By Joanna Dela Peña
Aslina Ahmad Asiri, just like most girls, did not expect to be knee deep in the aviation industry (and loving it)! But it did not come easy. Aslina clawed her way through over 30 years of being in the aviation industry; and today she is a proud woman in aviation.
I got a chance to sit with Aslina and listen to her wonderful story. In 1991 she entered aviation through the administrative side of Malaysia Airlines. This was not surprising at all considering that she graduated from secretarial school and has earned her secretarial science certificate. But a few years into that, she was offered a job in the technical field, specifically the Head of Operations Control Centre. This was new to her and new to the company — which excited her all the more! She was the first woman in this company to enter this male dominated department.
She recounts these memories with fondness in her eyes and nostalgia in her voice. It is clear that Aslina was remembering her grassroots; where she came from and where she is now heading to. With 10 years, and counting, of experience as the Head of Charter Business in Malaysia Airlines, it is no wonder where she gets her motivation from. Aslina never forgot her foundation, the things that pushed her, and the people that shaped her.
She was raised in a household of 3 children and being the only girl she knew early on the importance of being a strong woman. It helped that her parents were very supportive and hardworking. She especially mentioned her mom —a strong woman figure in her life where she learned a lot from. Her caring attributes is one of the things that molded Aslina into the woman she is today. She has learned about grit, perseverance, and determination from her family. Now, she is married to a man who has supported her in all her endeavors, challenges, and dreams.
One of Aslina’s fulfilled dreams came true in 2013 when she completed her bachelor’s degree in management. This was a tough time in her life where she had to juggle her work, her family, and fulfilling an academic dream. But just like any other strong woman, Aslina, of course, conquered this challenge with flying colors. And if there is one this that she has picked up anything from this experience, it’s that we never stop learning. In fact, she wants and plans to study again! Never stop being a beginner because this is the only way to keep our minds active and our hearts burning with passion.
Aslina is a big advocate of staying true to who you are. In her words, being a female in the male dominated field is not an easy task but “we have to be ourselves”. This speaks volumes to women everywhere and in every industry. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of work challenges especially in technical aspects but women should “be firm”. This is also where continuous learning comes in because according to Aslina, to be in a highly technical field, one should be firm in their decisions. In order to be firm, we should also know the facts to know what we are doing and to know how best we could manage every situation thrown at us.
Especially as women, we are no strangers to constant trials, but we are also built strong. This is why Aslina believes that even though women are small in number in aviation, we have to be patient and to enjoy what we are doing. As with everything else, a combination of grabbing every opportunity for growth and putting your heart into it makes for a successful new venture.
Finding your purpose may come from unexpected life turns. For Aslina, it came from the tiny voice in her head saying “No, I don’t want to become a secretary forever…I need to develop”. This mindset of constant growth has kept her on her toes always searching for the next best thing for her development. The relentless need and hunger for self-improvement has put women in positions where they can implement real change and where they can inspire millions of people.
Women like Aslina are the reason that little girls are not scared anymore to dive head first in male dominated roles. Women continue to empower women.