I remembered that on 25 January 2017 at 2300 hrs (it’s the aviation way how to write 1100 PM) I came back from work after spending more than 14 hours at the office, finishing business plan proposal and found an email coming from Montreal, Canada telling me that I had been selected as successful candidate for ICAO’s Young Aviation Professional Programme 2017.
Excited? YES. It was a mixed feelings between disbelieve, excitement, sadness, proud and confused.
At that time, I thought the email was a wrong addressed or even a spam. But I later digested what was actually written there and yet questioning, ‘Have I been really selected?’. The story began when I found an information on ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) on YAP vacancy. I subsequently thought what was YAP, was it something like an internship program, or development program? I had no clue.
As a aviation enthusiast, airplane and airports have become my main interest. I have been raised by 3 generation of pilots and flight attendants, making this industry not just simply a hobby, but I want to always contribute for the industry. Therefore I decided to study Aviation Management Masters course in Coventry University.
For your information, ICAO stands for International Civil Aviation Organisation. It’s a United Nations’ specialised agency for aviation and it’s a one kind agency, different than others such as WTO, UNICEF, UNESCO and others, as this agency works directly hand-in-hand with the industry.
ACI (Airport Council International) is a non-profit organisation that lead global airports which objective is to advance the interest of Airports to promote professional excellence in airport management and operations. As of 2017, ACI serves 623 members operating 1,940 airports in 176 countries.
IATA (International Air Transport Association) is also a trade organisation that lead airlines around the world in delivering the best quality to support the global aviation industry. Currently, IATA records 263 airline members which represents more than 80% of global traffic.
And Young Aviation Professional Program, is a 12-month graduate development program initiative which is run in collaboration with ACI and IATA. The successful candidate will be rotated to the 3 organisation (average rotation takes 4 months) and will be holding specific responsibility to support the main expertise in the area of technical, environment and economic development.
But first thing foremost, how did this happen?
When I returned from the UK back to Jakarta in September, I was completely clueless on what I should be doing after my Masters. I kept looking what’s available out there, until I found a post regarding this YAP 2017 vacancy, shared by my colleague back in Coventry. First I was like, ‘Oh forget about this, but let’s try’. Yes, the analogy meant a lot to me because I thought ICAO was like creme-de-la-creme of this industry.
The fact was that I had gone for interview here and there, and deciding where should I work afterwards. Luckily, I finally secured an offer coming from subsidiary company of Indonesia’s largest airport operator, to perform a role as Business Development Manager and I started my first day on the 1st November.
Accepting that position was one of the life changing experience. Because I definitely left my comfort zone as a PR professional. My previous career before my Masters was Public Relations or commonly known as Company Spokesperson. I was lucky enough to have had a chance of doing a career that broaden my vision towards aviation industry. My first job was with American’s Public Relations firm, Weber Shandwick based in Jakarta and worked closely with Singapore Airlines as their client for 3 years, and then I moved to AirAsia where I spent the last 3 years with them, learned a lot about low cost carrier business and crisis communication management (QZ 8501 incident).
The business development manager position which I recently accepted was completely enhancing my vision to aviation industry from a different perspective, the Airport point of view. I had spent all my life working with airlines, full service and low cost and once I completed my masters degree, I was always curious to work for the airport. It was more complex and I worked with one of the greatest mentors who previously worked with Indonesia’s flag carrier.
Switching the mindset from airline to airport was one of a challenging task that I have to deal with. I was in the position to ensure business profitability so that I had to work mostly with numbers, doing financial forecasting and ensuring the business is complied with safety security, border, and the business practice. I had really enjoyed my days working for the company, in fact I was in the state of comfort. I met so many talented people, and we got along very well.
On 25th November I had to come back to London for a week for my graduation. And when I touched down in Heathrow, I suddenly received the email saying I had been shortlisted. I was flabbergasted, disbelieving, but I said yes to proceed for Skype Interview the following week in Jakarta. During the interview itself, I was completely nervous, not just because the time difference, (AM in Montreal, PM in Jakarta) because I was interviewed by 7 people that consisted of ICAO, IATA and ACI. Initially, I thought I would have only been interviewed by 3 people from the respective organisation. The interview went pretty quick for 7 people. We had to answer the questions in a concise manner and efficient. It was like the most interesting job interview experience, as I never done Skype Job interview before.
Right, back to the main business, after
I read the email twice, no, it’s actually 4 times. I tried to digest the point of the email, and later I was assured that I had been selected. ‘What? Me?’ I went directly to my parents – who were sleeping at that time, and I excitedly shouted loud that I had been selected by the ICAO. I still could not believe at all, and on the other hand I was very proud of myself. ICAO, ACI and IATA launched YAP program since 4 years ago, and I was the first Indonesian to be accepted in this prestigious program.
“The announcement came in late January and I was initially expected to report by mid February but due to circumstance they decided to move it to 1st of March! I only had 3 days to think and decide.” Nervous? I completely was.
After consulting with my parents, and my current employer at that time, I had decided to accept this challenge. Only for one year, but I believe I would learn a lot of things from this program. So I decided to go. ICAO later assisted me with guidance on visa application. I applied the visa by end of January and they said the target of my reporting date would be 1st of March. Everything went smooth and the process were a bit of rush, especially finding the accommodation. Luckily, I secured my place right before I arrived and on 24 February, I flew to Montreal.
I never thought of what Montreal city would be like. I never planned on coming to North America, or even Canada before as I thought this country was just too far away from Indonesia. Even before I stepped my feet on Qatar Airways from Jakarta to Montreal via Doha, I still could not believe it.
Once I arrived in P.E Trudeau Airport then I believed that I would have had a new life and experience here in Canada. I had one week to get familiarised with the city, and on 1 March my first day officially started. For this year’s YAP were selected from South Korea, Pakistan and Indonesia. We were welcomed by the ICAO, ACI and IATA representatives. Surprisingly to me, that the Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu attended the welcoming event.
Dr. Liu made a welcoming speech, and to my surprise that in her speech she said that the competition for this position was very tight. We had been selected out of approximately 500 global applicants.
What is Montreal like?
Montreal definitely made great first impression to me. Although what I could see from my plane minutes before we touched down was merely snow and frozen lake (yes it is very cold during winter time), but the city is actually very vibrant, and laid back. Bare in mind that people here speak in two languages: French and English. It’s very challenging indeed but once you are here, you will get used to it. It’s easier for you to learn the language directly from the Native speakers, and people here are very open minded.
The city may be incomparable with London, but, it has a lot to see and the fact that Montreal is way cheaper than London. It also looks very chic and reminds me to Paris. The city has a good integrated transport system, Metro, Buses and Taxis therefore commuting becomes more convenience. They said, the city doesn’t look good yet before summer, but I still like it in the winter, let alone in summer? I live in a French neighborhood, or to be exact in Parc Molson neighborhood. It’s a 20 minute from Square Victoria where my office is located. I decided not to live in city center, and trying so hard to find a lower duplex with backyard which allowed me to do activities during the weekend. The fact is, I found this amazing 3 and a half duplex with big bathroom, kitchen and backyard!
My rental house in Montreal
There is always start for something. Patience made it perfect right in time.
I will write more about this one year amazing experience. But the thing is, the main purpose of my writing here is to inspire the young generation, especially those who love aviation to catch for your dreams. I realise that most of those dreams are focused in Pilots or flight attendant jobs, but aside from that, there are plenty opportunities out there that you can still contribute for the industry. I started my career in this industry from Corporate Communications role 7 years ago and I felt blessed to ever get into this role that has opened so many opportunities for the industry because we are able to see the issues from the macro view.
The key is to accept that life is a continuous learning and full of surprises. Never let things let you down easily when you know you are having tough times by being underestimated by people. Just stay positive, consistent and be confident of who you are.
‘There is a garden between the wrong doing and the right doing, and I will meet you there” – Rumi (My favorite Poet)