Soaring as a leader in the aerospace industry
More than two decades into a rewarding career in aerospace and leadership consulting, Katherine Song is the Managing Director of Shanghai-based Sky Vision Consulting. But in the late 1990s, before she decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at UBC, she was cabin crew with Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific.
“My undergraduate education was in Economics and I wanted to get back into business again,” Song says when asked what made her choose UBC Sauder.
“I wanted to have bigger responsibilities. I wanted to lead a team. I wanted to do business internationally. And I wanted to join multinational companies. That’s why I chose to pursue an MBA at UBC.”
During the program she honed her business acumen, building upon the base knowledge she’d gained in her undergraduate studies.
“The integrated core of the MBA program brought together different aspects of business so I was able to better see the big picture,” Song says. “It was strategic, it was analytical, it taught us to look at case studies as if we were business leaders ourselves, so that when we got into the workplace, it all came naturally.”
Casting her eye on the sky
When Song graduated in 2000, she attended a job fair in Seattle, Washington where she was introduced to representatives from Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
“Between my MBA degree and my experience with Cathay Pacific, I was practically hired on the spot,” she recalls.
Katherine Song, second from right, and her colleagues at Boeing in 2009.
Song took a financial analyst role with Boeing, which might seem unlikely for someone whose MBA focus was in marketing.
“While marketing was my specialization, the MBA program gave me very well-rounded business knowledge,” Song says. “That’s why I was able to take a job outside my specialty. I had the training and the confidence to excel beyond my academic focus.”
As her experience with the aerospace company evolved, so too did her responsibilities within. Song moved from finance into quality, and eventually in leading programs in supply chain management.
“Program management is the epitome of the aerospace business. With the integrated knowledge I gained at school, I was able to go into almost any area within a company,” says Song. She also relocated from Seattle to another city on the water – Shanghai.
Working across time zones and cultures
From Boeing, Song moved to the aerospace arm of US-based Honeywell. There she joined as Director, Customer Support and Operations for Asia Pacific, leading a team made up of talent across China, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Australia and New Zealand. Song traces her skills at managing international teams back to her MBA experience.
“We worked on projects that I not only had to pass myself, but had to be successful as a team,” she says. “That experience became invaluable to me when I was working in aerospace and leading diverse teams. Because my classmates came from different countries and brought with them different experiences, knowledge, and perspectives, it helped nurture an international perspective, so I was ultimately able to look at things globally when I become a leader.”
From the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai, Song has advised clients on aviation market strategy, program management, operations, and leadership development.
The culmination of her experience at UBC and her aerospace career awakened Song to a new area of professional focus – talent development.
“Working with a multinational team at Honeywell sparked my interest in the people development side of business,” Song explains. “I knew I wanted to focus on nurturing the talent of high-potential employees.”
Song became a Senior Leadership Consultant with GP Strategies, a US-based management consulting company, where HSBC was among her clients. From there, her career took her to Sky Vision Consulting, where she is enjoying her role as Managing Director.
“Nowadays there are more women and in particular women executives in aerospace, which I’m really happy to see,” she says. “Back in the early 2000s, there were very few women leaders in aerospace. I feel proud for what I have achieved. Now I want to coach new generations of women to cast their eye on the sky and go global in terms of taking leadership responsibilities.”
Song’s career in aerospace and leadership consulting has provided many opportunities see the world.
As in business itself, the only constant in Song’s exciting career has been change. “As a leadership trainer, I am always encouraging people to actively seek challenges and keep growing themselves.”
Reflecting on the trajectory of her career as a business leader in aerospace, she says, “I can trace my career nimbleness back to the UBC MBA. The program is not only a learning experience – it’s a life experience.”