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  • Writer's pictureGavin Ang

The Measure of Success

Disclaimer warning: this article is not 100% related to aviation.

Over the past three and a half years of spotting, I have had the privilege of meeting many talented plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts from all walks of life. More often than not, the vibrant Singapore aviation enthusiasts community is abuzz with discussions on quite a few topics, camera types, career/education choices, Instagram, and so on, and many a times these have lead to very passionate and lively discussions on many fronts. Being someone whom what most people call a by-stander to these discussions, I hope to inject some food for thought for you guys, and to provide some opinions (from my perspective) about these topics.

First of all - the long standing discussion about what types of cameras to use. Too many a times I have heard passionate and sometimes argumentative discussions about which lens or camera body is better. For myself, what lens or what camera to get, should be based on (a) what is comfortable with you, or what can you comfortably challenge yourself with, and (b) it should be within your budget limitations. Getting the right camera or lens is not just about what is better in terms of specifications, but also knowing the requirements and ability of oneself to harness the potential of the camera. To quote Tom Cruise's character Pete Mitchell inTop Gun: Maverick, "it's not the plane; it's the pilot", likewise, the camera gear is only as good as the photographer behind the lens, and his/her editing prowess. For myself, my gear setup, as featured in a previous article, is a non-traditional set-up for plane spotters, and definitely on the lower end of the costing ladder. But this camera has proven itself time and time again in catching the magical moments of aviation. Even with the underrated kit lens, it was a major asset to capturing some of best shots during the Singapore Air Show 2022. In addition, know what you can buy based on your means to afford it. I would highly discourage breaking the bank just to get the latest camera in the market, because money is not something that comes by easily, even if one has parental sponsorship.

As a working adult with 4-and-a-half years of work experience (definitely not a long one, but enough to share some tips), the journey from school to work, and then navigating the nuances of work life, is by no means an easy one. From my observations, many young spotters are planning to push into aerospace or aviation-related industries, and then to find out that several of then struggle through mathematics and physics intensive courses. From this, I would like to share a word of guidance and advice - know your strengths and weaknesses, know that even if there is a course that you like, there will always be aspects you would hate. At this juncture, let me share about my own experiences.

For those who know me well, I do not work in the aviation industry, nor did I come from an aviation related course of study. Rather, I did chemical engineering, which does offer some parallel subjects to aerospace like fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, but thats where the similarities stop. But here's a food for thought when you choose your courses: (a) is this a course that I am interested in? (b) can the career opportunities stemming from this course be able to provide and sustain my lifestyle? (c) what is my capability, am I able to manage the coursework? These are some of the questions that I think about when choosing my preferred course in university. In fact, it is through these questions that I ended up taking a second major in food science, which indirectly led me to my current job in research and development process engineer role in a major pharmaceutical company.

Many have asked me, why didn't I plan to push into the aviation industry? Well in fact, I have done before. When I was job hunting prior to my graduation. I flirted with the idea of becoming a pilot, but realistically, it would mean putting to waste my current degree, not to mention that it would put me in long durations away from my then partner (now wife). And of course by sheer luck, I spared myself the agony of finding another job when the pandemic hit which left many pilot trainees out of a job or in the lurch with job insecurities. Additionally, I applied for an air traffic control role, and went for the interview process. While I cannot say for sure if I did well during the interview process, but one of the interviewers commented that I already was doing relatively well in my current field of study, and did quite well for my own internship, and asked why the sudden decision to go for this role, a question to which I myself did not really had a proper answer for other than "I like aviation", which gave me a reminder that your career choices is not merely just about passion.

In my opinion, passion can only bring you so far; understanding the complexities of navigating work relationships, work and people management are equally as important, along with resilience at handling setbacks and failures, all of which not having it can easily kill one's passion at the workplace. Therefore, knowing yourself, your capabilities and having strong interpersonal skills is I feel something far more important than simply having the passion for it; after all, your future bosses will be far likely to hire someone with good interpersonal skills and work ethics than someone who is simply "into aviation". However, if you are able to amalgamate these traits together, then by all means go ahead, with the best of luck for the interview and hiring process!

Finally, the elephant in the room - Instagram. It has been both our love and bane for many planespotters out there. Recently, Instagram pulled out a few changes to their algorithm on how posts are filtered, which undoubtedly left many people suddenly struggling to attain a decent reach and interactions for their posts and photos, and swinging the priority in favour for reels. Many, including yours truly, have lamented about how some of our posts, which we have placed so much effort into editing, fail to perform when it is released. But I think, it is important to remember to not place value or self-worth on hour popular our posts or account is on social media. Plus, with so much going on in our lives, it is going to be exhausting long term to be fretting about our success at social media (unless you are those influencers who earn money through their content). Hence that is why I generally do not entertain "follow for follows, like for likes" movement; you follow what you admire, you like what you see beauty in. Indeed, I personal take is that a lot of people get caught up in the chase to be first, be it Instagram, JetPhotos, etc., and sometime breaking the rules in the process. Especially for spotting in Singapore, it poses a serious risk for future spotting as locally we strike a balance with the law, treading the line to make sure we don't break it. Back to the topic of social media posting,

Additionally, something I would like to address is the social etiquette on social media. As someone who has gone through the rigours of communicative writing and thesis developments, I cannot hardly stress the importance of research and critiques of one's work. Writing and publishing work online, be it a post, an article, a research paper, etc., opens you up to being critiqued by others, and being defensive and unreceptive to constructive comments reflects poorly on the writer. No matter how good a writer is, there will always be errors and deficiencies in one's work, and hence often you'll see published works get put through revisions and edits even after publishing it. Likewise, my line of articles on Planes Portrait Aviation Media is by far no stranger to corrections and updates; its all part and parcel of writing, in which I call the circle of writing: research, write, correct, publish, revise, repeat. And above all, I cannot stress the importance of making sure that your core work is researched as thoroughly as possible before publishing; there is a saying within universities, and a rule of thumb for writing research papers: "if not verifiable, don't put it in". Likewise, the importance of proper and thorough research is paramount to any published works, and it does again reflect poorly on the writer's diligence, and hence why I take my research in every article I publish with utmost seriousness.

I hope this short sharing article is something useful to you all in terms of spotting, writing, or in your life in general. Remember, none of us are perfect, and my experiences here come from years of mistakes and learning, and hence why I share them here, so that you readers won't make the same mistakes as I did in the past.


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