Jillian Chan is a policymaker and develops strategies to strengthen Singapore’s competitiveness and connectivity as an air hub in her role as Deputy Manager, Hub Strategy and Connectivity, at CAAS. She is a CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholar, and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics and a Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley.
I t is no secret that Singapore prides itself as a vibrant and successful air hub. Over the years, the aviation sector has contributed significantly to Singapore’s successful economy. This is largely credited to the tireless work of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
CAAS’ roles include overseeing and promoting safety in the industry, providing air navigation services, and developing Singapore as a centre of excellence for aviation knowledge and human resource development.
Jillian is a Deputy Manager with the Hub Strategy and Connectivity team under CAAS’ Air Transport Division. Her portfolio is centred on developing strategies to strengthen Singapore’s competitiveness and connectivity as an air hub.
She shared with BrightSparks on the exciting opportunities and a fulfilling career as a CAAS scholar.
Let’s start with the scholarship. How was your decision process towards taking up this scholarship like? What motivated you?
I wanted to work in a global, fast-moving industry and the aviation industry fitted the bill perfectly. I also hoped to work in the public sector, where I could make a direct and significant contribution to Singapore as a policymaker. Finally, I was also attracted to the opportunities for career development and progression as a CAAS scholar.
What are your roles and responsibilities at CAAS?
I have just completed a two-year rotation under the Air Hub Strategy and Connectivity section of the Air Transport Division, which is my first posting at CAAS. I was engaged in the development of policies for air hub connectivity and competitiveness, which involved the extensive analysis of the global and regional aviation market, and the in-depth engagement of key aviation stakeholders. One of my key projects was to develop a Tableau dashboard to analyse Changi Airport’s air traffic indicators. I was also involved in analysing the potential of multi-modal transportation through the Singapore air hub.
What were some of the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Strategy work requires a clear sense of policy intent, a certain degree of innovation and the careful synthesis of large amounts of data. Establishing frequent “huddles” with my team helps to clarify our purpose and brainstorm on our strategy.
Policy work oftentimes does not have an “answer key” to follow, especially when such policymaking involves different stakeholders. Therefore, my team and I established forums to engage our stakeholders and better understand their challenges.
What are some opportunities in the organisation you’d love to explore in the near future?
CAAS gives its staff many opportunities to explore areas of professional growth. Internal job rotations are available every two years for us to understand other aspects of CAAS’ work. We are also given opportunities to be attached to other organisations in the transport or aviation sector.
Personally, I hope to gain experience in an airline or airport operations-related role. This would expose me to the day-to-day operations of other key aviation stakeholders. It is important to understand the challenges faced “on-the-ground” as part of developing a comprehensive air hub strategy.
I also hope to have an opportunity to be posted abroad. The exposure from working abroad could provide me with a deeper understanding of CAAS’ role in the international sphere.
What is the culture like at CAAS and how has it shaped you as a person?
CAAS’ scope of work is broad. We interface with many stakeholders and are in charge of a range of functions in the areas of regulation, aviation development, and air navigation service provision. As such, CAAS has a culture of ‘thinking big picture’ and encourages cross-divisional collaboration. During my time here, I have become more attuned to analysing situations from a broader perspective. I have also become more proactive in seeking out various perspectives to policy problems.
How is it like being a young woman in what is perceived to be a male-dominated industry?
My view is that there are no lack of opportunities for females to progress in the industry. The number of ladies in C-Suite positions in the industry is rising. Also, many in the industry acknowledge that diversity is important, not just in terms of gender, but also in terms of cultural backgrounds and viewpoints. Each perspective could be valuable in its own way to shape the industry’s view of the world and to help in anticipating future challenges. It is also important that the individual takes the initiative, regardless of background, to learn and contribute to his or her environment. I am glad that CAAS is an equal opportunity employer that provide means for individuals to grow in their career.
Any words of advice for students looking to take up this scholarship?
My advice can be summarised as such – picture the future “you”, talk to people, try it out. Firstly, I would advise students to think about where they see themselves in five, even ten years down the road, and consider if the scholarship aligns with their future goals. Next, I would also encourage students to reach out and speak to people who have worked in CAAS before, to learn about various experiences working in CAAS. Lastly, I would encourage students to intern with CAAS to help them find out if they are suited for the culture here.