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Providing you the latest industry insights and updates.

Q
Mentor of the Week: Quan Ming Tan

by Jo Yee Phang | 20 Apr 2017

  Tell us a bit about yourself I’m 30 years old this year & I’ve worked for 3 corporates. I started working at Royal Selangor and did e-commerce there. Then I worked at British American Tobacco as a Management Trainee in IT for 2 years. I took a career break and went to Beijing & came back and started working for Shell in Malaysia and Perth, Australia. When I left Shell in June this year, I’d been working there for 5 years already. Why are you a mentor on FutureLab? I used to be a mentor at Shell, for graduates. For me, this is a way of giving back. Giving back never stops. FutureLab is a great way of reaching out to others. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to all the mentees out there? I would say trust your gut feeling. Whatever you do as a degree may not necessarily be what you want to do. So go with your gut feeling. I believe you can always engineer what you want. I started in IT, that’s my background, and then I went to Tobacco and Oil & Gas. Don’t let what people say limit your belief – just trust yourself. Speak to mentors, get advice – these are people who already walked this path. Take this knowledge from them- learn from others. Did you ever have a mentor? I had several along the way and that’s why I believe in this. Some of the advice they gave me was to always give back. My mentors at Shell, I would call them guardians – they’ve guided me along the way. They’re people who have spent 30-40 years of their life in a corporate. So they’ve done something right to get where they are today. I find that learning from these people is faster than, say, learning from books or academia or anything else.  Name one major challenge you faced & how you overcame it? It’s always people people people. When you work in an organization, although there are certain processes, it’s more about how you get along with people. Have a positive attitude – it plays a huge role. Technical skills you can always learn but attitude is harder to change. Have the right attitude & that will take you places. You need to understand how each and everyone communicates. And never step on anyone’s tail! What is one tip you’d give to those looking to improve their time management? You have 24 hours a day. A lot of people cannot differentiate between what is urgent and what is not. Take time to do things that are a priority – don’t set yourself up for failure. Spend time to do what’s important – it takes discipline but once you practice and get it right, it will take you a long way. Focus on what’s important, know what’s a priority. A mantra you live by? I try to live everyday as it’s my last because you don’t know when it’s your last. I try to wake up every morning feeling excited and giving the best I can give in everything. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you like to have dinner with and why? Elon Musk- he’s an inspiration because he’s a visionary. He has a vision and leads people to make his ideas work. He’s also a hybrid – he’s a tech guy as well as a visionary which means he can understand the details as well as the bigger picture. He can zoom in and zoom out and that’s an exceptional quality. What’s your favourite book? I don’t have a favourite book. I think every book teaches you a lesson. I’m still on a journey of self-discovery. You learn something new everyday. So any book that would help me learn something new- that’s a good start! What are the 3 items you cannot leave your house without? I’m so connected to the world right now it’s hard to see myself being disconnected. When I travel, I need data, so I would need a mobile phone. The rest of it I can live without. I’m pretty minimalistic – if you have the means you can always buy what you need.   Speak to Quan Ming & learn more about his journey here

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Age 20
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

by Jo Yee Phang | 20 Apr 2017

“What did you wish you had known at age 20?” is the question we recently posed to FutureLab mentors. Our mentors were generous with their answer and many of their responses focused on the importance of maximising strengths, working hard, and focusing on a bigger picture. We rounded up 5 answers from all the answers we received. See what some of the most influential mentors of FutureLab wish they had known at age 20:   1. Edmond Yap, Founder of EduNation Malaysia  “Life is beyond me. I wish I understood that my life was not about me. It was about championing the impossible and empowering others to do the same. At 20, my biggest concerns were my hair, my clothing fit, and what others said. It was all about me, me and me. If you think only about ‘I’, you will never be happy. We all constantly have something to be unhappy when we think of ourselves. I wish I understood then the secret to my happiness was living a meaningful life by making the world a better place; being the voice of the voiceless and the hands of the handless. It is never about what car I drive or what someone thinks of me, my life is beyond me and in my world there is a lot more that exists in it than just me.” Learn more from Edmond here 2. Zoe Victoria, Co-Founder at Biji Biji Design “You can build a successful career in almost anything but it requires hard work. If you are aiming to be an engineer/doctor/lawyer, you will face tough years in university, long working hours and a maybe a competitive workplace. However, if you are looking to take the less trodden path, for example yoga teacher, game designer, artist or bicycle maker- you can still make it big! Today, every industry can be a global one, and even the most unlikely of choices holds opportunity. Whatever you wish to do, make sure you have the determination and willpower to work on it tirelessly for at least a good few years. Success does not often come easily and it will take your commitment to make your choice work. Do not be dissuaded by slow progress- keep on believing in yourself and you will get there!” Learn more from Zoe here   3. Tarminder Singh, Strategic Planning & Development at International Medical University (IMU) “Work on your strengths. Arguably, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would not have been some of the greatest living athletes had they been playing basketball or even tennis. This is because their strength lies in football. At university, a common advice I received was not an advice, but a plan. As an accounting and finance student, I was informed about the importance of working for the Big 4 Accounting Firm. Upon setting foot in into a reputable company, to gain professional membership and then to become a manager. I took it up but eventually realised that I will never be great at it. That is because I was not working on my strengths. I chose to then work on my strengths by applying to become a Management Consultant. I looked out for a career that played to my strengths. The lesson here is to realise the importance of knowing your strengths. Learn what you are good at, ask those around you what you are good at, or get a mentor who is in your field of interest! If are looking for a job, find something that plays to your strengths and then be amazed by how you evolve!” Learn more from Tarminder here   4. Sirhajwan Idek, Teach at Keningau Vocational College “Believe in yourself. Nothing is more satisfying than pursuit your true passion. At 20, I doubted myself. I barely participated in competition, community work or even tried out anything new despite the desire. I did not think I would have been successful if I followed my passion. At 25, my teaching job required me to mentor students to develop their potential. I gained inspiration from watching my students develop through challenges. I thought if they could do something they never imagined to find success in, I could too. It was then I started pursuing my passions – I wrote, did runs, and took up projects. Many years down the line, I have a wealth of experience, knowledge, skills and I love what I do. I feel successful and accomplished, but only because I dared to believe in myself” Learn from Sirhajwan here 5. Pietro Felix, Head of Global Community at Migme Pte Ltd “Change is inevitable. At 20, I did not know I was going to have a diversified career. Had you told me this then, I would have been scared at every crossroad. I started in the music industry aiming to be Simon Cowell. I wanted to sign the biggest global artist and make music for the world. But then, I became a radio DJ, Consultant, Sports Presenter and now I  work on digitial app productions with a telecommunication company. I never imagined any of this. I was once music mogul who now makes digital changes in the telecommunication industry, that too in Malaysia’s Best. The lesson I have learned is that change is inevitable. As an individual, you will continuously grow and change too. Embrace it by looking at it as an oppurtunity to learn, taking those lessons and moving on. Everything that happens is a blessing. It leads you to where you are supposed to be. Speak and listen to others. There is room for change in that too. Learn from their mistakes. Learn them, grow from them and keep them in mind, because that could be you. See every living moment of yours as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop because change is really inevitable.” Learn from Pietro here

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Mentorship
They Launched A Mentorship Platform In M’sia To Help Those Stagnant In Their Career

by Jo Yee Phang | 20 Apr 2017

Approximately one month ago, Vulcan Post featured FutureLab in an article. Check out what they said below! On how the FutureLab journey begun… “What they noticed was a huge knowledge gap and lack of information in transitioning from studying to joining the workforce. At the same time, they themselves were also experiencing a marked disconnect of what they had studied in university and what they were actually working on—particularly since they had chosen to venture into fields that were unrelated to their degrees.” What our initial feedback was, “The feedback we got was so awesome that we decided to run a few more. We even managed to help 2 students get jobs at the law firm, Wong & Partners, just from speaking to our mentors.” A vision for the future… “The dream is to build FutureLab into a platform where users can access a global network of friendly professionals that are keen on helping mentees. Brian added, ‘We are also a social enterprise where professionals can come on, speak to a student, earn extra cash and donate it to education charities or NGOs.’ “ Interesting things we have planned out, “FutureLab is not just going to stay purely online; they also want to make their presence felt outside of the Internet. Brian said, ‘Networking events are great, we plan to organise our own mentee-mentor networking sessions in the future. But our focus is online mentoring since we can provide a wider range of industries and mentors from different parts of the world.’ “ Read the full article here!

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Article on management consultant
3 Qualities a Management Consultant Must Have

by Neekita Patel | 20 Apr 2017

I am a young professional who is trying to build my social circle. I do this by indulging in activities I enjoy, unwillingly attending networking events and reaching out to professionals I admire on LinkedIn. A job title that often comes up whilst speaking to many is, a management consultant. There are about 50 international consulting firms in Malaysia, and it only makes sense to hear it at the frequency I hear it at. At first, I was indifferent to it. However, as the frequency of hearing the title increased, my curiosity was sparked. Then, together with my team at FutureLab we gathered a few management consultants from top firms and decided to understand more about the role. We focused on understanding what it means to be a consultant, and with the aim to share this information on how to be one. 1. What are Management Consultants? Management Consultants are a group of people hired for various reasons. The reasons vary from companies having questions, problems they are facing to ideas they would like to test. Why can’t they do this themselves when they should know their company the best? ­­­The main reason companies seek answers from management consultants vary. They seek them out for expertise, time and the absence of vested interest. The list of reasons are exhaustive but more often than not they want an outside eye. You know how sometimes when we face problems in our life, we turn to friends and family for their suggestions on how to solve it? Managing that problem on our own might be the reason we miss out an obvious answer because we are too close to the challenge. Companies need this too, especially when making tough decisions. The difference between personally turning to family and friends, and companies turning to management consultants is that this is not just any opinion. It is based on a large database of knowledge on what works best and what does not. As a unit, management consultants have dealt with it all.   2. How do you become a consultant at a top firm? There are two main ways consultants get hired. More often than not, through campus recruitment or lateral hiring. Heard of Graduan? Many consulting firms in Malaysia direct their graduate recruitment efforts through it. For campus recruitment, there are no stringent rules about discipline. However, a good rule of thumb to work by is to strive to be the best even amongst the best. For lateral hiring, the work experience is likely to take lead. Over here, industry knowledge, understanding of its nuances and application is key. Of course after this, internships, referrals, and various other means can facilitate you to set foot in one. Google, Quora, Forums and many other platforms will educate you on the many ways you can become a consultant. Or a faster way could be to book in a mentor’s time on FutureLab 😉   3. We dug deeper into the question of prerequisites – what do you need to become a consultant? a. Analytical/problem solving skills Why do you need this? As a management consultant, you will be constantly solving puzzles. To solve this puzzle well, you should first know how to approach the puzzle. During this problem solving process, it is necessary to think about the broad questions and the detailed questions you will need to answer. During your interview and even later on, in your role, you will be expected to know how to lead questions. This drives to the biggest factor, a structure in the way you think. Linearity in thought processes needs to be demonstrated. An important point to remember is that you might not be always the one to deliver the answers to a client. More so why clarity in thought process and articulation of how a decision is made is of utmost importance. How to acquire this? If you think you lack this, a good place to start will be through a book by Victor Cheng – Case Interview Secrets. Many universities also have consulting clubs which have ample resources on case studies which are free to use. Two to mention are Harvard and Wharton. Accessing their resources and finding practice material is not hard at all. Key is practice, practice, and practice. This is a process that cannot be nailed without practice, and the work you put in is also a strong indication of passion which they want to see. b. Interpersonal skills Why do you need this? Management consultant’s job is also built on the warmth of a relationship one shares with their client. It forms the foundation. There is no doubt on interpersonal skills if you want to become a management consultant. A client needs to trust the consultant giving the advice. There is also an element of selling and proving that the service is required. The ability to put your ideas into words, to listen to others, and to provide support is required. As a consultant, the projects you work on will also be constantly changing. You need to be able to integrate into teams quickly, adapt to different management styles and get up to speed quickly on industry terminologies and operation for your client. You also need to be able to disagree and to suggest ideas counter to what your client may be proposing, in a tactful manner. How to acquire this? If you are a student, don’t worry about being a kick ass orator for now. For a start, develop yourself to be likeable, passionate and genuine. ­The rest will come with exposure and practice! c. Drive and motivation Why do you need this? Motivation is essential for this job. Constant preparation and hard work are what leads to valuable work experience. Being a consultant means often being in a high pressure environment, and during such times top performing consultants don’t throw in the towel. Many consultants share that while recruiting, a key desired characteristic are people who have taken on added responsibilities and pushed themselves. How to acquire this? A commitment to updating your skills and appetite for learning is important to have and demonstrate. This is a tough one to explain and assess, but a good principle to go by is that you have tried to achieve something beyond your call of duty. ——  In essence, we’d like to emphasise the importance of preparation for a management consultant interview or role. Depending on the company, you will go through 4 – 8 interviews before a decision is made. The process is rigorous and completely possible, but only if the ground work has been done right and you show the right attitude (determination, likeability and passion). Consulting firms are also a good platform to develop a wide range of technical skills and soft skills. If you are someone who is drawn to the ‘it depends’ factors which call for creative, innovative thinking with a practical problem solving approach, a management consultant role could be for you. A good way to start preparing will be with the tips we provided above! 🙂 We would like to thank everyone who was involved in sharing their thoughts but whose names we can’t reveal because of company disclosure regulations.

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5 Networking Tips Everyone Needs

by Neekita Patel | 20 Apr 2017

Networking is about building lasting relationships and cultivating them over time. It’s an art, a science and one of the most important skills to have. There are many reasons to network: to expand your contacts, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find some better workers. The more people you meet, the larger your network and the greater the odds of being helped out when you need it. More importantly, it’s a task that many of us find daunting and dread. It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, and more often than not, you may be doing it wrong. Here are five tips anyone can use, whether you’re an extrovert who loves to network or an introvert who cringes at the thought of it.   Tip #1 Do your research If you’re attending an event, research what kind of event it is and who will be attending. Always come prepared so that you do not waste time by asking for basic details you could easily learn on your own. Meetings will be much more productive if you ask relevant questions. This way, the person you’re networking with is more likely to be impressed by your commitment and knowledge, and recommend you to their contacts.   Tip #2 Listen Unfortunately, when one thinks of networking, one often thinks of all the right and wrong things to say or do. A lot of people forget that networking is a two-way street – it’s about communication, and there are always two sides to communicating – talking and listening. The latter is often underestimated. Networking is a conversation; it’s about being genuine. Do not use it as a one-sided broadcast intended to promote yourself. No one likes conceited people who cannot stop talking about themselves. Listen and learn something new about the person. Learning is never wasted. Moreover, everyone likes being listened to and feeling like they’re important. This will most likely enable you to build a lasting relationship with them.   Tip #3 Give Often people go to network with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. We usually have a set of expectations when we network with other people – we have certain things we want to achieve, whether it’s a job or a handful of business cards. This is the wrong attitude to have. Again, networking is a two-way street. You have to be prepared to give, offer value to the other person, and genuinely be interested in helping them out too. Do you have any expertise or advise you could offer? Do you have any connections in a certain field? Or an interesting lead for them?   Tip #4 Find common ground Again, do your research. If you know whom you will be meeting or what event you will be attending, go ahead and do your research. “Go on Facebook, go on LinkedIn, and see what information this person has freely given about himself or herself,” advises Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University and author of the business bestseller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. “It’s not secret if they’re talking about it online, and if you find that commonality or two, you can go there and zero in.” It has been scientifically proven that people who have things in common are more likely to create a level of shared trust and bond quicker. Commonalities don’t have to be huge or meaningful – it could simply be a country you both visited, a sport you both enjoy or a book you’ve both read If you have just met the person unexpectedly, don’t hesitate to offer information about yourself, so long as it’s appropriate. “There’s research that shows that self-disclosure is reciprocal,” says Cialdini. That means that if you share details about yourself, he says, “people will tell you about themselves, and when you hit on a commonality, all of a sudden there’s rapport.” Another way to find common ground is small talk. Chitchat about what they did over the holidays or where they travelled. Spending time socializing on a non-professional level is an icebreaker and smooth out future interactions. Those few minutes you spend on what seems like trivial nonsense, can actually help build a lasting relationship by making the other person warm up to you.   Tip #5 Follow-up Networking isn’t just about going to that dreaded event and having those dreaded conversations and getting what you expected. It’s about forming lasting relationships and cultivating them over time. And relationships require investment. Don’t just throw those business cards on your desk and be satisfied with yourself – connect with those people on LinkedIn, or send a friendly email when you find an article he or she might be interested in. You can even send a message about how you enjoyed the conversation and ask to grab a coffee.  Following-up just may be the most important aspect of networking – it allows people to remember you.   So get out there & start networking!

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FutureLab Talks; Here’s How You Can Work For Shell.

by Neekita Patel | 28 Feb 2017

On February 18th 2017, 5 FutureLab mentors from Shell came to our office to share their 62 years of accumulated knowledge and experience. It was a lovely, intimate event and we were pleased to see the mentors extremely passionate about helping our community members create a career they love. Our five mentors came from different departments in Shell. We learned that the oil and gas sector is so large that understanding and explaining the whole process from start to finish isn’t particularly easy. For this reason, the industry is generally broken down into the following three components: upstream, midstream and downstream. Many companies working within the industry will generally choose to specialise in one particular part of the process. Shell, however, is one of the rare companies working on all three. It’s no surprise how the common theme in their career with Shell quickly became – wide exposure! We asked our five mentors to share with us their advice for graduates interested in working for Shell and this is what they said: Does Shell hire year round? Shell does hire all year-round. There is no specific deadline for applications but if you are looking to apply for the Shell Graduate Program, please note that the applications will close on the 28th of February 2017 to facilitate a new application process (the roll-out date of the new process will be announced on the Shell careers website shortly). There are materials online to prepare but this a good guide for an interview preparation – from the C.A.R criteria every applicant should know about to the type of technical questions to prepare for: https://targetjobs.co.uk/employer-hubs/shell/344286-shell-graduate-interviews-show-you-meet-the-companys-criteria   How did you start with Shell? 1. Surinderdeep: I was a Shell veteran with 24 years of experience. Upon entering Shell immediately after graduation, I quickly became disappointed because I was not tasked with writing software, which is what I wanted to do. Eventually, I moved on to several different departments, the first of which was retail automation, before ending my time with Shell on December 31st. Shell is one of the best places to be exposed to; in particular their core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people is something the organisation truly tries to live up to. 2.Vijay: I am from India, and I first stepped foot into Shell as a senior engineer and grew to lead regional team and eventually a global team of Engineers and Consultants. I believe if you have the right attitude and interest, and you work hard, there is nothing that can stop you. I have worked across the globe and had the unique opportunity to work with people across geography and culture. Virtual working while running a global business has its own charm and challenges and is provides a very rewarding experience. Shell is a brilliant organisation and I would suggest that the best way for you to join Shell is as a graduate. That way, you can learn the rules of the place early on and set yourself for success. 3. Chee Meng: Towards the end of my PhD, I had to decide between academia and the corporate life. Because of my interest in business, I ended up at a consulting firm. But my first love was engineering and I quickly realised that I wanted to seek something closely related. In 2014, I started working with Shell as a Pipeline Engineer – basically designing and installing offshore pipelines. I started through the Shell Graduate Program and found it to be very fulfilling and structured.  The scope of work is very wide and the support system here is very strong. Whatever your passion and niche is, you will find the chance within Shell to develop it. The roles are designed to stretch you and you are given very real responsibilities from day one. When you exit the graduate program, the hope is that you would be equipped enough and on track to be a future leader at Shell. 4. Andy: I graduated as a chemical engineer but I never really wanted to be an engineer. I took up engineering mainly due to the fact that I like to innovate and solve problems besides knowing that this degree generates more options for me in terms of my career path. For instance, Banking, Oil & Gas, Consulting and so on. Shell visited my university and told us about the graduate program. I decided to apply and took the leap when I received the offer. I started off in Shell within the Contracting & Procurement skillpool and now I am in a B2B Commercial Business Development skillpool. I was thinking of leaving the company in my first month as my perception of Shell being a mega organization was around rigidity and hierarchy and I wasn’t a big fan of that.  However, that was not the case at all, the culture, the people and the values in Shell were the reasons why I stayed and never looked back again. The development was amazing as challenges were always in the equation to keep me stretched and growing coupled with the fact that I had great leaders along my journey. I was in a range of roles cutting across the Upstream, Downstream and Integrated Gas businesses which includes “Senior Buyer”, “Contract Specialist”, “Planning Lead”, “Business Performance Lead” and now “Sales Manager”. In general, Shell is not going to mindlessly hand the ‘carrot’ to you. This is a company where you need to show constant hunger and deliver. 5. Zhi Yun: I am a process engineer with Shell. After graduating, I went into the finance industry. I worked for 3 years and explored economics and finance. After two and a half years of seeing what is out there and understanding the reality of it, I decided to change. I started on the Shell Graduate Program too, and it is really good. I received a diversified experience – it is a huge platform for you to be adventurous. I started off facing the computer a lot. I was then off-shore for over one year. I have been with Shell for 3 years now, and my roles have been very diverse. The great thing about Shell is that it recognises your strengths and exposes you to different opportunities.   What advice would you give fresh graduates looking for their first job and why? 1.Vijay: Be clear on what you want and most importantly what you don’t want. This helps you to narrow down on industry and working environment that you will enjoy. a.Develop skills to analyse issues from multiple viewpoints. This helps you to better understand stakeholders and manage better. Demonstrate this ability in interviews so that your strength stands out. b.Bring your unique ideas to challenge constructively. A simple question from a person with open mind has the potential to shake status quo and lead to Innovation and Continuous Improvement. In all of that, remember that this is about your individual journey and what drives you. 2.Chee Meng: There are so many platforms available today versus say, twenty years ago, that there is no excuse to not be sufficiently informed about the available professions out there. Whether it’s graduate events or online communities, it really comes down to how resourceful you are as a person to find and use them to guide your career path 3. Andy: I will break down my answer down into 3 areas – passion, competitiveness and hunger. a.The first is ‘passion’: You took up your degree course for a reason. You were building on your passion and interest. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, you need to pause, reflect and find that out. Speak to people from the industry you are passionate about, explore and understand the roles that are out there. Make a decision only after you understand what is on the table. There are loads of jobs out there but ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ if you don’t go out there and hunt. b.The second one is ‘competitiveness’: Every single year many graduates come out from various universities and so on. The job market is challenging now in terms of the amount of jobs available, but companies like Shell would generally still be hiring young talents to keep the talent pipeline flowing. You have to show your competitiveness at all times and what differentiates you from the others. In university, grades are important. You have to do your best and the good grades are a bare minimum passing point. It represents your intelligence level to a certain extent and shows dedication, commitment and resilience. The next ‘vehicle’ would be you CV. Organizations do not just look at grades purely and some don’t even put much weight on the grades. They’re looking for the ‘overall package’, talents that can think off their feet, with great problem solving skills, leadership attributes, excellent interpersonal skills with amazing attitude. Hence, all the other involvements besides the academic piece are extremely essential as well. You would need to package them well and express these aspects and experiences within the CV. Following the submission of the application, most people would take a back seat thinking it’s now beyond their control. But there is more that you can do. This is when the next area comes in. c.‘Hunger’ : Follow up with all the companies you have applied to, and asked them for updates on the application process with enthusiasm. At every point, you need to sell yourself in terms of your passion and the value you can bring to the organization. 4. Zhi Yun: You need to take time to know yourself, what you like and what you don’t like. If you don’t do this, you will be miserable. Don’t be afraid to try new things out, even things that scare you and make you very uncomfortable. Initially, I didn’t like money but I explored finance, and ended up loving it for the structure it has. Eventually I realised, I did not want my career to be built on it, so I moved. 5. Surinder: If you like the really big questions such as: ‘What comes after oil? Are we really going nuclear? Is cold fusion possible?’, the oil and gas industry gives you the opportunity to explore these. I like the 30-50 year questions. It is hard for an entrepreneur to do that on his or her own. If you like those questions, oil and gas is for you to explore!   What is one word to sum up something that will help with career advancement? 1. Vijay: Clarity 2. Chee Meng: Systems 3. Surinder: Resilience 4. Andy: Competitiveness 5. Zhi Yun: Metamorphosis Interested, Intrigued, Inspired? Would like to attend the next FutureLab Talks?    

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Mohd sirhajwan idek social graphics2
Words of wisdom from a Global Award Winning Teacher

by Joel | 20 Jan 2017

20 000 applications from dedicated teachers across 179 countries and in that stood someone we know as one of the finalists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017 award: Mohd. Sirhajwan Idek, our very own Malaysian who teaches in Keningau Vocational College, Sabah and an influential mentor of the FutureLab platform. Varkey Foundation recognised him as ‘one of five global winners of the Teacher at My Heart contest (sponsored by Macmillan) in 2016, and was in the top three finalists of the international TESOL Teacher of the Year award.’ His three golden P’s for educating – patience, positivity and perseverance – inspired and intrigued us and we decided to speak to him to know more. 1. What is your educational background and why teach? I am a graduate from Gaya Teacher Training Institute in Kota Kinabalu, and Universiti Teknology Mara (UiTM). Alongside teaching English in Keningau Vocational School, I am also pursuing a PhD at UiTM Shah Alam. I decided to teach because I wanted to explore my creativity and know how to transfer my ideas. The motivation that drove me was to transfer these ideas into teaching practices, materials and projects. I tested the waters in this area by first training the debate team of school. It was then I decided that I wanted to dive further and focus my effort on English-related activities, innovation and entrepreneurship. This was also where I realised and began giving importance to improving my teaching practice through various tools and techniques. 2. What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced and overcome? The biggest challenge has definitely been to instil a sense of belief and possibility in students. Some often have the preconceived notion that they are at a disadvantage because of their backgrounds. I mentor my students by encouraging them to develop their self-esteem, know their worth and make them realise that they are competent and have the potential. Regardless their background and the opinion of those around them, they can still move ahead in their desired direction. 3. What are the biggest challenges faced by your students? Limited technology, transport, infrastructure, resources and funds to carry out curated ideas and plans. 4. What is your advice to students? To believe in yourself – your capabilities, potential, talent and passion. And, show that to people. Don’t sell yourself short. From my experience, lacking confidence due to being nervous and anxious is a barrier. However, that nerve and anxiety should be thought of as a fuel to drive you instead of a road block. In all of this, to also remember to be yourself. Being flawed and making mistakes is part of human nature and journey. What is important is not be afraid of them, but to ensure there is a learning out of it. This will help you grow. Another advice would be to utilise a mentoring platform like FutureLab; it is accessible to everyone and the initiatives will help you achieve your goals. In addition to the development of knowledge, it is also useful to develop confidence through the practice interview sessions available. This is what I do at vocational schools, prepare students for the market and FutureLab is aligned with it. 5. What is a mentor to you? Do you have one? A mentor is a person who facilitates the mentee’s exploration of knowledge and direction in learning. Mentor provides feedback to the mentee when necessary. I have two mentors, Mr Johari Sabin and Madam Siti Aisa. 6. Now some fun questions: a. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you like to have dinner with? Why? Noam Chomsky. I am constantly impressed by his thoughts and ideas, many of which I have studied. I’d like to be like him; a polymath who is an expert in many disciplines. I want to not only have dinner with him, but be like him too. b. What superpower do you want and why? Superintelligence: I want to have the ability to know and remember everything. A walking encyclopaedia. c. Favourite quote? Nelson Mandela – I don’t lose, I either learn or win.

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Mentor of The Week: Tarminder Singh

by Joel | 20 Dec 2016

Tell us a bit about yourself! My name is Tarminder Singh and I’m 26 years old. I studied in Sunway University and subsequently completed the Chartered Institute of Management Accountant (CIMA) qualification. I am currently with the International Medical University (IMU) in the Strategic Planning & Development team. Why are you a mentor on FutureLab? I believe in giving back, educating the mentees & helping them transition from university to the working world. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to all the mentees out there? In any problem solving scenario, one should always apply the “4B” philosophy; Brain, Books, Buddy to bounce of suggestions and finally if all else fails, Boss to guide you to the answer. Did you ever have a mentor? Informally, yes and I believe one should have many mentors for all aspects of life. My first mentor was my mom (my life mentor). She taught me the value of education. My other mentor was my boss at TFM. He showed me how to approach different people at work, be brave to ask for help and most importantly, be brave to disclose negative news. He also taught me that your work should not be your identity. You can take pride in your work, but it should not be your identity. This is because if it is your identity, then when your work quality suffers (which is quite common at the start of your career), your self-esteem will drop. Name one major challenge you faced & how you overcame it? Studying CIMA part time and working at TFM. Short term pain, long term gain! Know your purpose why you are doing what you’re doing. What is one tip you’d give to those looking to improve their time management? Embrace energy management, make your schedule work around when you are most energized. For example, I’m a morning person. I can wake up to work at 4am, but it’s impossible for me to work until 4am. What do you miss most about school? I miss the schedule I had and the flexibility of time. Unlike working life, it is rare to have daily classes from morning to evening. If you could have any one superpower, what would it be? Staying awake. I wish I was able to stay awake for as long as I can as that would allow me to embrace all the elements of life to the fullest. Favourite holiday destination? Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. If you could shop for free at one store, which one would you choose? Ralph Lauren Rhinelander Mansion in New York.  

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Developing a career; What to do when you don’t know what to do

by Neekita Patel | 30 May 2017

Eliena Gaman It is common to read articles written on job searching which are paired with an assumption that you have already decided a career path. But what if you are yet to reach that stage? What if you are still contemplating an occupational direction? Bill Watterson, creator of the comic characters, Calvin and Hobbes, once said “The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few”.   So..surprise! Not everyone has it figured out! Regardless, what is true is that opportunities lie everywhere in various forms. Success is greatly determined by knowing your strengths, how you can build on these strengths, making the best out of a given situation, and most importantly, being committed. These are the fundamental principles that brought Eliena Gaman, former Senior Vice President at Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Founder of Lunchbox Hero, to where she is today. Here’s what she advises in the pursuit of developing your career: 1. Learn your strengths: Straight out of university, we are bombarded with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as we struggle through the transition into the working world. Eliena shared that embracing uncertainty as a process of self-discovery is essential and “not knowing” should not be a concern. She explained that the notion of not knowing is not only a part of the journey, but an integral one. In addition, she believes that learning to know who you are and what you thrive on is an essential element of growth. Thus, she advocates allowing yourself to have the space and time to explore yourself, take up as many opportunities as you can, and always remember to work really hard at them. 2. Be committed: In this day and age with so many potential choices available, traditional jobs seem to be less appealing. Many individuals now want to harness their creativity, are comfortable taking more risks, and are becoming more entrepreneurial; more so that the opportunities to practice these traits surround us. Eliena elaborated that jobs which were once highly valued, such as lawyers, property and insurance agents seem to be moving towards redundancy and today, a person can be successful in any chosen field. It all boils down to the depth of your skills, having a continuous learning attitude, staying committed and working hard. Our tangents have shifted to a world where work is not merely a means to an end. 3. Take ownership of your development: Eliena suggests that factors such as one’s family, school and society all provide contributions to developing a learning and thriving culture. According to her philosophy, it is important to train our intellect to think well, question continuously and understand deeply. For her, both formal and informal education have important and unique parts to play in this training. For example, formal education has its role in developing thought processes but may not sufficiently prepare you for other important areas of life. In Malaysia in particular, the education system does not encourage thinking strategically, questioning issues and exploring alternatives which are important aspects of growth. Hence, she believes that education should nurture students to think for themselves, problem-solve effectively, and be able to apply concepts in a variety of situations. This is where parents play a role by encouraging children to try and allowing them to fail. Finally, she believes that for every one of us, our growth is also our own personal responsibility and we should strive for continuous learning, unwavering commitment, and passionate, hard work.   To speak to Eliena Gaman: Do you agree with the opinions in this article? Leave a comment below to let Neekita know if you think otherwise!

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Mentor of The Week: Khai Yong

by Joel | 19 Dec 2016

NEXT Academy trains world class Junior Developers in Southeast Asia. With programs designed by Industry experts In Silicon Valley and benchmarked against world standards. A mentor at FutureLab, Khai Yong is the Head of Growth at Next Academy. We interviewed him for some insight, and his advice on career development. You have over 4 years of experience in digital marketing, advertising and internet marketing, what can you take away from your 4 years, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned? Let’s see, I think the most important take away is that there is no clear path to becoming a successful marketer. There are many ways to craft a career in the industry, you need to upscale yourself, don’t be afraid to fail. When I first applied to mind valley, I came in with a very unique position, I wrote to them and showed them my portfolio of failed marketing projects. I told them ‘I have failed more than any of your other marketers, but you need people like me who are unafraid of failure. I understood the value of those who experiment a lot and do a lot of things because the learning experience is invaluable.   Do you have any tips for individuals seeking to enter the marketing industry? Tip 1. Educate yourself. Digital marketing is new and you can go by learning in many ways such as digital marketing boot camps, but from my experience I learned more from side projects than I ever did working for someone else. By committing to my own personal enterprises I felt the pain of having to use my own money to try to market products, but what I gained was more than what I had invested. Tip 2. Find good mentors. When I first started out I was lucky enough to have 2 unofficial mentors, my elder brother and his business partner. I started out as a pharmacist and I learned digital marketing from them, I followed the projects and techniques that they did and tried to build on them. Lucky for you guys, you have FutureLab to help you. Tip 3. Be very, very independent. When it comes to building a career, as I mentioned there’s no clear path, you aren’t spoon fed on what to do to become successful. Marketing isn’t a science, you’re literally spending money to try to make money. The better you are at making money the more willing people are to hire you, if you can’t deliver, you won’t get hired. You’re in charge of your own success in digital marketing. If you’re uncomfortable with autonomy in work, then either become more independent or this field isn’t for you. Tip 4. Execute. It’s one thing to consume all the marketing techniques and theory in the world, but it means nothing if you don’t commit to action. There is such a thing as paralysis by analysis, there’s too much to consume, if you think that you want to learn all aspects of something before trying you are going to waste all of your time. Once you think you know enough to try something and experiment, then go and do it. I tell the students I teach ‘doing is the best way to learn, we’ve given you guys a ton of tools, now try’ Tip 5. Be Curious. The last tip I’d like to pass on is be curious, ask questions, why did they do a webinar this way? What works about it? What doesn’t? Remember that success leaves clues, It’s very important to observe successful marketers, and successful marketing techniques. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better, observe, then model their communication methods and funnels. Remember, doing, is the best way to learn, if you try it out you can see results much faster yourself and you can build on it.   You mentioned that you started off as a pharmacist, how did that transition into becoming a marketer? I enjoyed being a pharmacist, I felt like I was impacting people’s lives in a positive way one at a time. But, I needed a vehicle that could affect more; I saw that opportunity in online marketing. I was amazed by how people were making a living by creating digital businesses, and that intrigued me a lot, If I could do that I wouldn’t be confined to a 9-5 job. So I spent a lot of nights doing the tips I mentioned earlier. So what was it like taking a leap of faith into another industry? That’s a misconception, I didn’t take a leap of faith. It took me 3 years to actually quit. You see pharmacists have to work a number of years before being able to qualify for a license that allows for work in a private setting. Even though I wanted to quit I told myself that I would wait for my license, and that would take 3 years, but if I still had the drive and passion to pursue marketing than I would do it. But I had to make sure I had a safety net in case it wasn’t for me. So could you share what the biggest challenge in switching industries was? The mental barrier “I had been a pharmacist for so long, what would my parents think? What would my friends think? What if I fail? What if I leave my career and suck at it?” these were all questions that I kept asking myself. “Am I good enough? I have no formal education in marketing and I learned everything myself. Who would take me?” But like I said, I came into mind valley with a very unique position. Because I did things, and showed I wasn’t afraid of failure. What could you tell yourself, or is there anything you would do differently? I have no regrets, I think everything happens for a reason, I went through an entire cycle, education, into a pharmacy career. And because of that I am where I am today. I cannot say I wouldn’t be a marketer if I wasn’t a pharmacist, there’s still a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to all of it.   I’d like to emphasize the importance of a “doing” culture. The breakthrough happens when you actually immerse yourself in doing what you want to be doing, because the learning experience is invaluable. You spend thousands on a degree and come out with a mediocre job, but marketing is online and you are free to experiment. This is the real world, it isn’t theory, you can do it, you just have to start.

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Lessons a Globe-Trotting Mentee Would Like to Share

by Jo Yee Phang | 09 Mar 2017

II am part of an institution called Minerva Schools, a university that offers an undergraduate program. The program combines four years of world travel with rigorous, interdisciplinary study. Alongside being a student, I work for the institution as part of the student outreach team. As a result, I have spent my last few years travelling the globe, working and studying. I decided to take what may be considered an unconventional path because I believe taking paths that nurture our strengths is what will lead to success in our own right. By now, I have lived and worked in over 10 diverse countries including America, Germany, Taiwan, and Bangladesh. The biggest lessons I have picked up from my broad exposure has been: 1.   Embrace change. If there is anything a university like Minerva makes extremely clear through this program, it is that historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Thomas Friedman’s perspective­­­ that “The world is flat”, advocates for this view by criticizing societies that do not embrace change which comes as a result of these divisions breaking down. A major reason we must learn to embrace change is because globalisation is changing the core economy every day. Companies like Uber and Amazon epitomise this, and this is the direction the world is moving in. In order to thrive personally and professionally in a new global society, a great rule of thumb is to learn to embrace change and update our skills alongside it. This is something I decided to do when I applied to a university like Minerva as someone who naturally enjoys the comfort and familiarity home has to provide. 2.   Gauge the demand for a skill, and acquire it. I was a typical product of the national education system upon finishing high school. Memorising and regurgitation without consideration for the information was what I was taught and excelled in. For that reason, I would place critical and creative thinking, as well as effective communication as the top three skills I have learned over the last few years. Working with Minerva made me realise the need for these skills in order to do well both academically and professionally. These skills enabled me to examine different ways I could use to better myself. This was especially true in my interactions with individuals from different countries. I realized that in order to secure their commitment to get things done, I needed to grow or learn something new. This reinforces my point that at every step, we need to measure what is important and do the necessary to acquire it. This will also broaden your appeal to a very wide group of people, in whose hands your next job could be. “By now, I have lived and worked in over 10 diverse countries including America, Germany, Taiwan, and Bangladesh.”   3.   Look at every individual as a teacher. The uniqueness that every person brings with them has something to teach us. I am a part of a group of 120 students representing 30 countries; together we move from one country to another while we go through university. From the way we think, to our ways, to how we each react in every situation in a different country, there is a monumental amount to be learned from each individual. I believe a lot of my lessons have come from outside the formal curriculum. I have learned and grown a lot more outside my classroom than within my classroom. These differences were quickly brought to consciousness when I was placed in a diverse group where there were stark differences between members. It was after a couple of semesters, when I visited home, that I realised that individuality exists within our Malaysian society too. If we are observant enough, there is something to learn from everyone regardless where you are and who is around you. As a result, you learn and develop by watching others. 4.   Get exposed to situations outside your comfort zone. Getting experience overseas was beneficial in my self-development. As part of my undergraduate program at Minerva, I was immersed in the culture of a different city every semester to build on my global exposure. As a result, my knowledge base and experiences that I can draw on is constantly expanding. This has given me the ability to understand the differences and uniqueness of the cultures that makes this world the way it is. For example, if you are someone whose aim is to have a global career, knowing the different rules of engagement in respective national job markets is important. It is essential to understand and learn to deal with cultural differences at every point in time. It is essential to be aware of and engage with cultural differences as much as possible. That is one way to become individuals who will be welcomed and engaged. Although it may sound like the only way to do this is through visiting different countries, that privilege may not be in everyone’s hands. That’s where platforms such as FutureLab come in handy. Thanks to globalisation and its effects, the ‘world is flat’, you have the ability to get global exposure within your four walls. 5.   Pursue what you want, not the wishes of others. The idea of attending a university like Minerva was not one that appealed to my circle initially. The idea was outside their comfort zone but I chose the road that I felt would challenge me.  Currently, I juggle studies and work, and I am performing at my optimum level. I give the credit to the path that motivates me. Essentially, build a life that you want to live and in that process be willing to learn and change. Be the best you can! I will end this article by sharing some words from Bianca Sparacino, “Do not chase another human being. Instead, chase your curiosity. Chase your development and your goals. Chase your passion” I’d like to end this article by saying, it would have been a lot more comfortable for me to have remained within my boundaries had I not chosen Minerva. Being a part of Minerva forces me to constantly face my fears of venturing beyond my comfort zone. For that reason, I condone doing something everyday that pushes your boundaries. By limiting yourself to what you already know, you are also likely to be missing out on personal growth, life experiences and professional opportunities. Off to Argentina I fly!! Written by: Arvvin Maniam

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Women, this is why you should be a mentor!

by Neekita Patel | 12 Apr 2017

At FutureLab, we currently have 130 mentors from 6 different countries. We have a screening process for everyone who has come on board to mentor, and one our vital questions are – ‘Did you have a mentor?’ Each one of our mentors have given credit to one or more of their own mentors who made a monumental difference in facilitating them to achieve early success. At first, we noticed that these mentors they spoke about were generally men. We later noticed that pattern on our platform too at a 4:1 ratio of male to female mentors and this is even reflected when we reached out for options on this issue for this article. We work with numerous people day in day out, and there is a good balance of men and women we learn a lot from.So our question to women really is: If you are not mentoring, then why not? It should be a part of your legacy.  We also turned to Google which showed us we are not alone with this imbalance. We believe that both male and female perspectives are critical to the success of our mentees and sought to understand this phenomenon better within our community. Our own first instinct was to seek input from our mentors to find out the difference between genders at the workplace. This is what they said: 1.Sirhajwan Idek: Men and women are supposed to be equally capable in doing any job. However, there are different expectations for men and women in the workplace. As much as we wish for absolute equality, we are still constrained by deeply entrenched perspectives on what men and women can do and how they should behave at work. As a teacher, I have seen women who were able to do things that society thinks only men can perform. I also know some men who successfully did what people usually felt only women are good at. Regardless of how people perceive us at work, what matters most is for us to show our true capabilities and challenge ourselves to take risks, try new things and constantly learn to be better. If we are able to do this, there is nothing that we can’t disprove, there is no barrier that we can’t break and there are no stereotypes that we can’t eradicate. Do things because you want to do them, not because you want to fulfil anyone’s expectations but because you want to prove it to yourself that you can do it. Speak with our Teacher at Keningau Vocational College (Malaysia), Sirhajwan Idek 2. Mark Lim: There is a difference between men and women in the workplace and these differences are to be celebrated. I personally love differences. Differences are what helps us achieve amazing things and both men and women bring very different perspective, thoughts, emotions and of, course solutions to the table. When we are able to merge all this together, we are able to achieve great outcomes. These differences should be acknowledged, embraced and celebrated. Speak with our Technology Consultant at Accenture (Malaysia), Mark Lim 3. Patrick Tan: There is no distinctive difference between men and women in the workplace. Although some (or maybe a lot) may argue women are more driven by emotion when making decisions or men are calmer in discussion, I highly disagree with these points. I think the fundamentals of a right decision are driven by facts, logic, and rationale. Gender isn’t and never will be a factor in affecting the decision making process and professional work ability. As long as the individual is capable of making logical fact-based analysis, discounting the gender, should arrive at a similar conclusion. Speak with our Sourcing Consultant at A.T Kearney (Malaysia),Patrick Tan 4. Edmond Yap: Is there a difference between your mother and your father? Is there a difference between your brother and your sister? Is there a difference between your girl-friends and your boy-friends? Of course there are. You know all too well what they are. The question we should ask instead — what are the similarities between men and women in the workplace? We all want respect, we all want to be appreciated, we all want to matter, we all want challenging work, and we all want to be trusted. Men and women have much more in common than we have differences. Speak with our Co-Founder at EduNation (Malaysia), Edmond Yap   5. Thatchu Naidu: I believe this is a question that would have received very different replies if it was asked a decade ago, or even 5 years ago for that matter. These days, there is little to no difference between men and women in the workplace, especially in more modernised organisations. In most traditional organisations, women still tend to take up jobs that require planning, constant conversations with customers, for example, or even mundane tasks whereas men tend to be the ones working as engineers on the shopfloor, running operations and troubleshooting equipment in an engineering environment. However, this gap is reducing as more technically apt women are coming to the forefront to offer their skills and abilities. Therefore, it is not fair to generalise and say there is a distinct difference between the genders, except for the positive fact that the gender gap in most aspects is reducing. Speak with our Continuous Improvement Engineer at Morgan Advanced Material (United Kingdom), Thatchu Naidu  6. Tarminder Singh: Yes, there are differences between men and women in the workplace. One key difference lies in the aspect of communication. Men (particularly male bosses) tend to use more direct communication, provide answers and seldom “beat around the bush” when it comes to providing critical feedback. Women on the other hand tend to be more relationship-oriented. Women tend to focus on providing thought-provoking questions (such as “Have you tried exploring alternative ways in solving this problem?”) and tend to balance between positive and negative feedback. From personal experience, both genders bring their respective strengths to the fore and are equally important in today’s evolving world. A high-performing organization will prioritize cultivating a diverse workforce so that both genders can play their respective roles in ensuring the success of the organization. Speak with our Senior Executive Strategic Planning and Development, International Medical University, Tarminder Singh What we have concluded from all the mentors that responded is that while there are differences between men and women in the workforce, these are beneficial differences which play an important role in progress and development of society. We are still at the early stages of understanding this imbalance and whilst we do that we also call for all women to join us on FutureLab to become a mentor. Our call for women mentors to join FutureLab goes beyond the case for gender diversity, which is very important in itself. It is because we want a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets on our platform. We want to nurture the upcoming generation to develop a mindset of looking through numerous lenses and this can only happen if the other half of the human population joins us!  

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