Rishika Kasliwal is an engineering consultant at McLarens Aviation, handling various aviation insurance claims ranging from bird strikes to lightning strikes and catastrophic engine failures. She studied for a Bachelor of Science degree from Emirates Aviation University in the United Arab Emirates before becoming a trainee with Emirates in 2014 and then interning with McLarens Aviation in 2016, subsequently being offered a permanent engineering role five months later. Rishika is an active member of the Royal Aeronautical Society too, which has allowed her to develop her soft skills whilst also giving back to the community at the same time.
“For me, success has always been about balance.”
New adventures in physics and maths that led to a career in aeronautical engineering
I have always loved physics and maths in school. Growing up, I enjoyed travelling in planes and have always been the adventurous one — I wanted to jump off an airplane and I did (with relevant safety precautions in place, of course!). My point is I loved, and I still love planes! Therefore, using a chapter in maths, I created my sets and decided to become an aeronautical engineer and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Emirates Aviation University in the United Arab Emirates in 2016.
I completed a brief programme as a trainee with Emirates, working in different workshops, my favourite being the engine workshop. Shortly after, I started interning with McLarens Aviation during my last semester and upon finishing my exams, I was offered to work with them as a support Engineer on a contractual basis. I guess I did a good job and within less than a year, I was offered my permanent role as an engineering consultant.
Combining technical skills and soft skills in a global industry
I handle aviation insurance claims where I provide my technical expertise to insurers. Claims would range from FOD (foreign object debris) damage to the wings of an aircraft to catastrophic engine failure.
My day-to-day involves analysing the data, meeting with clients, adjusting the claim and reporting on the same. I also conduct surveys of the damaged units. These give me an opportunity to travel and meet people from different parts of the world. One of my memorable trips was to Kabul, Afghanistan just before the pandemic.
I am glad to have a job that gives me such an all-rounded experience of technical and soft skills combined plus the exposure, where I get to communicate with airlines, maintenance, repair and overhaul organisations, original equipment manufacturers, and even lawyers from time to time. It excites me to learn how these areas of aviation work together.
The value of internships
I think internships are valuable in the early stages of anyone’s career. (In recent years there has been a move away from unpaid internships though as the drive for social mobility picks up pace.)
An internship puts you out there in the real world and you get a good feel of what you like, (and as importantly, what you don’t like!) by working on the job. Plus, it adds experience which never hurts! If you are lucky to score such internships, you should go for it. I managed to score my internship by attending conferences and lectures, connecting with others, and talking about my interests in wanting to learn on the job. It’s very important to put yourself in the right place at the right time and build personal connections as the best opportunities aren’t always advertised.
Finding your own niche your own way
I feel aviation is a niche field that requires some key skill sets. If you love aviation, then specialising in the field would be a good idea as you could still move within its sub-sectors and experiment with roles based on your interests.
In my opinion, whilst not unachievable, if you wish to work in multiple industries or you are not sure about aviation for the long term, I suggest developing transferable skills and gathering appropriate experience in this case. These can be obtained outside work as well such as through volunteering.
Learning and giving back to the community
I love volunteering where I can learn a little and give back to the community in some way. My role at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) allows me to do just that. I learn from and assist branches in South Africa, Brussels, Paris, etc. and I set up a Young Persons Network. I get to practice networking and project management the most. This has helped me build my soft skills exponentially.
As a Young Persons Representative in the UAE branch, I did quite a lot of event organisation and hosting, which really boosted my confidence speaking on stage. These events were mainly targeted towards the students and professionals in the early stages of their careers.
An aeronautical engineering voyage of discovery
I found myself working in a role I was unaware of until my final year of engineering, which resulted from networking and interning. This is one of the takeaways for me and I would advise this to others, explore options and do internships during the early stages of the career. This gives you a chance to figure out which direction you want to take your career, as that can be a little daunting when you don’t really have all the answers from the get-go.
In addition to this, there are platforms like Royal Aeronautical Society and Women in Aviation to name a few. I think these platforms are helpful to get the guidance needed for students and professionals irrespective of the stage of their careers.
Beautiful memories are made up of tiny moments
For me, success has always been about balance. When it comes to work, I enjoy working on different projects from time to time as it keeps me stimulated and I hope to do more of those.
I look forward to more travels and treks to the mountains. Also, I have always wanted to see Northern Lights so hope that happens soon! I have lots of family plans too! I enjoy spending time with them and my friends, watching movies and playing lots of board games; can never get enough of these tiny moments which when put together make up my life and fill it with beautiful memories.