Exploring the World Beyond with Syahrom Rahmad

Apart from gaining international work experience that can provide long-term career benefits, many Singaporeans are considering working overseas for their own exposure and life experience as it offers them opportunities to experience new cities and cultures. A survey[1] conducted by the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Shapers community found that nearly 70 percent of Singaporean millennials who participated said that they are willing to work overseas, with Australia and the United States chosen as their preferred destinations. The number of Singaporeans looking for a job abroad has also grown by 72 percent since the beginning of the pandemic[2].

For 43-year-old Syahrom Rahmad, his love of exploring the world beyond Singapore and meeting people from different cultures, religions and races made him decide to pursue a career overseas. Prior to working as a Fleet Maintenance Coordinator in Perth, Australia, he had also worked in Qatar for seven years. He shares his experiences overseas with the Karyawan team.

Q: Could you tell us more about yourself and your family?
Syahrom: Both my wife and I are the eldest in our family and we studied in Australia during our undergraduate days. We have been married for 20 years and have five children – four daughters and a son – aged 8 to 16. The first three are in high school and the other two are in primary school. My wife, Surianah Rosli, is the Head of Mathematics at Al-Ameen Islamic College.

Q: What does your job entail and what is your typical day like?
Syahrom: I am a Licensed Aircraft Engineer working with Virgin Australia as a Fleet Maintenance Coordinator. It is a five-day week and office hour job with occasional travels within Australia and to other countries. Virgin Australia sends their aircraft to MRO in Singapore for maintenance. My job is to schedule the aircraft for maintenance as well as liaising with the MRO operators to oversee the maintenance project. MRO in aviation refers to a major maintenance facility where aircraft are taken to be serviced.

Q: What drew you to a profession in the aviation industry?
Syahrom: My family love to travel and have travelled to many countries such as France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Georgia, and Andorra. We have also visited unique places like the Airbus Factory in Toulouse, Zugspitze Mountain (tallest in Germany) and the Swarovski Factory in Austria. To me, the best way to travel at a low cost, especially when you have a big family, is to work for an airline. There is also the passion that I have for aviation as I have always been fascinated by how a huge piece of metal can fly.

Q: What have been the challenges and highlights of working and living overseas?
Syahrom: The differences in culture and languages play pivotal roles in the common challenges of working and living overseas, especially in the Middle East. It teaches us to be more tolerant, openminded, and accepting while finding a compromise in the differences with our international workmates and friends. Some of the highlights are sharing and educating the non-Muslims about Islam; my first three daughters are studying at a Baptist college in Perth yet still don the hijab and maintain their awrah (modesty), while my eldest two are student leaders in school.

Q: You were based in Qatar for 7 years prior to working in Australia. How different are the culture and lifestyle in both countries compared to Singapore?
Syahrom: Qatar, being a Muslim country, has many benefits. Halal food is easily accessible, and fuel is very cheap. They have mosques at every corner, including in malls and petrol stations, with the azan (call to prayer) being played throughout the day across the country. It is also easier to perform the umrah (minor pilgrimage) from Qatar. The summer season is challenging as the temperature can reach up to 49 to 50 degrees Celsius. During this time, our activities are restricted indoors, especially in malls just to escape the heat and enjoy the air-conditioning.

Australia, on the other hand, is surrounded by nature and greenery. Its ethnicities are even more diverse than Singapore, yet they have a higher tolerance and accepting culture. In general, Australia has a slower pace and encourages work life-balance. In 2017, we decided to move to Perth upon the approval of our permanent residence (PR) applications.

Syahrom’s passion for aviation led to him carving a career as a fleet maintenance coordinator.


Q: Your wife teaches at Al Ameen Islamic College. How big is the Muslim community in Perth and is Perth a Muslim-friendly city?
Syahrom: Perth is very much a Muslim-friendly city since it is home to many Muslims from Asia and the Middle East. Al-Ameen Islamic College is one of the four Islamic colleges in Perth. There are plans to expand and add new campuses at these Islamic schools, build more mosques and Islamic Centres. The local supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths have halal meat sections and a musollah (prayer area) is made available in one of the bigger malls in Perth. Muslim students in non-Muslim schools are normally allowed to perform prayers in their schools. For example, my daughters are given a space to do their daily Zuhur prayers in their school, Carey Baptist College. Festivals like Aidilfitri and Aidiladha are major community events that are celebrated across the state.

Q: How do you spend your free time with your family? Do you partake in any activities popular with Australians?
Syahrom: Australia is an outdoor and sports-oriented country. It is also known for its beautiful beaches. My family loves to partake in activities such as hiking, cave-trailing and bush walking through the hills and forests. We also love swimming, snorkelling and my children hope to take up surfing one day. My daughters are huge netball buffs. All of them play for a club and alhamdulillah, the Netball Association has no issues with our girls maintaining their awrah (modesty).

According to Syahrom, the differences in culture and languages teach us to be more tolerant, open-minded, and accepting, while finding a compromise in the differences with international workmates and friends.


Q: What are your future plans? Do you intend to stay in Australia or venture out to other countries?
Syahrom: We plan to stay in Australia until all our children complete their university education. Moving to another country will always be an option when the right opportunity arises.

Q: If there was one thing you could have done differently to prepare yourself for a career overseas, what would it be?
Syahrom: One thing I could have done differently is to learn Arabic. It is very useful when communicating with the Arabs in the Middle East. They have high regard for non-native Arabs who can speak Arabic fluently.

Q: Do you have any advice for Malay/Muslim youths who aspire to pursue their career overseas? 
Syahrom: My advice is to go for it! The experience will definitely change you. Working outside of Singapore will give you a different perspective towards working life. Maintain your Malay roots and share the culture with others, especially our food! Explore the world and meet the people Allah s.w.t has created, spread the word of Islam and dispel any misconceptions that non-Muslims may have about Islam and Muslims. ⬛

1 Hartung, R. Working abroad: A way to get new experiences and boost your career. TODAY. 2019, November 2. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/working-abroad-way-get-new-experiences-and-boost-your-career
2 Singapore Business Review. Singaporeans seeking jobs abroad up by 72%. 2022, May. Retrieved from: https://sbr.com.sg/hr-education/news/singaporeans-seeking-jobs-abroad-72


Nur Diyana Jalil is an Executive at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), managing its social media, events and publications.

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