Joining The Dynamic Aviation Industry

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore requires more than just engineering students. Humanities graduate Chan Ki Wan finds herself in a good match.

Why did you choose this ­scholarship?
I have always had a keen interest in aviation, especially in air crash ­investigations. I believe that there is a need to ­optimise the fit between humans and ­systems to maintain the safety of air travel. This is especially important in this day and age when people and businesses thrive on increased interconnectivity and aviation has become a necessity. It was this desire to be involved in the growing aviation industry that led me to apply for the CAAS Scholarship, which would allow me to be an integral part of building a safe, vibrant air hub and civil aviation system.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I would have had the opportunity to work in at least two divisions in CAAS. ­Currently, I am in the International Relations (IR) division that is responsible for building and maintaining bilateral/multilateral ­relations for the greater goal of protecting Singapore’s interests. This mission resonates with me and I hope that I can ­continue to be an ambassador of Singapore in the international aviation scene.

What do you think makes the CAAS scholarship stand out from the other scholarships in the market? What fundamental questions did you have in mind to make the comparisons needed for your decision? How has the scholarship suited your personality/interests?
Three questions that I asked myself when deciding on which scholarship to take were:
• What are the career prospects, and would I be able to make a difference?
• Is the job scope challenging and would it suit my personality and interests?
• Is there flexibility to choose what I want to study?

Throughout my studies and work, I find that the CAAS Scholarship allows much flexibility. Unlike other scholarships that recruit from specific degree fields, CAAS allowed me to read Psychology, an area I am interested in. This open-mindedness also meant that my colleagues all come from diverse backgrounds. Being part of the ­Ministry of Transport’s (MOT) scholarship family was another factor that ­attracted me as this gave me the opportunity to ­understand transport on a wider level across ­different sectors and provided exciting ­career prospects in the MOT family. The ­aviation industry is an important aspect of Singapore’s economy and I want to be able to contribute to it and make a ­difference for Singapore.

What do you think are your strengths that landed you the scholarship?
CAAS has a very stringent selection process. I think the strengths that landed me the scholarship were my personality and my values. I enjoy meeting and interacting with people. I also desire to continuously improve myself and have a love for new ideas. Being placed in leadership positions in Junior College, such as the secretary of the Youth Club, leading the Piano Ensemble as the music director as well as collaborating with grassroots leaders were humbling experiences which shaped my leadership skills.

What do you see as life’s important values?
I believe in making a difference to those around me, striving for excellence in all that I do and trying to achieve a delicate balance between all commitments, including ­making time for self-reflection and improvement. These values are closely aligned with CAAS’ values and this synergy motivates and energises me at work. My work in IR division allows me to impact the aviation landscape and perform to the best of my ability, with tangible results in the form of enhanced relations with our counterparts and strategy implementation.

How do you find the working culture in your department? Describe your ideal work culture and how this route has brought you closer to it?
The working culture in my division is one where lively, open and intellectually stimulating discussions to take place. This helps greatly in generating new ideas, pushing us beyond our comfort zone and unlocking our potential.

Have your views and expectations changed once you stepped out into the working world? What are the most challenging responsibilities you have and how do you cope with them?
Having worked for a year now, I have come to realise that university was vastly different from the working world. When we were in school, it sufficed to achieve 70 percent. After all, 70 was what was needed for first-class honours, or a distinction in my Masters. At work, however, every task and assignment deserves nothing less than 100 percent, especially in aviation and the civil service, where one hitch or oversight could lead to dire consequences. I have learnt and adapted to working life through better time management as well as learning to prioritise important tasks given to me.

My most challenging responsibilities include managing and organising events, such as the Singapore Airshow, where all the different elements must fit together seamlessly. Also challenging are the long-term projects I am tasked with. As the ­officer handling the Europe sector, I need to gain a deep understanding of the region which requires consistent interaction, ­foresight and long-term planning.

How have you been able to use your university learning for your job?
Having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Sociology, I learned skills in critical analysis, statistical analysis, writing and logical thinking. These skills have helped me in policy-making and strategies which involved evaluating arguments for logical flaws, paying close ­attention to details and effective writing.

Academics aside, I also spent some of my time in London leading the Make-Up Artistry Society at UCL as President, for which I had the opportunity to collaborate with people from all backgrounds and ­cultures in the performing arts. I also ­pioneered a volunteering campaign with ­renowned UK skincare expert Caroline Hirons. In addition, I provided guidance to students as a student facilitator at Student Minds in ­Oxford. These skills which I honed during my ­overseas education are also crucial in my current posting in IR division, which places a heavy demand on my soft skills such as ­intercultural understanding and communication, decision-making, leadership, problem-solving and time-management.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?
I find it extremely satisfying and meaningful when I see that my ideas and recommendations serve as a catalyst to transform the aviation landscape of Singapore.

What kinds of career and personal developmental opportunities does the company provide its scholars?
Being in the IR division has given me the unique opportunity to interact and work with high-level overseas counterparts. CAAS also provides support to its scholars, such as sponsorship for ­exchange ­programmes, further studies and ­opportunities for internships in summer. During my studies, I completed three internships in CAAS, each time in a different division. These internships enabled me to experience the ­diversity of work in CAAS and ­provided me with connections to both internal and external stakeholders. All these were ­valuable insights into working life even ­before I ­began my career.

What are your interests? How do you balance it with working life?
I am a self-proclaimed yogi. Working in IR division means that there can be many late nights, a lot of travelling, and ­erratic work schedules. To maintain work-life ­balance, I take short breaks when I can and immerse in yoga retreats. I also make time to help out at friends’ weddings and photo-shoots on some weekends. I end ­every night with some reading to wind down from work.

What qualities are essential to have if a student is interested in the scholarship?

Many assume that aviation ­industry is reserved for engineers or aviation ­experts. But with the diversity in CAAS, there is something for everyone. The possibilities are endless although there may be a steep learning curve. Therefore, the most ­important quality prospective ­students should have is an open mind and a keen ­interest to learn.

Chan Ki Wan
CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship
Now: Deputy Manager (International Relations)
Attained: BSc (Hons) in Psychology, University of Oxford, UK; MSc in Sociology, University College London, UK
From: Raffles Institution