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Differentiating SIA From Other Airlines

sia_ohWhat’s new on a SIA flight? Oh Eng Seng is among the first to know.

Why did you choose the SIA Scholarship?
Having thought about it for a while, I decided that a career in the private sector would appeal to me more as it is very performance driven and the results are more tangible as compared to the public sector. In the private sector and particularly in the airline industry, you reap what you sow and if you take your foot off the pedal for just a bit, you fall behind the competition. It is a tough working environment but it is something that I thrive in and can ultimately be very rewarding.

Choosing a scholarship is about the career and work with the organisation and not just the perks or prestige that comes along with it. It’s like shopping for a pair of running shoes; the comfort and fit should come before the aesthetics.

What course did you graduate in? Why did you choose this?
I graduated with a MEng (Information Engineering) from the University of Cambridge. Information Engineering involves the study of a broad range of subjects including signal processing, optimisation, machine learning, communications etc. Being a numerical person, this course appealed to me as it tries to make sense of the data around us to form conclusions and support decision-making, using a statistical approach. More and more companies these days realise the importance of data analytics as there is a huge amount of data waiting to be studied, which can offer insights into underlying trends, consumers’ preferences etc.

Any advice on how to choose a university?
The most important factor would be whether the university offers the course of study that you are interested in, especially for the less mainstream courses. Aside from that, there is very little that separates the top universities academically; somewhat like the top clubs in the English Premier League that take turns to enjoy the top positions. Look out for other factors such as extracurricular activities, job employment prospect and the daily lifestyle. The latter can be important as not everyone is suited to life away from the city, such as in Cambridge.

What are the most memorable things that happened in your university life?
Some of the things that are unique to the Cambridge experience include waking up at 5am in the morning to go for rowing training, throwing a penny into another’s wine glass at formal dinners (it is a tradition that you need to drink up when someone throws a penny into your wine glass), taking a dip in the River Cam in the hope of getting a first class in the coming exams.

Describe your role in your company and its challenges.
I am in the Product Innovation Department under the Product & Services Division of my company. As its name suggests, the role of this department is to constantly innovate, come up with new ideas and develop products that allow SIA to stay at the forefront of the competition.
The work is extremely interesting as we are constantly encouraged to think out of the box, not just in the development of new products but also in the solving of day-to-day problems. I find this form of work culture very refreshing in a corporate environment, which can sometimes stifle innovation.
Product Innovation is such an important department within the company as product leadership is one key area that differentiates Singapore Airlines from its competitors. Also, the airline industry is extremely competitive, with product life-cycles and first-mover advantage very short-lived. It is not hard to copy and imitate an idea, especially when our competitors have loads of cash to spare. Thus, we are forever kept on our toes as there is no room for complacency.

What do you love about your job and the company?

I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to work, together with a team, on the next-generation inflight entertainment system that we recently launched. As a guideline, we endeavour to refresh our products every 5 to 6 years, and the last major product launch was in 2006 when the A380s came into service. To be able to start with a blank piece of paper, putting my ideas on it and then seeing the ideas materialise is what makes my job so rewarding and satisfying. The amount of thought that goes into developing a product or service for the passenger is just incredible. Having the passenger in mind in everything we do, sets us apart from our competitors.

What kinds of career and personal developmental opportunities does your company provide for its scholars?
SIA takes personal development for all its employees rather seriously. Our Corporate Learning Centre offers various personal development courses and these range from public speaking to time management workshops. Executives who just join the company can also sign up for Outward Bound School to develop teamwork and leadership skills. There are also the occasional dialogue sessions with the management.

What are your interests? How do you balance it with working life?
I play a variety of sports to keep fit and de-stress and make it a point to have my exercise at least once a week. These days I play floorball once a week, which is becoming more popular in Singapore. I also take part in the occasional badminton or soccer game. When I am travelling for work, I would usually pack my exercise gear and try to squeeze in a gym session.

I also enjoy watching films and movies during my spare time and I guess that is somewhat relevant to my line of work dealing with inflight entertainment.

What do you see are life’s most important values and why?
The most important thing in life is to just enjoy it because you only live once! We should all do what we enjoy or if that’s not possible, at least enjoy what we are doing.

Any suggestion on how we can make Singapore a better place to live in?
Having been to many countries around the world, I must say that we are very lucky to be living in Singapore. It may be clichéd to hear others exclaim how clean, safe and orderly Singapore is but it is true.

Nonetheless, we are not a perfect society and if I had to offer a suggestion, I would say that our society could do with a bit more graciousness. Small acts of graciousness from everyone would go a long way in making living here more enjoyable.

The grass always appears to be greener on the other side but one should bear in mind that it is green only in areas where you water it.

SIA Open Scholarship
Age: 28
Now: Inflight Entertainment Executive,Product Innovation Department
Attained: MEng (Information Engineering), Cambridge University, UK
From: Raffles JC