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CAG – Soar With The CAG Scholarship

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Samantha Yuan brings you behind the scene to the success of the Changi Airport.

What’s unique about this scholarship that you have chosen? Why did you choose this scholarship?
A scholarship with Changi Airport Group (CAG) leads to a career in which you have the extraordinary opportunity to manage the world’s most awarded airport. Like me, I believe that many ­Singaporeans take pride in our airport. Given the wide range of job functions within CAG (eg. operations, business development, engineering, retail management, safety and security management, and corporate roles), the scholarship allows scholars the flexibility to pursue their interests without having to commit to a specific field before they commence their studies.
I have had a great passion for the ­aviation industry since young, and was one of  those students who would come to the airport for intensive studying sessions when preparing for my examinations. This personal interest, together with the attractive opportunities for career exposure and advancement, definitely drove me to apply for the CAG Scholarship.

Were you not already in SMU when you took the scholarship?
I first started as an intern at CAG ­during my third year of study at Singapore ­Management University and was awarded the mid-term scholarship which sponsored the final year of my tertiary ­education. Apart from the interview ­process, my ­internship mentor’s feedback and the ­project ­deliverables were also considered as part of the selection for scholars. In ­addition, I suppose the ­genuine desire to ­contribute to maintaining Changi Airport’s stature must have helped to some extent.

Describe the nature of your work at the airport.
I’m currently part of the Airside ­Concessions Division which manages the retail, F&B and service outlets in the restricted transit area of the airport. The dynamic nature of my work means that more often than not, my day does not exactly pan out the way it was planned in the morning. Some time will be spent away from the desk to attend team meetings, discussions with tenants, as well as walking the ground to ensure that the shop outlets under my care are operating smoothly and are delivering a high level of service to our passengers. The rest of the time is typically dedicated to managing projects and ­carrying out analytical work, such as developing initiatives to drive sales and price monitoring.

Can you recall your first impressions working in this place? How do you find the working culture in your division?  
When I first joined CAG in 2009, I was pleasantly surprised by how young the team was! But it was a very driven and ­energetic team. CAG adopts a relatively flat organisational structure, where there are ample opportunities to interact with the senior management team on a ­regular basis through various forums. Today, I ­continue to enjoy and treasure the ­learning at each meeting, and the discussions with senior managers where thoughts and ­considerations behind the company’s ­decisions are generously shared.

Describe your ideal work culture and how far has this route brought you closer to it?
My ideal work culture encompasses open communication and the ability for employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This being my first job, there was a steep learning curve in the beginning and it took me some time to develop a working style and pace that I am comfortable with. I have also found time to resume Japanese classes after a two-year hiatus as well as to learn cooking from my mother every weekend.

What are the the challenges of your work and how do you cope with them?
As a student, I’ve always felt responsible only to myself and my parents. Stepping into the corporate world entails protecting the company’s interests, understanding our partners’ concerns, and being accountable for my actions and decisions. One of the key challenges I face is to be ­responsible for my staff’s career development and ­success. The opportunity to ­develop people ­management skills at such an early stage of my career is really valuable. I’m still learning to be an effective manager where success is not about me but  about my team.

Have you been able to use what you learned for your job?
SMU’s focus on project work has helped hone my inter-personal skills, which comes in useful during my involvement in ­cross-functional projects such as the ­Terminal 1 Upgrading Project. However, the greatest learning came from on-the-job experience – at the end of the day, what truly matters is an open mind and humility to learn from fellow colleagues and external partners.

What gives you the most job ­satisfaction?
The nature of my work entails a fair bit of problem-solving. Given the complex ­nature of the aviation business, it is normal to be managing the differing interests of the various parties working together. I ­derive the greatest job satisfaction when I am able to get the parties to reach an understanding and resolve the issue. In so doing, we live up to one of our core values – succeeding with our partners. We collaborate to achieve the best outcomes together, creating a world-class experience for all our customers.

What do you think is the single most im-portant quality to be in this industry?
As clichéd as it may sound, I think it is essential for a candidate to have genuine passion for the industry the company is ­­in. Though CAG is an airport operator, people are at the heart of everything that we do. When faced with difficulties, it is the passion that keeps one persevering and pressing on. The truth is that a lot of hard work goes behind maintaining Changi ­Airport’s ­pleasant environment, ­operational ­efficiency, extensive connectivity with ­other cities and attractive shopping ­facilities – if you wish to be a part of the team managing the world’s most awarded airport, think no further and join us!

SAMANTHA YUAN
CAG Mid-Term Scholarship
Age: 26
Attained: Bachelor of Business
Management (magna cum laude)
Now: Assistant Manager, Commercial
(Airside Concession Operations)
From: Raffles Junior College