Ong Miao Ling strategises for SIA in her role as Analyst in Strategic Planning & Business Development, Group Planning. She is a SIA Overseas Scholar, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History & Economics from University of Oxford.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has quite literally put the Lion City on the world map. The nation’s flagship carrier has a legacy of success, winning many awards and earning plaudits from consumers as well as its peers from the industry.
Its achievements would not be possible without a dedicated and motivated team. SIA has core values of excellence, safety, customer-focus, care, integrity and teamwork that collectively, form the foundation of everything that they do.
Extolling these core values is Analyst Ong Miao Ling, from Strategic Planning & Business Development, Group Planning. The 23-year-old is a recipient of the SIA Overseas Scholarship, and has benefited immensely from the opportunities presented to her. She shares with BrightSparks her experience with Singapore’s national carrier.
By virtue of you joining SIA, we would assume that you have a passion for aviation. How did the interest develop?
Actually, I did not know much about the aviation industry before I applied, and frankly, there is no expectation to, given how relatively niche the aviation industry is.
I started my career being interested in the adjacent business opportunities an airline could expand into, and am still invested in re-shaping the aviation industry in the small capacity I have. With greater exposure to the organisation, fulfilled through internships and rotations, I also developed an interest in learning more about the commercial and financial fundamentals that provide a basis for aviation decision-making. While the knowledge may be specialised to the aviation industry, I believe the competencies that are honed are not and are good skills to possess.
How did you discover the SIA Overseas Scholarship?
I discovered the scholarship through my pre-university batchmates. I was attracted to the diversity of opportunities – both commercial and operational, overseas and local – that SIA could offer me, as well as the prestige of working for the national carrier. Of course, I was also attracted by the travel benefits offered to staff in the aviation industry.
You went to the University of Oxford. What was your biggest takeaway during your university days?
The ability to pursue a diversity of interests in History and Economics. I studied modern Chinese history and Renaissance art history, with an extraordinary access to academic materials and support, and worked closely with my mentor in crafting my thesis on Chinese ethnic organisations in post-independence Singapore. I also pursued econometrics, spending hours over mathematical proofs that eventually taught me how to appreciate the intuition behind numbers – something I never thought I’d say as a Humanities student, and a practice I try to introduce in my work as well.
This was a privilege afforded by the academic support my College actively provided me with, as well as the scholarship which allowed me to explore what I was interested in without worries of job security.
As a Humanities graduate, how did you apply what you have learnt to your current work?
The economic foundations I’ve learnt at school were helpful in doing strategic and scenario planning work, but the critical thinking and discipline learnt were as valuable in the workplace. It has helped me to approach new problems and ideate solutions from scratch without fear.
Speaking of the workplace, tell us more about your role and responsibilities.
I am in my first posting at Group Planning, which sits under the Corporate Planning division. At Group Planning, we strategise for the SIA Group on various fronts, including coordinating network plans, managing fleet, and maintaining oversight over the Group’s strategic direction and investments.
I have organised strategy sessions for the SIA Board and Senior Management, coordinated performance reporting for all Business Units within the organization as well as subsidiaries, and evaluated potential investment opportunities for the Group. I was also seconded for about a year with SIA’s Transformation Office, to explore ideas and initiatives in the travel tech space.
What is your most significant career achievement to date?
I am most pleased with the product management-related work I did when on secondment with SIA’s Transformation Office. I had to understand requirements from various fields, such as software engineering, data science, commercial, and operations, to make decisions quickly and plans that balanced desirability, viability, and feasibility. Being unfamiliar with the travel tech space, I am proud of developing adaptability when communicating to various stakeholders, and being able to actively contribute to the initiatives’ progress.
The work culture sounds very encouraging at SIA…
Most definitely. SIA’s culture is generally familial and supportive, but it is after all a large company, so culture inevitably varies across the organisation. As part of our desire to continually transform, SIA is also pushing for a more innovative spirit that actively encourages risk-taking and open sharing of views.
What possibilities are there for scholars working at your organisation?
Scholars are placed on the generalist programme, which means that they are rotated around the organisation every two to three years. SIA offers diverse opportunities from traditional aviation-related posts such as flight operations or network planning, to tech-related posts at the Digital Acceleration Unit or the Digital Innovation Lab, or to marketing-related posts at Brand Marketing or Loyalty Marketing. When approached, the HR team is generally willing to cater to whatever varied interests a scholar may have.
What advice would you give to aspiring scholars looking to join your organisation?
My advice would be to understand the various components of SIA’s organisation, and to identify which part interests you most from the outset. While certain roles in SIA are more traditionally associated with the aviation industry, for instance, network planning, SIA is big and diverse enough to offer opportunities should you want to explore different kinds of postings. An open mind and a willingness to explore are important to fully leverage on SIA’s generalist scheme and learn more about yourself as a young working executive.