Pictured above: Delphine, who is currently a Senior Manager under the Changi Airport Group.
Find out how Delphine’s analytical mind and SUTD’s future-ready education prepared her to transform the future of air travel.
This article is brought to you by the SUTD – Women x Tech & Design series.
Formerly a student at Victoria Junior College, Delphine graduated from SUTD in 2015 with a degree in Engineering Systems and Design (ESD). Since then, she has held a number of roles in the field, including her current job as a Senior Manager under the Changi Airport Group (CAG) Changi East Development Cluster’s Terminal 5 Specialised Systems Team.
At CAG, she started out as part of the data analytics team in Terminal 5 Planning, with a focus on managing the capacity requirements for the new airport expansion to ensure that it is able to meet forecasted future demand. Among her many responsibilities, Delphine conducted systematic analyses on a range of issues: calculating the optimum number of check-in, immigration, and security counters to meet forecasts; how to best match the demand of aircraft to the supply of aircraft stands; and how to optimise aircraft movement on the airfield. Today, her role in the Specialised Systems Innovation team is to explore future technologies to enhance and transform existing work processes on the airfield apron.
“SUTD is where I discovered my passion in ESD and innovation — something which I was unexposed to previously,” she says.
The rigorous technical courses, in particular, helped her build a solid foundation in these skills. When searching for universities, Delphine needed a dynamic, forward-thinking programme with an emphasis on practical industry applications. The ESD programme at SUTD gave her precisely that.
Delphine graduated from SUTD in 2015 as the pioneer batch.
“I learnt to be more comfortable with being hands-on as my past formal education was mainly studying through lectures notes or textbooks,” she says.
Here, SUTD’s real-world industry projects played a huge role. In her first year, Delphine worked on a project with CAG to enhance taxi-boarding efficiency. For her capstone assignment, she was part of a multidisciplinary team that worked on a project for a pharmaceutical company — a role that emphasised the need to collaborate with members in different fields.
After graduating from SUTD, Delphine joined the CAG team full-time (initially in an analytics role) and has since applied the technical knowledge she gained at SUTD to address large-scale real-world problems. However, she wasn’t always certain about becoming an engineer.
“Interestingly, up until the time I decided that I wanted to join SUTD, I never imagined myself taking up an Engineering degree,” she says. “In fact, I held the common misconception that women were not suited for engineering and was almost certain of never wanting to become an engineer. SUTD was very focused on trying to make engineering accessible to female students and this made me reconsider.”
Delphine with her SUTD cohort.
In retrospect, though, engineering was a natural choice for someone who is as analytically driven as Delphine. Calling herself “an analytical person by nature,” she explains, “The rigorous technical courses such as statistics, decision analysis, optimisation, operations management, and so on, were of keen interest to me and built up my technical foundation.” The engineering curriculum was basically a perfect match for her analytical mind.
As she attended more talks and freshmen classes, she realised that this was the path she wanted to pursue.
“Underpinning SUTD’s vision was a holistic and interdisciplinary curriculum combining engineering, design thinking, humanities, programming, and more,” she says. “I believe that a wide field of disciplines and multifaceted perspectives are needed to effectively tackle today and tomorrow’s increasingly complex challenges. The curriculum aligned with my own aspirations of developing a well-rounded skill set.”
It’s this well-rounded skill set that allows Delphine to tackle a range of problems that draw on different fields, such as robotics, autonomous technologies, simulation analysis, mechanical systems implementation, and business modelling.
“Through my work, I am trying to address critical issues such as manpower shortage challenges and sustainability; and to deploy innovative technology or redesign processes to solve these issues within the aviation industry. Beyond the curriculum content and technical knowledge, the most valuable skill set I picked up [at SUTD] is the way of thinking and approaching problems or situations,” she notes. “Be it an analytical role or my current role in innovation or even in my personal life, the approach is typically the same. Firstly, a deep understanding of the problem and constraints is required. Secondly, extensive research must be conducted to determine the solution space. Finally, critical and analytical thinking must be applied to decide the best course of action. With each new problem, I am constantly refining my approach by learning from mistakes, as well as retaining good methodologies,” she says, highlighting the Design Thinking process that SUTD imbues into each of its students.
Delphine shares how SUTD’s robust curriculum bridges the gap between the classroom and the working world, enabling her to progress from an Assistant Manager to a Senior Manager within the Changi Airport Group.
Why was she specifically attracted to her current role?
“It struck me that a critical bottleneck in operations would be the problem of manpower shortage, especially in Singapore’s context where we have a small population. In fact, there is already a heavy reliance on foreign labour and elderly workers. To me, it is especially heartbreaking to see senior folks toiling laboriously in the harsh outdoor environment,” Delphine explains.
This inspired her to dedicate the past four years to a mission of transforming the airside and improving productivity. She also wants to elevate the workers to supervisory roles by harnessing technology such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence.
“I truly believe technology and innovation is the key to change and I love that it can be used to create meaningful impact in people’s lives,” she says.
Across her various roles at CAG, Delphine wants to “address critical issues such as manpower shortage challenges and sustainability; and to deploy innovative technology or redesign processes to solve these issues within the aviation industry.”
As for any advice she has for young female students starting out in the engineering industry, Delphine says to always go back to your “why”. Think about what motivates you to get into the tech world and what do you want to change?
“The going can get tough and there can be many distractions along the way, but once your ‘why’ is clear, you will not lose your way easily, no matter what challenges you may face along your journey,” she says. “Also, don’t overthink and just do it. It is clichéd, but it is as simple as it gets.”
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