Early in 2020, I was thrusted into a leadership role that I was groomed, both at work and in Red Crescent Society. It was supposed to be a easy shoe-in, then we got hit by the most disruptive world event called COVID-19. The career, family and community service took a toll in my mental health that could not be solved with evening walks. It was also this time there was a huge management shake-up at work and I don’t feel comfortable. I kept myself busy volunteering for ever greater community service project when government law allows. At the lowest point, with a lot of soul searching, I begin to reflect on what makes me happy.
It must have been karma when I saw a linked in post from a colleague in Ireland for a program management position he is looking to fill. We started to talk and 6 months later, the whole family is in Ireland.
The relocation is dream come true, I’ve been to Ireland on business trip in the past and I feel in love with it. With any move to a different country, there are ups and downs. Gave up everything that I have built back home to start a new life. I was given a second breath. Will take the time to write down the experience of relocating with the family and sharing some of the lessons I learned in my career.
Our unique life stories, shaped by past relationships and events, forms our personal beliefs. This is backed up by the book “True North” by Bill George. These values and principles will then forms the compass that we will use to navigate through life.
Following this mantra, these are the events in my life that made me who I am today. In time, these events and others I will experience in the future will provide the compass to my life. May I have the will to follow the true path.
Mantra in Life
I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Etienne de Grellet
It was during secondary school, that the late Alfonse Goh introduced this quote in one of the trainings that he gives to the Red Crescent Youth members. I had been in Red Crescent since primary school, always inspired by the work my parents do in the medical line.
Somehow, after all the years, that quote guides a lot of what I do, a lot of what I am, till this day. I feel our journey in life is such that we only have one chance, to pass this way, and what better way than to show kindness. Helping others and be of service is what I personally believe in.
Reinforcement in Form 6
There were not many options for me after form 5, my results was far from stellar. My parents told me they don’t have the money to fund me for private college so the natural option was to go to form 6. Back in the days, I have to take 5 subjects for Form 6 and I choose to take General Studies, Bio, Chem, Physics and Maths (called the Bio-Maths stream). We were told that STPM had to be the most difficult exam in the world. We believe that it was to put the non-malays in it’s place (there were few malays in form 6 as most of them will go into matriculation, perceived to be an easier path to further their studies in universities). That was the time that I really built my resentment towards the government policies that favours the malay majority.
In this time of stress and personal turmoil, I was introduced to Mahindrama Sunday School by my friends. Till then, I had not been a religious person (still not today) but I thought to follow my friends and maybe learn something. Those classes taught me deeper meaning to my religion. One is that buddhism is a teaching and that attachment is a cause of suffering. The theme suffering gets addressed a lot in the talks.
At this time, I found my purpose in life, again revolving around kindness to people. I realised compared to others, once I look from a different perspective, I am blessed. I then volunteered more time helping the temple in various activities, giving back to the temple after attending classes.
With the purpose, I pulled myself up and was able to scrape through STPM at the last minute.
Till this day, I feel getting through STPM was the one hurdle that I benchmark all the challenges I have to face. I had to fight my inner demons and won back then, I think I can do it again.
Off to University
After form 6, I got all caught on to the country’s vision 2020 and what better to be part of the future than to study in Cyberjaya, the heart of the vision. I was in the first batch occupying Multimedia University Cyberjaya in 1999. It was all mud when we registered and the hostel rooms were just walls and muddy floors (we got mattresses on the first night and the beds started to come in in the following nights)
I found myself with people who think alike and we founded the Multimedia University Red Crescent Society. I was the O/C VAD on the registration papers.
Part of the RCS, got together to hold camps and trainings for our members. This is so that we have members to be part of university activities that need first aiders. I was in 2 orientation committees, sacrificing my holidays to be with the new students, handling any first aid emergencies. The most memorable was the day when everyone was served bad nasi lemak and there was a huge food poisoning case. We had to shuttle people to the nearest town to see the doctor.
Helping people was also the how I met the wife. It was during orientation, she came from Sarawak and the parents had left home. While getting ready for her first night to stay in the apartment, she fell and chipped her tooth. I was the first aider assigned to that particular bus, managed to stop the bleeding and help her settle down in the apartment.
It was during university that I had the opportunity to “be myself” in a way that I had the opportunities to do things different from others. To put it simply, I joined a university that just got off the ground, in a course that was introduced for the first time (games design) and no huge industry at that time.
University also gave me a lot of opportunities to interact with the industry. We took part in a mobile phone games design competition with Siemens, we won and everyone got a new phone. We also had a chance to get into a startup, though it barely got started, it gave us the opportunity to learn hands-on on entrepreneurship and the startup culture.
I started work in a small company as the one man IT department, was thankful to be given this opportunity although the pay was not much. I get to learn new things and geek out in this job. The turning point for me to move up was not because of money, I got into 2 motorbike accidents in a one December month and thought the omen was there. Read an ad on the papers that they were looking for lecturer at a college in Penang, so happen the head of the school was also an old school mate. Lasted till my probation ended, mainly because I think I am smarter than everyone else in the college. Those were the times where I am big headed. Before leaving, I managed to get a job at the company that I am working now (been working here for 18 years at the time of writing). Asked the hiring manager on my first week of office, why he hired me. They needed someone who knows the graphics (not the design, it’s the maths and programming). It is a skillset not easy to find in Malaysia.
When I came back to Penang, I continued to join the Red Crescent in Penang, back together with the old team. Was good times and slowly was put in various leadership position. It was through the baptism of fire that I learn a lot of the leadership skills I still practice today. With a voluntary organisation, it is a challenge to retain members and also keep them motivated. We also deal with people who are in different areas in society, bringing everyone together is a challenge.
After working at the company for a few years, an opportunity came up to volunteer for university programs. I have benefited from industry exposure back in university and know this will be a program that I could help a lot of people to have a great career ahead. My stint with university program started with a collaboration with a nearby university to deliver a multi-core programing workshop. I enjoyed the environment where lecturers come together to learn and share. When the opportunity then came to start the national level design competition, I was one of the initial committee from various companies to get this started. Now that competition bring out the best talent in local university and essentially a 9 month job interview.
At work, I am known as the person who people can come to get help and I can connect them, some people call me the mafia. I have helped to secure equipment to debug issues, helped to manage board logistics to another country instead of going to the US. I try to be calm when the situation is very chaotic (something I learned from experience in ambulance crew). I always offer help to others, most of the time I am able to link people to others who are able to help. Together, in the theme of kindness, we are building a more productive and peaceful community in the team that I work with.
As I continue journey in life and work, I will continue to leverage my purpose of spreading kindness as the “North Star” in all that I do, because I shall never pass this way again.