Following are excerpts from a FutureLab Campus Hero interview with Mr J and Daniel Phang, KYC analyst at J.P Morgan (Malaysia)
MRJ: Tell me about yourself
DP: I started out as an engineer, but after awhile I did not like it and desperately wanted to get out of the engineering field. Early 2016, I just got out of a slight depression and managed to join Axiata Young CEO Development Programme. A few months later, a friend of mine posted a job opening in our Whatsapp group. I jumped on it and sent her my CV straight away. It was only the next day, I asked her which company was the CV for, and she said J.P. Morgan! I am very fortunate. I went for the interview, and I thought that I would have had failed at the interview, because the Vice President was actually speaking more than me. I thought I lose that opportunity. But 1 week later, J.P. Morgan call me and offered me a job. I was quite surprise .It was only after 6 months, my Vice President revealed the reason why she hired me was because of my enthusiasm, my drive, my willingness to learn, so she knew that my attitude was correct and she knew she can teach me anything and that’s what she wants.
My reason of getting out of engineering —- the industry was not right for me. I studied engineering because I love cars. During my college life, I was undecisive and thus asked my mom. She said, “you know what, if you take engineering now and you don’t like it you can always go into business, but if you enter business side straight away, it is very hard for you to go into engineering later in your life”. So, I decide to study engineering first. And now, it was actually quite a struggle working in a bank because of my background as an engineer with no finance background whatsoever. I had to undergo various self learning & training to overcome this disadvantage. It’s a little bit hard to gain creditability when you have not stayed long in a certain area. Now, I am venturing to become a leadership life Coach as well!
MRJ: Why did you want to be a mentor at Futurelab?
DP: My best friend, Ashley, who is already a mentor in Futurelab, introduced me to become a mentor. At first, I did not want to as I was not really keen and I thought I did not have what it takes, that was one year back. I began to do more training engagements, mentoring with my juniors and peers. At one point, she said that I am actually a very good mentor as I comprehend people well, and able to give very constructive advice. I understand how people think due to my past experiences. I gone through slight depression before and I have had been unemployed for 9 months. So, I understand the pain and difficulties of others. I know how to bring use my experiences to help other people identify their true root problems and potential and she said I am good at that, and therefore I should really try out Futurelab. It was only recently that I have made the decision to join Futurelab to become a mentor. Initially, I doubt myself: “what make you think you can become a mentor?”, as I am not a successful entrepreneur nor a boss or a VP, I am not even a manager in my company. It took 1 year for me to realise that I don’t need to be in such position to be a mentor. I am a good mentor, I can give good advices, I have certain experiences, and I think I can help people. That’s why I decided to join Futurelab.
MRJ: Do you agree that there is gap between students and working professionals?
DP: For this particular gap, you may look into a couple of things. First, is the educational system. Our education system was built long time ago for the industrial revolution. During those times, schools and universities were built to train or churn out talent that suits the time of workforce, it is no longer that case for the present or in future. Certain skill like critical thinking, networking are seldom taught in the classroom, these are more commonly found in co-curriculum. Companies are now looking for talents and skills that does not match the syllabus from school. Universities are not really collaborating with companies, industrial experts. For example, after I graduated as an engineer, I only use 10% of what I learn at work. Whatever you have had studied is too general and exams are an emphasis for students because it is the only way people were graded and classified in the old days. But the problem is, the exams actually gauge show well you memorise, and how you deliver the answer. But in work, they don’t care about memorising, Google is king. Anything you need to know is in Google. Another thing is people don’t know where to acquire the knowledge, and then how to apply this knowledge for better use. That is what company wants to see, how you use information to apply to the job to create output. My suggestion is that Universities and Companies should work hand in hand to produce new learning and exposure that prepares the student both in soft skills and hard skills. I know there are a few new universities offering courses that are based on projects for the real world, real life work simulations partnering with companies, teaching relevant knowledge and skills that is transferable to all industries.
Besides, companies want to see your initiative, to know you are very teachable. The initial 3 months of any employment, the company is losing money on you, because they are training you and you might not be giving any output. So that why the first 3 months is very critical to a company to gauge your fit in the company and that why they call it probation. A lot students do not have smooth transition to the working force because they don’t understand, when you are in university you live a life of assignments, exams and parties etc; but when you go to work there is no such thing as exam or assignment, you just need to complete your job. On top of that, if you want to get promoted, and you want to get the pay you deserve, you have to do more than you are told. Students always assume that you get the pay you want, and then you do the job. But reality, you should do more work than you are asked to do so that you can demand more pay. A lot of people just demand more pay without doing anything more. If you do more and take additional tasks, your boss would feel more comfortable to delegate more work for you, more trust that you would be able to deliver. It then means that you are ready to take up leadership positions, you can help take part of the boss job and you are more likely to become assistance manager. Students might not understand this since students are not taught how to climb the ladder, how to bargain for a job, how to find the job you want. That is why there is such a big gap. For example, in most interviews, employers would ask what you do else from the academics, your co-curriculum activities, your leadership ability. They want to see you active outside of normal studying which shows that you are willing to accomplish more than whatever its take. When you become employee they also expect the same value that you can provide, if you are only a book student, is very hard for you to survive outside.
MRJ: Coming from an engineering background, how do you recommend students with limited finance background to pick-up finance?
DP: Are you willing to learn extra? For the first few month, I struggle. Investopedia was my best friend. You must work more than other people. Because a 3 years degree provided the knowledge for those students in Finance background, but you have none, you have to back up all those things, you have to be smart, and you cannot just simply study, it won’t be relevant to your work. You need to study very fast, very specific knowledge that will help in your work. But don’t worry, apart from coming from engineering background (or even any background), if you have any idea on how you acquire certain specific skill, it will be okay. When you do a degree, you should focus on learning skills like reporting, professional writing, effective communication, project planning, etc. Those are skill that are TRANSFERABLE from university to work life and any industry. As an engineer I learn how to use excel, formulas, macro and when you go into banking they love that, because they have so many clients and transactions, they would want to make things automated for ease of work and leverage, e.g. how many transactions per day are for the use of “A & B”. They will love engineer for those things. Because you can come in, you do all the excel sheet for us, then done, its automated. Basically crunching and massaging data. Also, banks, or any industry for the matter, love engineers because we are trained to think very linearly, very logically, think in charts and graphs.
MRJ: How does an engineering background help you with your work at JP Morgan?
DP: Honestly nothing much except excel. The understanding of Excel helped me to do things faster. Since my background as a mechanical engineer, we were taught to become production people, work in a factory, and create physical models for example. But when I got into banking, everything is virtual, we don’t really create stuff so I don’t get to use those skill. That is where I have to catch on very quickly and adapt. But if you are a software engineer, it will be very helpful if you can go into the fintech industry or even the tech team of banking. They need software engineers to create new system as thing are moving to automation and digital. Software engineer are very loved by the banking industry. With more automated service, the bank can get more clients onboard.
MRJ: How is the culture in JP Morgan?
DP: In JP Morgan, we actually are mandated to do training. Each employee is allocated certain hour of training which they must fulfil per year. In term of self-development, it was very good for JP Morgan. We have a lot online courses (both hard skill and soft skill) that you must finish. They have a whole library of online courses. Some are assign to you automatically, some you can choose. We also have inhouse or external coaches some to Malaysia to educate us. JP Morgan is very comfortable for me. Despite the fact that there are a lot of tasks, KPIs to hit and we need to work long hours, yet their acknowledgement is incredible. We have appreciation meals, outings, movie nights, treasure hunts, philanthropy events. Besides, my colleagues are very nice, we really focus on team work. We work hand in hand with cross departments and other department from foreign countries too.
MRJ: What are the top 3 benefits in choosing JP Morgan as your career path?
DP: To start with, the brand – no doubt about it, it is a well-known brand and we have won many awards. The second is the great deal of learning experience. JP Morgan is small in Malaysia, so technically you have to do A to Z. Unlike others bank, which you would be specialising in 1 area of task, we do almost everything. Third, the people. The people there are very nice very helpful. The culture is very pleasant. There are a lot of team bonding events. We have annual trips, treasure hunt, philanthropy event, CSR event throughout the whole year.
MRJ: What are some of the important skills that a student might need to get into JP Morgan? DP: Microsoft Excel. Excel works for a specific reason. All the data will be presented in the spreadsheet, then you can crunch and massage the date to infer understanding and solutions. We will use software systems to upload the Excel for further processing. Since you can’t learn the software systems in university you can focus on Interpersonal relationship. You would need to know how to communicate with your boss, colleague and other departments. To be the top, you need take initiative and work hard, or else if you are lazy/slacking your review will be the bad, that simple. After I finish my work at 7pm, I usually offer to help my superiors to offload some of their task. That is initiative. I wanted to do and learn a bit more so I took extra initiatives. When you ask for extra jobs, superiors will be quite happy, it means that they can offload more, can teach you more. Thus, you can go further and do more by teaching others around you.
MRJ: Advice that you will give to student before entering into bank industry.
DP: Do internships to understand if is this want you really want. My best bet is find out what you really want, go for it, and give yourself passion, patience and persistence. For fresh graduates who are pursuing full time job, try to apply for management training positions. You get to experience different functions in a company. Give yourself 2 years, learn about the industry. In the industry, ask your senior, the chief office (if they are willing to) on how is it like to be here, what do you do, how did you get here. Ask them for lunch, and you will realize you understand the company, the industry as a banker at a higher level. Then it depends whether you love it or not. If you really love it, by all means, you just climb the ladder there. Do the best you can. If not, try another industry.
MRJ: What do you during your free-time?
DP: I involve myself in many things. I dance, for fun. It’s my hobby. I am in Axiata Young Talent Programme (AYTP). We have projects to do. I am also a committee in the AYTP alumni council, we have a lot events to plan and organise. At the same time, I am starting my training career which focus on leadership and management training on my free time. I am looking into how to create my content, deliver them, approaches to push my sales amongst many things.
MRJ: Any final comments?
DP: There is so much more I want to share. I would like you to find your Ikigai or Hedgehog Concept. Hopefully you quickly find your passion, and it is what you are awesome at, and it is your economic engine, and most of all it is morally and spiritually right. Let go and forgive the Past, Prepare and embrace the Future, and most of all Enjoy the Present – that is why it is called the Gift. Thank you.
Would you like to connect with Daniel? Click here to connect now!
This article was written by Mr.J from SEGi College. An opportunist and a strong believer on learning through volunteering. The question of this article was prepared by Mr.J and Jeremy Tay .They are both FutureLab Campus Heroes and are constantly looking for ways to bridge the gap between education and career for themselves and their friends.