When Samuel Tham Shengde was younger, weekly trips to the airport to send his father off on work trips made an impact on him. It was partly this that made him realise that he wanted to contribute to the aviation industry. At 29, Samuel holds a Masters of Engineering in Materials Science from Oxford University and is the Technical Services Engineer (Systems) for SIA. Think of him as the person who works with a team to fix technical issues that occurs on airplanes.
“I look at how well the fleet is performing in getting passengers to their destinations on time. Inadvertently, there will be occasional flight delays due to “technical issues”, and it is my job to find out what is causing them. The team takes this feedback to the airplane manufacturers and discusses with them the solutions we can develop to prevent them from happening again,” Samuel says when asked about his role as a Technical Services Engineer.
To get to the point of being able to improve faults and work in a team to achieve something that would benefit everyone, Samuel, as an undergraduate, took up the SIA Open Overseas Scholarship programme.
What Samuel thought he knew about SIA turned out to be something that changed his perception entirely. “The aviation industry is heavily regulated which, perhaps gives a skewed impression that everything is very rigid. I was surprised at the flexibility and room given to explore different ways of doing things, while keeping to tenets of being safe and profitable,” Samuel explains.
From a boy who has always been fascinated with aviation, Samuel always maintained that working within the aviation industry is appealing even though his parents did not share the same passion. Little did he know that his passion would also be the very thing that would keep him on his feet as a Technical Services Engineer.
“Nothing beats diving into the deep end and learning to swim or sink. Having said that, the numerous internship experiences were most insightful. Every job will have its laundry list of processes to follow and seeing how my mentors carried them out then gave me a mental picture of the work at hand. The people who mentored me then are now colleagues I work alongside. For some, they have even become close friends.”
Tham Shengde Samuel
SIA Open Overseas Scholar
Technical Services Engineer (Systems)
SIA holds true to its six core values even for undergraduates undergoing their internships. Teamwork, and Excellence are two out of the six key strengths integral to SIA’s mission. Care, Safety, Integrity and Customer-Focus are the other four that SIA firmly believes in. Every one of these values are firmly rooted into every staff, as well as every undergraduate who follows through with an internship with SIA.
Couple all of these core values with how quick the aviation industry moves, and you cannot help but feel like SIA, in itself, demands only the very best from you. “As a student, and especially so as a product of Singapore’s examination system too, I would be preoccupied with a defined syllabus and memorising solutions from years past. The airline industry is tremendously dynamic. What worked yesterday for us may not work tomorrow. Agility in our thinking and how fast we can adapt to the world around us may be the difference between success and failure,” Samuel shares.
SIA being one of the stellar world-leading carriers with an advanced fleet of aircraft also sends undergraduates overseas for their internship programme. Samuel did his internship at SIA’s head office in Singapore, subsequently moving to the London Heathrow Airport station office, and even with a service provider to SIA – Rolls-Royce in Derby, “The exposure to both local and overseas operations and an inside look of how our vendor operates gave me a ground-up view of the business,” Samuel says.
Experiences to Last a Lifetime
We asked Samuel about the more memorable episodes he has had during his career, and naturally, he found it hard to choose as his experience in SIA has left an indelible mark. He recalls, “On the way to work one morning, I read that a typhoon was sweeping through Philippines. At lunch, it was reported that the typhoon had blown the aerobridge into one of our airplanes and the damage was not pretty. By dinner, I was on a flight to Manila leading a team to fix the damage and bring her home. Despite not sleeping for the next 48 hours, it was quite a thrill and definitely brought a sense of accomplishment when we landed safely back in Singapore.”
The exhilarating thrill of an accomplished task reflected heavily onto the core values inculcated into Samuel during his training. His spirit of excellence and determination to accomplish the task as a team enabled him to propel further and triumph over any challenging situation.