My first job out of university back in 2013 was with the Mumbai office of a small, boutique management consulting firm. Till this day I’m not quite sure how it happened. I hadn’t given particular thought to job applications until mid-way through my final year, and management consulting seemed to be the best of a trifecta which other options included academia and rentboy work (which my professors assured me was exactly the same as academia).
So I spent a couple of years in Mumbai before moving back to Singapore when the local office opened up. I wasn’t a fan of the long hours and sometimes grinding work, but I loved that it let me do crazy things like travel around the world not one, not two but three times. I earned miles by the bucketload, secured lifetime SPG Gold status, and took some amazing trips. More importantly, the job gave me the inspiration and material to start writing The Milelion.
But everyone knows that management consultants have a limited shelf life. Sooner or later the demands of the job take their toll, and you start to want to focus on other more important things in life (hello Milelioness). So after five years, I decided it was time for a change.
The question then was: where should I go? I love doing The Milelion, but I’m of the opinion that it’s not ready to be a full-time pursuit, at least not yet. The other options were to go to business school (although once you hit 30 you’re kind of dead to US MBA programs), switch to another consulting firm (what’s that definition of insanity again?) or try my hand at something different.
I considered a few offers, and in the end decided to take a position with Mileslife. It’s probably fair to say I’ve got a pretty good view of miles and points from the consumer’s perspective, but what excited me about this opportunity was the chance to learn about how things look from the business side of the table.
Now, working with a startup in the miles and points space while maintaining a blog about miles and points raises legitimate concerns about maintaining objectivity and managing potential conflicts of interest. Let’s just get that out in the open. With regards to objectivity, my hope would be that the Milelion’s track record of telling things as they are speaks for itself. Readers know that this site doesn’t shy away from voicing legitimate criticism, or curry favor for the sake of free stuff. After all, I started the site as an outlet for the one thing I really enjoy doing: writing hard hitting, impactful analysis. Anything more is just a bonus. I’m proud of what we write (even if it ruffles a few feathers), and would rather shut it all down than change it.
With regards to conflicts of interest, what I came to realise was this: if I really wanted to work in an area I’m passionate about while continuing to do The Milelion, some conflict would be inevitable. It’d be no different if I went to work in the cards team of a bank, or the loyalty department of an airline or hotel group, or a financial comparison site, or anything else in the world of miles and points. The only way of avoiding it entirely would be to work in a completely unrelated industry, and I don’t fancy dusting off my accountancy degree. It helps that I genuinely believe that Mileslife is a great product and a godsend to any miles chaser in Singapore. However, it does raise an important question: if I work for Mileslife, how should I deal with this fact when writing on The Milelion?
One option would be to stop writing about Mileslife altogether. That doesn’t really make sense, given how useful it is to the site’s target audience. Another would be to let someone else on The Milelion team handle all Mileslife articles. That might work, but it’s still going to be an artificial distinction, given that the every post is ultimately approved by me and it’s inevitable that Mileslife comparisons may be drawn even in posts that aren’t ostensibly about the platform. My ethics prof probably summed it up best when he said “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. In that respect, so long as I’m employed by Mileslife I think the best option is to be upfront and disclose that wherever relevant.
Another concern some people might have is the site basically becoming a blog about Mileslife. But if you pause and think about that for a second, it makes no sense at all. People aren’t dumb. If that were to happen, readers would get bored real fast and stop visiting, which isn’t exactly in my own best interests either. The Milelion remains my personal site where I write about all aspects of travel hacking that I’m obsessed with, of which Mileslife has its own place.
So what happens now? Nothing, really. This post is in the spirit of keeping things open and pre-empting some potential concerns. In the months to come, it is possible that we’ll see some closer collaboration between Mileslife and The Milelion when it comes to events or targeted promotions, but otherwise it’s business as usual.
Feel free to reach out or leave a comment below if you have any questions.