Episode 34: Three Women, One Passion for Aviation – at CAE, Malaysia

By Katy Chahal

The road to empowering women does not stop at online engagements for the WiAA team. With restrictions slowly being lifted and face-to-face events becoming a norm again, the WiAA project was invited by CAE to be a part of this momentous event —June 23rd, 2022 a day in “Celebrating Women in Aviation”- to promote equality, empathy, and diversity in the field of aviation.

Together with the masters of ceremony, Raja Reefa & Sarah Mohd Za’ba, the CAE North Lobby was buzzing with excitement. No doubt everyone was just as enthusiastic as we were to finally meet (in person) and honor this shared passion.

During the event, we were graced by three accomplished women in aviation: Nirmala Balakrishnan, Cindy Wong, and Nur Aminah Abdullah. They allowed us a peek into their lives as aviation industry professionals.

Nirmala Balakrishnan — a woman who started outside of the aviation industry was one of the women we got to interview. Her wide experience in electronics, cigarette manufacturing, and telecommunications has led her to have a deep passion for learning; a passion that led her to the aviation industry. She started as an HR executive, which was all new to her. But like the strong woman she is, she took it with open arms and embraced the challenge that came with it.

17 years later, working with CAE as the HR executive she has never been happier. She’s head of Quality Assurance and the Compliance Monitoring Manager. With all her struggles and life experience she only wishes to share one thing — “The best dream happens when you are awake”

Nirmala Balakrishnan

Cindy Wong — is another woman who changed courses in life because she fell in love with aviation. Psychology to aviation, are two very different fields, so you could imagine how big the leap was. Growing up, Cindy was very fascinated with the study of human behavior. Learning about it and deeply understanding it was one of the things she strived to achieve in her life…

…. that was until she found out about the opportunity for WOMEN to be in aviation through her sister. Her sister is part of an airline cabin crew and that was when Cindy found out and was inspired to, join the industry. Now, she works at AirAsia, the largest airline in Malaysia by fleet size and destinations, as an MPL cadet pilot.

Cindy Wong

Nur Aminah Abdullah —has always had a passion and was always on track to be a part of the aviation industry. With a degree in Avionics from the University of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Institute of Aviation Technology, she never expected to be in the engineering field. But with a competitive nature, Aminah fought for her place in the university environment with 90% of the university having a male population; so, in her second semester, Aminah found a deep love for aircraft simulation.

It did not stop there, she got herself an internship at CAE Kuala Lumpur, one of the biggest simulator companies in Malaysia. There she learned a lot about how maintenance works in an aircraft simulator. With that experience, she got a job at PWN Excellence as a Simulator Support Engineer, where she would perform preventive and corrective maintenance. After a year, she went back to her roots, to CAE Kuala Lumpur where she worked as a Simulator Support Engineer. And five years later, she is now part of the managerial staff of the simulator department which is Maintenance Planner and Controller / Regulatory Compliance Specialist.

Finding love in engineering was not in her plan but this is where life steered her. It paved a way for her to learn about this complex machine that required her to have top-notch mechanical, electrical, and software skills. Other than that, being in the managerial position has taught Aminah that decision-making plays a big role in aviation; being the middleman between management, the technical team, and customers, Aminah has to juggle a lot of responsibilities. But she does this all with passion in her heart and motivation coursing through her veins.

Nur Aminah Abdullah

These three women are true inspirations for us who are striving to pursue a career in aviation; they are lighthouses that continue to guide those of us who are surviving in the industry; they are flames that persist to ignite the fire of passion within all of us. Nirmala, Cindy, and Aminah are three women who share one passion for aviation.