Patrick Biggerstaff '13 Books Job in Singapore
Although Patrick Biggerstaff MBA ’13 was born in Singapore, he moved to Los Angeles as a baby and has no memories of his first experiences in the Southeast Asian country. All of that changed when he was offered a job opportunity with Singapore Airlines to relocate to its main headquarters in Singapore as the new Head of Digital Experience. After two years in the position, Patrick is more than making up for all those lost experiences.
Patrick first joined Singapore Airlines in 2008 as a member of the marketing team. During his time in the El Segundo office, he headed up U.S. representation for the global CRM initiative, grew local web sales by 60%, and implemented various digital advertising strategies for the U.S. market. He previously served in marketing roles with Hamon & Associates and France Vacations. Patrick attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia where he double majored in Marketing and French. He studied abroad in Paris for a semester and spent his summers working as a sales representative for his family’s travel business.
Travel has always been a major part of Patrick’s life and he’s carrying on that tradition with his wife and two-year-old son in Singapore. He admits they are too busy enjoying their new adventure to miss home. “Singapore is a great travel hub and there are so many great destinations to visit that are just a short plane ride away,” he says. “We're trying to get the full experience while we’re here.” Read on to learn more about how this adventure took off...
Did you always have an interest in marketing and travel & tourism?
My dad is French and my parents worked in the travel business so I did quite a bit of traveling growing up. We spent summers in France and used it as a base to explore other regions in Europe. That desire to travel has stuck with me and is a big reason why I remain in the industry today. I started my career at my parent’s business doing phone sales, basically a reservation agent. I moved through various roles within the company and eventually found my way to digital marketing and e-commerce. My main interest was telling stories about travel and getting others interested. With digital marketing, I’m able to combine this desire to tell stories along with my interest in online technology.
Why did you decide to get your MBA and why did you choose LMU?
I had been considering an MBA for a few years but never really got the motivation to start. I eventually hit a plateau at Singapore Airlines and felt there were no opportunities for advancement in our local office. I knew that having an MBA would open more doors, as well as enhance my professional network. LMU’s MBA Program stood out among the competition, primarily because it was convenient to my office, it allowed me to continue to work full time, and it was ranked highly among other MBA programs.
Why did you choose an emphasis in Information & Decision Sciences?
I knew I wanted to study something different with my MBA. I considered finance, management and information & decision sciences as possible tracks and ultimately chose which would serve me best based on my interests. So much of marketing, especially in the digital/e-commerce field, relies on data. The airline industry has tons of data. I wanted the skill set to be able to understand this data and turn it into actionable marketing insights and easy-to-understand information. I truly believe this is going to be an important aspect of all marketing decisions going forward.
How did this new job opportunity with Singapore Airlines come about?
I had several conversations with my boss about my career path and what my next steps would be. He had mentioned the possibility of going to Singapore a few times. My response was always “if the offer is made and the timing is right then I'd consider it.” One day my boss told me about a new position opening up in Singapore that would focus primarily on the website and mobile. I was immediately interested. I wanted to find a way to advance my career while maintaining ties to the company and this was the perfect fit!
Describe some of your main responsibilities as Head of Digital Experience?
This position was developed as part of the expansion of the e-commerce department at Singapore Airlines. A few months ago, our department was quite small and now we’re up to about 20 people. Our team primarily focuses on the website and mobile. We also deal with online partnerships and certain aspects of digital marketing. There are a number of projects in the works right now which keep us very busy. Ultimately, we want to make sure that customers who visit any of our digital properties will have the same great experience as they have on our aircraft.
What do you like most about your job? What’s most challenging?
I'm still quite new to the position so I’m still figuring things out. I would say the most interesting part is creating a product with such high visibility. In the past, all of my efforts were in the U.S. market. Now I get to work on our global digital offerings which impact millions of people. Trying to think beyond the scope of just one market and focus on best practice user experiences and how to optimize across cultures is very interesting. It's also very challenging. Now that things are more visible, there are also more layers of approval needed. Working in the Head Office comes with various challenges that I never faced before in the field office.
How valuable has an MBA been to your professional growth?
Having an MBA has given me the confidence boost I needed to move overseas to Singapore. Today’s job market is pretty scary, but having an MBA opened new doors and helped me develop new skills in info/decision science that I use frequently. Dr. Kala Seal and Dr. Sijun Wang offered great classes around business intelligence and customer relationship management which proved to be extremely helpful in my current job. Lastly, the strong alumni network is extremely valuable. Hopefully I'll be able to open doors for other alums one day.
You speak French and have traveled extensively throughout the world. How does having international experience give you an advantage?
I think the best part about travel is that it gets you comfortable with change. Every place I've been is unique and they all have different ways of doing business. You may not be an expert in a culture but if you have the flexibility to change and adapt to your surroundings, you will get pretty far anywhere you go. The world is really becoming a lot smaller. Companies need to expand beyond the local markets to grow and keep up. I think having international experience gives you an advantage to be a part of this growth. Certain things can be frustrating when dealing across cultures, but you need to learn to understand the context.
What advice would you give to students and young professionals who are interested in working abroad?
If the opportunity presents itself and the timing is right, do it. It doesn't have to be a permanent thing but it can be a great boost for you personally and professionally. A lot of people are apprehensive to live abroad because they’re scared of change and the unfamiliar.
What are your long-term career goals?
I'm interested to see where my current position takes me within Singapore Airlines. Now that I'm working from the Head Office there is great opportunity to branch off into general airline management, outside the e-commerce field. It's such a fascinating industry and there is so much that goes into making an airline successful. I think the next couple of years here in Singapore will really help shape my vision for the future and then we'll see where things take us.