Some thoughts on a career switch

My new job and what it means for the site.

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.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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K

Congratulations on your new role. Given your openness, that’s half the battle won for potential future issues where your objectivity may be questioned. It would be a sad day if you decide to shut your site down.

JO

Hi there Aaron,

I didn’t know that you spent some years in Mumbai, wow! That gives us a lot of common topics about life there. I was based in Mumbai for 5 years (First with Singapore Gov and next with a listed Company).

I felt that every minute spent in India wasn’t wasted, just that lethargy kicked in and totally agree on the “Milelioness” part.

I like your works at Milelion a lot and I am sure many supporters out there felt the same!

Keep up the good work and hope to see you soon!

Wee Teck

Aaron, all the best with the career switch! Looking forward to bigger and better things with Milelion!

Well

I personally don’t care about any conflict of interest, because everybody has to work somewhere anyway, unless there is an intention to wrongfully mislead. Which I don’t think is an issue base on your solid principles and character.. I think it is alright and good enough for you to disclose what you have to, and others make their own decisions whether to join the marketing/promotion/etc or not.. The tone of the article is important to be neutral and with comparisons/critique (if any? so as not to appear overly bias – my suggestion) I will definitely miss a lot of your… Read more »

Michael

Congratulations to you and thanks for being so open about it! But please continue with this forum!

Jon L

Hopefully our intern can soon be paid with food…

YY

congratulation! It is wonderful to be able to combine passion and work as one!
I agree that it is better that you disclose it upfront and leave it to the reader to evaluate the content from different angle. We take responsibility on the information we received and do our due dilligence to verify.
Lastly, All the best to you and will still continue to visit your site!

milefan

You’ll always gonna be 24 years young mate, no such thing as “once you hit 30”. Ballers like you will always look young. Here’s to more great articles!

Milelioness

Hello Milelion;)

Jeriel

Milecubs coming soon

R

Woa… Does this constitute insider knowledge (pun wholly unintended)?

What this means will depend on the missing punctuation. A period (again, sorry for the unintended pun!), a question mark or an exclamation mark, they all mean different things!

Milecub #1

Meow *lick lick*

Ned

Grats Aaron! Alignment of passion n work is something not everyone can choose. Delighted that our miles mentor can continue to enlighten us through this site.

I just hope none of the sardonic style gets lost in the need to be ‘more neutral’. I almost enjoy ur style to the content. Almost.

Ken

Congrats to you, Aaron, on your new path with exciting new things in life.. looking forward to reading more from you and everyone else..

stacey

pleeeeease don’t stop writing! and if you write about mileslife, great – i for one haven’t yet taken the plunge of figuring it out …

jo

How do you deal with the other question: if I write for The Milelion, how should I deal with this fact when working at Mileslife?

freedom

Will you run your article through Mileslife before posting?

Jimmy

Wish you all the best in your new career.

Josie

Congratulations on your new role! How very exciting! Love your blog and how well written and researched the articles are. I really look forward to each blog post so keep up the great work!

jb

I have always appreciated your frank and insightful articles. The deliberate statements about how Milelion earns through various referral links on your articles reflects your intent towards transparency to us as readers. It is great to hear about your new role and do appreciate the open disclosure. All the best at Mileslife.

Sensei

I am almost 40 years old and I remembered my 30s for the lessons it has taught me. Regarding Mileslife, I have downloaded the app and used it a couple of times and then stopped using it. Now I have deleted the app and unsubscribed from Mileslife emails. I don’t find Miles Life useful at all. I eat out a lot and travel a lot but I still don’t find the app helps me earn miles as opposed to my just using my 3x dining out card and 3x travel. If the miles were 10x with bonus then that would… Read more »

AKH

Thanks Aaron for the note. Good to be upfront, not that I think there will be an issue, judging from how you have been writing so far. I have learnt lots from your site. Keep going! All the best in Mileslife.

SQT

The rightful mirror image of conflict of interest should be disclosure. As long as when conflict of interest looks into a mirror and see disclosure, it would be fine.

Robin

well said !

R

Hmm, I’m no expert in ethics and conflicts of interest (perceived or real) but I don’t think this is wholly correct. Would you trust a judge just because he declares his conflict of interest in the matter you bring before him? I wouldn’t. The proper way is to recuse, which was what Aaron considered, so I’m naturally somewhat disappointed he decided he wouldn’t do that. I still hope he will reconsider and delegate editorial responsibilities over any articles that touch upon Mileslife to someone else. Aaron’s mere involvement with Milelion taints his impartiality for all such articles and his preemptive… Read more »

Ben

1. Aaron is not a judge. Don’t compare apples with oranges. There are much more onerous and demanding rules and guidelines that a judge (at least a High Court judge in Singapore) is expected to follow in dealing with potential conflicts of interest, whether real or even merely apparent. 2. Since you are on the topic of law, I trust you would also know that there are established scenarios in which a lawyer who is conflicted can nevertheless still act for two different clients if both of these people consent to the disclosure. A similar principle exists even in board… Read more »

R

Ben, you might have misunderstood me, but in all fairness, it’s my fault as I made a very important typo in my message above. I had meant to say “Aaron’s mere involvement with *MILESLIFE* taints his impartiality for all such articles”. My typo made that sentence incoherent and may have given you the impression that I am either suggesting the site ceases to cover Mileslife, or that all his articles henceforth will be tainted. I was suggesting Aaron refrain from writing on Mileslife because of his new association with them. But that does not mean Milelion cannot continue to cover… Read more »

SQtraveler

Aaron, is your future employer aware of your blog? If yes, would they allow you to put their company’s content, commentary or possibly representation privately by you in the public domain?

SQtraveler

Once you’re an employee, would they allow you to comment on anything relating to the company in your blog FREELY, no encumberence nor consent required? Say, your future employer is now UOB instead of mileslife. Would UOB allow you to trash their products freely in your blog?

SQtraveler

Neutral doesn’t mean truthful, it’s to avoid upsetting all sides. If mileslife introduced a product and in your opinion, it is as bad as uob krisflyer card at the first instance, then would you trash it in your blog after you became an employee?

R

From the conversation, it’s obviously a tricky and delicate situation, and I believe it hasn’t been easy for Aaron. If it helps, from the frameworks that Ben mentioned above, this guide may be of some assistance. You are of course not under the same obligations, legal or otherwise, but it is nonetheless helpful counsel.

https://www.sid.org.sg//images/PDFs/Codes/SGP05.pdf

HZ

Congratulations! Looking forward to continued quality articles! (:

Kenneth Teo

All the best in your new assignment. I enjoy this site thoroughly.

Phelan

why didnt you try for SIA Head of Marketing? They certainly need new blood especially after all the recent blunders…

?

That is not a good suggestion.

Aaron is currently the leader of our pack against Krisflyer miles – winning the battle for us.
Why would you want to send your leader over to SIA to have him winning us instead?

cheesecake

Or cross over to the dark side – UOB – so their accounts no longer be “dead on arrival” and make sure they kill all those incorrigible “you qualify for this promotion if you are the first X people, without ability to tell you if you indeed qualify before you spend” promos.

Tropikul

Congrats Aaron!!! Do continue to ruffle feathers with your writing! It really helps us a lot! One question though, why do you think that once you hit 30, one will be dead to US MBA programs? Is there an unspoken rule that one should pass his MBA before 30 in the states?

Jason

Good luck boss!

Patagucci

Good on you Aaron – I’m sure you’ll do well in your new endeavours! I’m in the midst of starting my apps for business school as well, and it’s really a daunting prospect; MBAs in Asia don’t have as much cachet as they do in the States, and the costs are insane. I’m sure you would’ve been a shoo-in at the best schools, but the choice you’ve made here I reckon already sounds like the right one – doing what you love and being paid for it! Keep up the great work.

Alvin W

Congratulations Aaron.. well done, on keeping your site ‘neutral’ , finding your milelioness, and landing a new gig that have your interest.

I believe if you do your best, uphold your principles of what is right, people (reader) will do their own due diligence and come up to their own preferences. Other than that , are just noise. 🙂

Ryan

All the best Aaron! being able to combine your passion with work is awesome. Mileslife just caught a big fish.

on a side note, how will u respond when banks attempts to sponsor milelife to market a lousy product ?

JY

Hi Aaron, massive congrats on your new role and thanks for being such a genuine person! I hope that your passion continues to burn bright while you navigate these COIs (they can be rather frustrating sometimes). I see massive potential for you to join a bank to curate products, would be fantastic to have a professional mile chaser producing the ultimate miles card once and for all.

Dheeraj

Congrats Aaron! Ownself check ownself eh? =) Just kidding. All the best in your new role.

Drakka

Keep on writing, Aaron. I am not put of the miles community but I have my own ways of tabulating miles costs and credit card rewards… Enjoyed your articles and this site made me sign up for the DBS Women’s Card, OCBC Titanium and Mileslife. I am a user of Mileslife occasionally, when promo codes and promos are in my favor. Just to share some my thoughts on Mileslife since you will join Mileslife: 1) from the perspective of the consumer, Mileslife needs to be even more aggressive with the promos as the dining space is very competitive. When CHOPE… Read more »

SH Lim

Congrats on finding the other half and all the best with your new adventure

SGGoodLife

All the best Aaron! Happy that you managed to find a job that deals literally with miles. I wish I had the same courage to follow my writing and travel passion… i’ll continue to put up a good word for Mileslife on my blog. Keep the amazing deals coming!

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