that land you the scholarship?
I have always had a keen interest and passion in aviation. My short stint in the ­Republic of Singapore Air Force as a military pilot trainee may have provided me with a headstart in terms of aviation knowledge and enabled me to appreciate the kind of work that CAAS does. The aviation industry contributes six percent to Singapore’s GDP, and joining CAAS will let me make a ­significant contribution to the nation. My choice to study Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College, London, also helped me to secure the scholarship.

Can you describe your job as an ­Airworthiness Engineer?
CAAS regulates the aviation industry in Singapore, and my division, Airworthiness and Flight Operations (AFO), is responsible for maintaining safety oversight on airlines, Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) organisations, manufacturers and designers of aeronautical products. The Division conducts regular audits and inspections to ensure that the aviation organisations comply with the safety regulations and uphold the highest safety standards. As a junior officer, my training starts from the most basic but important function like performing inspections and audits for safety compliance of organisations, which will prepare me for higher level roles such as issuing certifications for modifications and repairs to aircraft, as well as the design and manufacture of aviation-related products such as aircraft seats and galley carts. I would say that my job is very dynamic; one that allows me to learn and gain new knowledge all the time.

Occasionally, I would also have to attend conferences and meetings with foreign aviation specialists, other civil aviation authorities as well as those in the local aviation industry. Such meetings enable me to understand the current challenges faced by the industry and stakeholders, which eventually aids in my policy development work.

How is the culture and working environment in your organisation?
Many of my colleagues joined CAAS in their mid-careers, so they bring with them many years of aviation industry experience. I’m impressed with their deep technical knowledge and also their humility and unconditional enthusiasm to share their knowledge with me. As a fresh graduate, it is a steep, yet mentally stimulating, learning curve, but having colleagues like them helps me get up to speed with the issues and work that CAAS is involved in together with the aviation industry. The management culture in my division is open and consultative which provides the best learning ground for juniors, as senior managers and supervisors are always available for consultation. I feel that the work environment plays a big part in terms of personal and professional development, something that CAAS has shaped very well for its staff.

How have you been able to use what you learned in university for your job?
Having a degree in Aeronautical Engineering has enabled me to appreciate and understand engineering processes which the aviation industry employs. Besides the technical areas, the soft skills, particularly communication skills, are especially useful when interacting with individuals from various backgrounds and culture. The ability to work effectively and harmoniously with colleagues is demonstrated in the results that we produce as a team. Dealing with industry players can be challenging at times, but displaying the right attitude and using the correct approach goes a long way in establishing and maintaining a good working relationship between us as the regulator and the organisations being regulated.

What are some of CAAS’ expectations of you?
Passion, diligence and good interpersonal skills are what I believe to be important qualities to have in order to excel in CAAS. Passion and diligence motivate us to be inquisitive and never stop learning in the ever-changing world of aviation. Because CAAS frequently deals with other international bodies, being able to relate to our foreign counterparts and present ourselves in a confident disposition is important.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Being able to witness the full impact of my work on the industry is what really motivates me. To see the latest wing tip modifications on the Airbus A320 aircraft and the latest galley carts for cabin crew’s in-flight use – these projects gave me an immense sense of satisfaction because I was part of the approval process for the implementation of these modifications and manufactured products.

The opportunity to attend overseas conferences and courses also gives me the international exposure and experience that I look for in a job. Thus, this complementary balance of desk-bound and on-the-ground work is what truly sets this job apart from the rest.

Can you tell us about your recreational activities?
I am a very active person and love to do sports. As a CAAS staff, we are members of the Changi Airport Recreation Club, which have sports facilities such as gym and indoor sports hall. Fortunately, the club is near by working place so I usually visit the gym after work. Occasionally, I also participate in some of the activities organised by the club, which includes weekly badminton and monthly floorball sessions. By exercising after office hours during weekdays, I essentially put away personal time for myself during the weekends to pursue other interests like reading and water sports.

QUAH MING REN
CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship
Age: 25
Attained: MEng (Aeronautical ­Engineering) with First Class Hons from Imperial College, London
Now: Deputy Manager ­(Airworthiness Engineering)
From: Raffles Institution