When Opportunity Knocks, Worakanya Siripidej Runs To The Door
Growing up in the 1990s with enlightened parents who were government officials in the Ministry of Education, Worakanya Siripidej, or Yok, says that discussions of issues such as racism, sexism, equality and human rights were commonplace in her household. At the time subjects such as these were still considered largely taboo, much less the stuff of chat amongst Yok’s peers, who she describes as less understanding than her parents. “I became the weird one because no one talked about that sort of stuff, especially teenagers. But I accepted it because my family taught me not to judge,” says the chief executive officer of Siam Seaplane.
Yok attended Mahidol Wittayanusorn School, an institution renowned for its mathematics and science tuition, where she gained a reputation for being, as she puts it, “a bit of a nerd” but one that was prepared to speak out and stand up for herself. Despite the school’s academic leanings, she eventually chose further education in the arts, so while her friends headed off to study medicine, science and mathematics, Yok took up a place at Silpakorn University to study literature. “University changed my life, I think. We studied human nature, learned about ourselves and what motivates others. Issues such as feminism and equality were open for debate again,” smiles the 35-year-old.
After graduating, an opportunity arose for new experiences in the form of a flight attendant’s position with Jetstar airlines. Yok jumped at it, seeing it as a chance to meet people and see something of the world. Based primarily in Australia, she worked for the airline for three years and says of the experience, “It was fun but very tiring and in downtime on flights I realised that I wasn’t really growing intellectually. I think I was also quite lonely.”
Hence her decision to return to Thailand and enroll at Chulalongkorn University to study for a master’s degree in marketing. Graduating at the age of 28, she was asked to become a guest lecturer at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology and accepted with alacrity. “I find that when opportunity comes, I generally go for it and give it my all. It’s like a never-say-never kind of thing,” she chuckles. After a year and a half of lecturing, she moved on to a full-time lecturer’s post at Sripatum University, where she still runs courses on business innovation and creation, consumer empathy and sustainability. “These are areas I’m also studying for my doctoral degree,” she explains.
Currently in her second year of study at Mahidol University, Yok also recently became the chief executive officer of Siam Seaplane, a premium seaplane service providing seamless access to waterfront resorts, beaches and marinas. “I befriended our COO, Lionel Vincent Mougel, who then introduced me to our CBO, Dennis Keller. Long story short, they had a passion to bring seaplanes to Thailand and together we all set up the company last year.” Due to launch in the second quarter of 2021, the company has been in talks with various government agencies, including aviation, marine and coastal resources departments. “We’re just making sure everything is ready for take-off,” the CEO says. “We are a very new and unique service and there are many, many rules we have to follow for certification.”
Having parallel jobs at the same time as studying for her doctorate might seem a stretch but Yok says she loves what she’s doing. “As a lecturer I meet all kinds of interesting people. I also guest lecture as a part of the Boston Consulting Group’s team and while the successful launch of Siam Seaplane is my immediate focus, teaching will always be a part of my life.”
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