“Through my 13-year career with the Group, there has never been a boring day at work. I was and am still given many opportunities to learn on-the-job, work on different projects, and take on different roles.”
- Zac Xiao, Engineering and Continuous Improvement Director, Aerospace MRO
Meet Zac Xiao, an Aerospace Engineer and a Continuous Improvement Director based in Xiamen, China. After 13 years of colourful experience with ST Engineering in Singapore, Zac is currently overseeing the engineering, facility, information technology and import/export functions in his first international assignment.
Q: You have been with the Group for 13 years! How has your career evolved over time?
When I began my career in 2007 as a Quality Engineer, I attended courses to qualify as a Quality System Auditor. I learnt from the role to be more analytical and meticulous in my work. Finding root causes and coming up with solutions became a crucial part of my work and these acquired skills helped me to excel in the subsequent roles I took on within the Group.
In 2018, I was given an opportunity to join the procurement team. As a Procurement Manager, I had to manage the supply chain for the production of our aircraft seats. This was a great experience to learn how to negotiate contracts with suppliers and ensure deliveries are made on time. I also gained a deeper understanding of the various manufacturing processes in the industry.
I took a leap of faith in 2019, accepted my first overseas assignment in Xiamen, and I have never looked back since.
Q: How has it been working overseas at Xiamen?
China has developed so much over the last decade. I find that working and living in Xiamen is somewhat similar to Singapore. With the guidance and support from other Singaporean postees, I settled in relatively quickly.
The key hurdle for me would probably be the need to use Mandarin to describe technical terms and identify the components of aircraft engines. Communication becomes more important than ever especially when Singlish (a variety of English spoken in Singapore) can no longer be used in a discussion or when giving instructions.
I still recall my very first discussion with the Engineering team where I had to pen down the various technical terms cited in Mandarin to check their individual meanings on Google Translate and make sense of what was being discussed. My key takeaway is that if you are unsure; don’t be afraid to ask again.
Q: China is the first country hit by Covid-19, how has your work-life in such a situation been like?
Etched in my memory is the scene of how I bade goodbye to my wife and our crying one-year-old son to take the second last available flight back to Xiamen on the very morning of 10 Feb 2020. Although it is tough to be apart from my family for close to a year, we survived through daily video calls.
China has also put in place efficient and stringent measures to control the spread of the virus. For example, a condominium can be placed in quarantine with immediate notice when a positive case is found within that community. However, the daily needs of the residents are still well taken care of by the government they are sufficiently provided for.
While COVID-19 has reduced business volume, it has afforded me the opportunity to use my time to review work processes, explore ways to digitise work and introduce automation to improve productivity. I am also given the opportunity to work on budgets and contract proposals and be involved in business expansion studies, all of which gained me a broader view of the aerospace MRO industry and how our Group extracts synergies across the business units to serve our customers better.