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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 | 08 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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5 Hot Tips to Be the Best Marketeer

by FutureLab | 21 Dec 2016

More information on the following mentors and the organisations they work for are available here: CEO of MATARIS Agency and ex-CMO of Kfit Group Head of Growth for NEXT Academy

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