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Of fireworks, Twitter and training

A belated Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping for better things in every way in 2019. Health, wealth, family, work in no particular order. On new year’s eve as everyone knows there’ll always be big fireworks everywhere. There’s one at KLCC, Putrajaya and privately-organised ones. I’ll always have the desire to go and enjoy one of these fireworks displays but somehow end up not going. And immediately regretting it. I know how kids enjoy these shows. Every time I miss the display I’ll always say, “oh we’ll go to the Independence Day one next time. And end up not going. So on the recent new year’s eve we spent the enjoying the fireworks display from my brother in law’s apartment in Cyberjaya. I must say it was good although somehow the kids don’t seem to be too thrilled. Anyway, one item off the bucket list.

Don’t ask me about any of those new year’s resolution stuff because I don’t have any. New Year’s resolution is so yesterday. Now everyone is on a continuous improvement journey. If I have an ongoing resolution it’s to improve my fitness and health (and this paunch I have requires some attention as well).

I’ve been on twitter for some time now albeit not active at all (shameless plug @shahrin_albakri). Recently I revisited my feed and started following other accounts (more than the 5 people I follow previously). I realised that opinion exchanges in twitter are more vigourous and intensive. It seems that the masses are more engaging and vocal there. As a total noob I was fascinated. The other thing I discovered was the intellect levels of Malaysians really shone through the discussion and feedback given to various issues. I’ve started to provide my own thoughts on stuff but I’m a fairly guarded person who keeps a lot of my own opinions to myself so comments have been few and far in between. Hence my description of myself in my profile as being a “semi-independent thought poster”.

IMG_5475 (1)

Shameless plug much?

I am very aware of the consequences of posts or comments made in haste, anger or without proper thought. At the end of the day I work for the collective benefit of my family. Wouldn’t want my career to be affected by my online presence in any way. As always you’ll only realise your folly once you’re required to pay for it.

Today I gave training to my colleagues at work on Non-Disclosure Agreements. I thought I’d start with a light topic as we all know how dry legal subjects can be. I thought the turnout would be poor but was pleasantly surprised. Not excellent but good enough. Looks like spamming everyone with reminder emails worked.  I really thought we had a good session. Very happy with the questions from the floor too. You know the old adage if there are no questions it means everyone understood your presentation or no one understands at all. Usually it’s the latter. This time there were questions on the subject covered and also other legal questions. Feels good being the trainer when you know you’re connecting with the crowd.

Shahrin

Me doing what I do best i.e. confusing people.

Crowd

The crowd doing what they do best i.e. pretending to be interested.

I plan to conduct training every two months, work permitting. Hope to have better turnout next time. Till then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of thinking things through, working out and the Touch N Go app

I would like to start off with a question. How many of us think things through before acting? This question applies in our professional as well as personal life. I was asked to review a letter to our clients today. Good thing was I wasn’t asked to produce a draft. A draft was prepared and handed to me to review. Which makes the process just a little bit easier than having to draft something from scratch. Over the years I’ve always believed in having someone who has no experience in your field look at your work. In my view this approach is even better than having “a fresh pair of eyes” look at your work. A fresh pair of eyes would in all probability be your staff or someone familiar with your work.

What I’m advocating is someone who is totally unfamiliar with what you do. That alone would encourage a totally different point of view. And you’ll find yourself being exposed to other point of views. We have been in our own box for too long we cease to think outside that box. Applies to everyone, me included. I’ve been the my “legal” box for quite a long time so having a different perspective helps immensely.

On a happier note, I’ve been going to the gym for more than a year now. I’m not a physical activity guy by any means but when I had to go for a full medical checkup for insurance purposes last year I had no choice but to change. So three weeks prior to the checkup I began to religiously go to the gym. I ran, did some strength training etc. Come checkup day I was really nervous. In the end I had nothing to worry as the results came out alright.

So not needing a reason to workout I decided to continue with gym and taking care of my food intake. It’s worked well so far. I’ll go 2-3 times a week to a gym near my house. It’s a nice and quaint place, not very crowded. I call it a “gym kampung” with friendly people who helped me a great deal when I first started going there. They’re mostly young chaps who are in great shape. The thing is the first thing I notice when I first joined was I was the oldest guy there but you’ve just got to start somewhere.

Here’s the other reason I started going to the gym and taking care of my diet. I’d like to be able to carry some fashion. You see, I’m not vertically blessed (which means I’m not tall) so to be short and pudgy destroys your chance to ever look good in fashion. Looking presentable yes, but not looking nearly as good. So I strive to at least be lean. Which I’ve  managed to be. To be honest going to the gym is the easy bit. Watching your diet that’s the challenge. I’m not a person who goes looking for eating spots that go viral but I enjoy food nonetheless. Not a crime but contributes to the pudginess.

Okay this is a post which has been in the back burner for too long and I’ve got to publish it. Just one last rant. The other day I downloaded the Touch N Go app from the App Store. I thought it would be very convenient to be able to reload your card with the app and not having to go to a counter. I find the app is supposed to be super useful at checking your card balance, paying bills, booking flight and movie tickets and even transferring money. Pretty useful isn’t it? But here’s the catch. The app doesn’t have a function where you can top up your Touch N Go card. Which is a no brainer. All those functions and you cannot do one thing which is synonymous with Touch N Go. Major WTF moment. And I realised all this after topping up my card with RM20.

Looks like I’ll have to use the other functions to spend the RM20 then..

Touch N Go

Do you see any top up option?

 

First after some time Part 2 (and interview shenanigans)

Okay. The other day I wanted to post something on Farah’s concert. Of course now that I know I cannot post videos, I will only post photographs. Which I have only one. It’s a dance performance for heaven’s sake. Why would I only take still photographs of a dance performance?

So here goes:

Farah's concert

The group photo at the end of the concert. Farah is the little girl with the ponytail in a white t-shirt and black pants at the front.

Zucca Studio conducts music i.e. piano, violin, guitar etc as well as dance classes. Farah has this strong affliction for dancing so I enrolled her in the freestyle dance class. Her performance during the concert was as a result of three months of hard work. Which I’m very proud of. Now that the concert is over she’s learning steps to a new song which I can’t wait to see.

Okay enough of that. Just yesterday while washing my car (yes, I’ve been washing my car myself for the past few weeks) I thought of all the interviews I’ve attended in my professional life. Needless to say, some have been pleasant with my fair share of ones that have been less than good. I go to interviews having the conviction that I’ll ace them all the time. Which obviously is not the case. I’m not a serial job hunter by a long way. Once I’m settled at a place I tend to stay for the long term. Being a serial job hunter at 44 is never a good thing. So I strive to find a “home” away from home and I should be all set. To be honest I feel I’m at home at the place I’m at presently so that’s that.

Back to interviews. Of course I won’t write about those that went well. Where’s the fun in that?

A few years into my career at PTP I yearned to return to KL so I was job hunting quite aggressively. I remember going for an interview at a company owned by a person who was very politically connected (emphasis on “was”). The Corporate Services Division was headed by a lady who had a reputation for being strict and doesn’t mince her words. Which is fine. Went to the interview with an open mind, expecting to sell my qualities. I find myself facing a panel of three interviewers. The lady, another lady from HR and another guy (couldn’t recall his designation or role). I felt hot under the collar when the Corporate Services lady questioned my role in PTP. Probably she was testing me. And I didn’t like it.

You see, I’m at the stage in my life where I pretty much think/say what I want. Within reasonable boundaries of course. Obviously I don’t go around shooting my mouth off without good reason. But this lady had it coming and I braced for impact. During my research on the company it turned out that they just made a fortune selling their concession based subsidiary to the state government and felt a hankering to enter the oil and gas business. So they acquired two oil and gas companies. Which tanked. At about the same time with my interview, they were trying to dispose these two companies.

I weathered the storm first and quickly lost interest in the prospect of working for the company. As you know, the panel would always allow a few questions from the candidate at the end of the interview. Usually I would always try and ask those smart questions like, “Err how do you think the market situation post-Brexit would affect your company’s business in the EU?” or something like that. For this particular interview, my question was, “What do you think was the cause for your venture into the oil and gas industry to fail so miserably you had to dispose companies you bought merely two years ago?”. Obviously the question riled her to no end. Which to be honest I got some satisfaction of. A good deed deserves another doesn’t it?

There’s this other interview I went to with an incumbent who’s leaving the position. In my mind for some strange reason he was intent to show that he was still the best person for the job. Probably indispensability was his thing. So he did his best to espouse his own skills (and at the same time trying to show how unskilled I was). I’ll hold my hands up and say this was not my best interview performance but the attitude was more than I could keep up with. At this particular time I was already in KL so I wasn’t under any pressure to change jobs. So I did the best I could in the circumstances and left the interview. No confrontations necessary. I’ve already learnt to pick my battles and this was one battle I wasn’t going to fight. It would have brought me no small amount of grief. So it wasn’t worth it.

There have been a few more experiences although most have been pleasant. For now I’m settled where I am so there’s absolutely no reason to move. To be honest this is the next best place I could be at now with the exception of PTP. Although it does come real close. On another note I don’t feel like I’ve warmed up to the idea of writing blog posts just yet. So please bear with me if these early posts lack the flair (confidence much?)

And on a last note, I’m open should anyone be interested in interview tips. Never know who you’ll meet do you?

 

 

First after some time Part 1

One thing I realised having not updated this blog for some time, err actually long time is the change I have experienced as a person all those years. What different experiences I’ve gone through from that point and how they’ve affected and changed me as a person. I firmly believe all of us have our own “default setting” as human beings. Expressed in simpler terms if you have laziness (probably not a good example but this will do. Sometimes your creative juices don’t flow as well) as your default setting, you carry this trait all your life and it takes a major effort to reset the settings. As for me, one of my default settings is I’m not a morning person. I don’t mind working late into the night but early mornings, not so much.

But I digress. Earlier postings reflect on my state of mind which was inevitably influenced by my situation then. The last time this blog was updated was in March 2014. Well, it was that long ago. When I was still in Johor. For some reason there was a topic on politics; which I do not usually write about. The hot topic of March 2014 (or thereabouts) was the NFC “lembu” scandal. Apparently a company close to one of the ministers of the previous government was given a huge sum of money (which in the bigger scheme of things was dwarfed by another government vehicle) to “meet the goals and objectives in accordance with the National Meat Policy (Ruminant Sector) 2006”. The people responsible for it bungled the amount of money big time resulting in lawsuits etc.

So I felt rather strongly about politics at the time. I still feel strongly about it now but to write about it here, which was somehow rather uncharacteristic meant it did strike a nerve. There were also postings about predicaments I faced at work. I know a blog is an online forum accessible by everyone with reasonable internet connection but somehow I have a way of expressing my thoughts just vaguely enough and of course I don’t mention any names for obvious reasons. I guess there would be much less, if any postings about work since I’m quite happy where I am now doing what I enjoy. Well mostly what I enjoy with good culture.

Moving on swiftly, this weekend has been a good one. Zaime, a good friend from my VI Band days invited me to become the Chairman of two events he was organising which was band related. The Asia Junior Marching Band Championship and the Marching Band Malaysia Championship 2018 was held to celebrate marching bands from the Asia region showcasing their music and showband skills. The festivities were held over the course of three nights – 12th to 14th July 2018. So I had the chance to rub shoulders with renowned names in the marching band industry as well as the VIPs amongst others the Chief Minister of Selangor. Young and utterly pleasant chap. I also had the pleasure of meeting the ADUN for Bandar Utama, YB Jamaliah Jamaluddin. Who came to the final day of the competition in a Myvi. Not your typical YB eh? Oh and met the Mayor of Petaling Jaya too.

In shameless self promotion and gloating, I present to you yours truly from festivities…

Chairman's messageMy message from the programme. Felt kinda good to be honest. Surprised myself with the minimal time taken to draft the message as well. Nothing like having your creative juices flowing at the the right time, isn’t it?

SAMA and MB - gongSelangor’s Chief Minister, Tuan Amirudin Shari giving a go at the gong to officiate the competition at the MBPJ square. The first strike wasn’t as clear as the final two. He made it a point to tell me, “I didn’t strike it right the first time.” Somehow I could tell he was a perfectionist. PJ’s Mayor stood next to him.

SAMA and MB - backdropThe backdrop, the VIPs and me. I don’t consider myself as one of the VIPs. I’m just humble like that…

SAMA and MB - sittingThe MB and me having a funny moment. More like the MB listening to me and thinking “Now I have to put up with another guy trying to impress me with his knowledge on something I won’t even remember tomorrow…”

SAMA and YB Bandar UtamaThis is me with YB Jamaliah Jamaluddin and Tuan Haji Rashid, a big shot from the Ministry of Education. This was when I realised VIPs eat what you serve them out of courtesy. With the amount of functions they attend, understandably they’d have to watch what they eat.

SAMA and Zaime - PJZaime and me at the Dataran in PJ. I’m eternally grateful to him for giving me the opportunity and trust to be the face of the competition. Looking forward to the next one!

You may wonder why I’ve not posted any performances of the bands here. Two reasons. One, I have no photographs of the performances (I’ll try to find some), they are all videos. Two, I have to upgrade my WordPress account to post videos. Err damn you WordPress.

Zucca Studio, where Farah attends her dancing class had their concert this weekend. Farah and her group performed their freestyle dance routine during the concert. More about that in the next entry. Till then.

 

Aside

Of re-branding the ruling coalition and bad mouthing

Just arrived in JB from KL. Everything feels OK as always. Not that there’s any value in that information. Just a way to start an entry. This entry has a strong political flavour to it, which is out of the ordinary for me. Certainly one of my rare politics-laced entries.

Yesterday I attended a function at a friend’s place. There I saw a person who has a rather big name in the entertainment industry. He attended the function as he lives within the same housing area and is acquainted with my friend. He then met an elderly lady who introduced herself as a member of Malaysia’s main Malay political party. They then chatted (and I eavesdropped). This personality told the lady that he is currently in active participation with the Ministry in charge of communication which main effort is apparently, re-branding the ruling coalition. They believe that the younger generation doesn’t really relate to the coalition anymore and that it is presented in less than favourable light to the masses.

It follows that efforts are underway to present the coalition as a party which cares deeply for the citizens and has their interest in mind. I also heard rants on how the younger generation were not concerned with politics and how it could have an adverse effect on them. Politics is not to be neglected at all costs. Always be wary of the threat presented by other races who are all out to rule Malaysia and make the Malays as slaves.OK, so that was that. Now, are all these statements true (especially that last one)? I don’t have the answer to that and I don’t think I ever will. It was just something I heard at a seemingly harmless kenduri.

That having said, I have some observations to make with respect to the matter. Firstly, I think the media has been used as a tool by the ruling coalition to publicise and further their agenda from time immemorial. Nothing wrong with that. I think whoever rules the country will do the same thing. You have the government media stations at your disposal, the minister in charge of the same stations is a part of your organisation. All the ingredients are there. So why not prosper at the obvious? Back to the conversation I heard, how do you exactly re-brand the ruling coalition? An idea would be to stop bad mouthing the other side of the divide. Just highlight your good deeds like the handing of cash incentives, the various programs you undertake for the general good, any economic stimulus programs, things like that.

Over the years, too much bad mouthing has taken place. This guy is up to no good, that guy has this scandal. The plethora of things people could think of is unlimited. But even if you bad mouth anyone the opposite will take place online, which would negate your efforts anyway. The access to online content nowadays is just incredible. By computer, smart phones, tablets, the whole lot.

I think it has always been about reaching out to people outside the internet reach. People who are in rural areas. Maybe they will still buy the bad mouthing without so much as a whimper. I would disagree with that mentality. I remember working for the ruling coalition during one of the general elections many years ago. The “free vote from the rural population” notion was debunked way back then. Someone told me that old folks would usually vote for whoever the children voted for. Why you ask? The children have all become urbanites and know the true pulse of politics (apparently). The most important factor is that the children support their parents financially. So parents are in a sense indebted to the children and will follow the voting patterns. I’m sure there’s some truth to it. Disturbingly or not, most urbanites vote for the opposition. Voting patterns for the last two elections at least bear testimony to this fact. To a certain extent, the swing has influenced the rural trend as well.

That doesn’t include rural areas with internet access. People believe what they want to believe. People are inclined to believe issues which are presented in a sensational way. If not, why would people be interested in show business gossip? It is presented in such a way. Stories about people being unfaithful, someone paying an arm and a leg for a New York penthouse etc. This would attract maximum attention. If the ruling coalition does it, it would be held as a personal attack. Although both parties do it.

One more point. Apart from the above, I think they have missed the point. It doesn’t really matter how much re-branding is done. There are other deep lying issues which need to be addressed. I’d like to share my Facebook posting on 6 December last year:

Vicious cycle – I’m a leader in a certain political party – I need to cling to power as long as I can – I have to keep my supporters happy – I need to sidestep official procedures (and breed corruption) – governance and slogans go down the drain – I try to keep the others happy by giving handouts but I fail – I question why my political party loses support.

Everyone (at least I think everyone) knows that the above statement is true. That is just how a leader stays in power. There are exceptions I believe, but that is the general rule. All leaders need support. Supporters stay supportive as long as their needs are fulfilled. These days the needs are inevitably monetary in nature. So doling out contracts would seem as the easiest and most logical choice. Yes, the ruling coalition has the obligation to ensure that there is a fair distribution of national wealth but that does not mean concentrating said distribution among a select few and worse still, certain leaders. The objective of entering politics has been to accumulate wealth and riches. Not to mention the percentage of contract amounts demanded by people in the corridors of power from successful tenderers of projects. Such wastage has to be eradicated.

You don’t want the opposition to wrest power from you? Eliminate all the above and they most probably never will.

Aside

Of assessment increases and “longkang berkilat”

Hello there. Hope everybody is doing fine and had a good beginning to 2014. As for me, nothing much has changed with the new year. Work is still work, but to be fair, slightly less stressful with the arrival of a new manager in my department. I could at least afford to take a much needed one week break at the end of last year. It’s nice to know that things are being taken care of at work while you’re on leave.

I’m sure you’ve heard of DBKL’s proposal to increase assessment charges for properties in KL. It follows that my house, being in KL will be affected. Presently I’m paying about RM400 plus for my yearly assessment. As a result of the proposed hike, I’ll have to pay close to RM900. That’s a 100 percent plus increase. Which riles me up. I’m sure you’re familiar with the rant that during this times of price increases, another hike up is not welcome. The public was given the opportunity to submit letters protesting to the increase. The residents’ association of my taman prepared a sample of the protest letter. All you have to do was to fill your name and the relevant references and serve the letter on DBKL.

I did some research online and found many more sample letters with some very compelling arguments against the raise. Wanting to be that little bit different, I chose a few of the better points and prepared letters for me and Mak. In the end it was reported that approximately 160,000 plus protest letters were sent to DBKL. OK, I have a point to make here. According to the Federal Territories Minister (you know who you are) the fact that only 160,000 letters were received meant not every property owner was against the assessment increase. Who in their right mind would accept a raise in the price of anything? It just doesn’t make sense. I guess with the recent barrage of less-than-clever statements I should probably not be surprised anymore.

Moving swiftly on, we were called for a hearing with DBKL officers on 6 January 2014 if I recall correctly. The session was divided into the classes of properties. Single storey, double storey and semi-detached homes. We were ushered into this meeting room to face a few DBKL officers. The session was chaired by a guy who was a member of DBKL’s board or something. Apparently he was a guy from MCA (the political party). So we were given the opportunity to air our grouses to the panel. I belong to the semi-detached homes group. The group comprises of mostly old timers and I was the youngest of the lot. Naturally the elderly folk had a certain level of decorum in expressing their reservation to the issue at hand. A few of them spoke and admittedly made good arguments. There were criticism of DBKL’s services and the like.

I was biding my time. I felt I had to say something if only to justify the annual leave I had to take to attend the hearing. I sensed my opportunity and started my rant. I gave quite a speech. I told them I thought the high rate of increase was ridiculous. If the raise was done say, 10 percent over every 5 years or so it wouldn’t be as bad. It’s not as if the services provided are of the highest quality either. I said I got the feeling we were all there to beg DBKL not to increase the assessment while I’ve not heard of a single explanation from them as to the reasons for the hike. I told them that if after the increase my taman’s drains (which was a cause for constant bother) would be beautifully made up (I used the word “berkilat”) or DBKL would build a viaduct from the main road directly into the taman, I’d be happy to pay the increase.

It wasn’t all brickbats. I did thank DBKL for letting us meet with the panel, who I gather, are mostly technical people. There were valuers and property savvy people amongst the members. I thought we could get the true picture, which we did. I told them “I wouldn’t believe a word said by your Minister because I think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.

The panel couldn’t answer my queries. The best the MCA guy could give me was “I am against the increase as well. I’ve also submitted my protest letter”. Now that’s not exactly fighting for the cause, is it?

Anyway, my rant has increased my reputation among the old timers a little bit and the story has spread inside the taman. I was asked about it during a kenduri I went to last week. So I’m basking in my moment in the limelight at the moment. In the end, I urge the authorities to quit implementing these types of measures. When they had the meeting to decide on the increase, did nobody tell them it will not be well received? Or everybody was so concerned about their positions that when the guy mooted the idea everybody just kept quiet and there was a collective nod of the head? It just beggars belief. That would be the subject of another entry I guess.

Till then.

 

 

Aside

Relevance at work

How has everyone been this few months? I’m sure a lot has happened. Nowadays it’s easy to keep up with your friends. You have facebook. They’ll tell you what happened at work, what they had for lunch, if they get upset with anybody, things like that. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. I’d like to write about something totally different.

How do you establish your relevance at work? A regular person would struggle to understand the question. Not out of stupidity or ignorance, but because usually that just never happens. In most instances, your position in the organisation doesn’t really matter. You’d have a role to play. You have your KPIs to meet. You come to work, do your stuff and leave. If you perform well, usually you’ll be rewarded. You get promoted, paid your bonus, your pay gets increased. You get the picture. In short, no matter who you are, you almost inevitably are an important part of the organisation.

Having said that, let me give you this hypothetical example. Which has got no relevance to me at all. Wouldn’t want to be in the position I’m about to describe to you. Here goes. You’re a person of reasonable importance in your organisation. Well, for argument’s sake, let’s say you’re the General Manager of a specific function. For some reason unknown to you (most probably non-performance), the organisation decides to employ/appoint another person to a post which performs a role somewhat strikingly similar to your function. You’re in a position where you cannot start an action for constructive dismissal against your organisation. Why you ask? For argument’s sake let’s say you are on a very good contract (a remnant from the time when you were deemed to be performing no doubt) and there may not be a company who’d be willing to match your pay. Probably it’ll be too expensive for your current organisation to offer you a golden handshake as well.

So you stay on, probably reluctantly. But as a professional you absolutely loathe the fact that your work has been taken over by this new person and that you’re left to feed on scraps, work wise. You’ve got to deal with the stares and people sniggering away at your plight. Your relevance is substantially eroded. You notice people are not inviting you to meetings as often as they do previously, which is a clear sign of decreasing relevance. You begin to think that the world is unfair (well, since when the world ever is fair?).

As if that’s not bad enough, you notice the guy who was appointed to “take over” your function performing minor miracles and becomes the toast of the organisation. Everybody knows and respects your abilities but simply put, this new guy has outperformed you. In an effort to re-establish relevance, you try to be more “involved”. The survivor in you takes over and you seem to be more interested in matters that previously you don’t really care about, consciously or otherwise. Now, the effort of trying to get involved inevitably improves you as a person and an employee.

In this situation, how you respond would inevitably determine your path. You may choose to become a recluse, take your pay and let life go on. Or more importantly, you may decide to rise to the challenge and perform the assignments given to you well, which is a measure of redeeming yourself. Although it must be said that it takes a lot of courage and will power to go for the latter course of action. It is very easy to be demoralised and be bitter at the fate that has befallen you. As they say, problems and issues will be the measure of a man (or something like that). It’s inevitably how you rise from the ashes.

One more important point. In situations like these, there will be a chance to be introspective. You may begin to look inside yourself and identify issues or character traits which may have caused the situation to be as it is currently. Close inspection of these areas may reveal opportunities for improvement. In any event it is up to you to make the change, which inevitably is necessary.

Well, that’s that. On a happier note, last night my company had it’s Appreciation Dinner (it’s not an Annual Dinner. The last one was in 2011). The theme was Oscar night or something like that. So I rented a dinner jacket, complete with the pleated shirt, bowtie and sash. Thank god I wasn’t overdressed. As an ardent James Bond fan (fanatic is more like it actually) I was looking forward to dressing up. And so I did. The outcome was:

Not bad eh?

Not bad eh?

 

 

Good companies comprise of good bosses

A few weeks ago we had an internal leadership conference. Just a one day thing. The conference was held to foster better relationship and camaraderie between members of the senior management. I find it to be utterly useful. It was handled totally in-house. This proves that there’s no need for you to engage consultants who’d cost you an arm an a leg to teach you things that you in all likelihood already know. The Group Chief Executive of my previous company likened consultants to people who look at your watch and tell you the time. I’ve used that analogy time and time again as I find it described consultants in the most apt of ways. Well, somebody also told me that metaphorically, if the consultants don’t do it for you, would you do it on your own? Would you have the time? I doubt so.

Anyway, to start the session, we played a game. Everyone was required to submit beforehand four things about themselves. Three must be true, one must be a lie. The audience would then be asked to guess which one’s the lie. The four things I posted about myself was:

1. I love speed

2. I hate wearing socks

3. I once lost four tooth in an accident

4. I sleep with the lights on

Most guessed number 4 to be the lie. Actually the lie was number 3. I do sleep with the lights on, whether in JB or in KL. At least a bit of light or I can’t fall asleep. Alright then, moving swiftly on. I was told at the same conference that great companies treat their people well. Great companies retain their good employees. Great companies do this and that. Which set my mind thinking. Aren’t companies made of people? More accurately, companies are mostly made of bosses. 

Let me elaborate. It’s true that everyone in the company contributes one way or the other. We have been taught not to underestimate anyone’s contribution. That I agree with. But just think about it. I’m talking about policy makers here. If you’re at the bottom of the food chain, chances are you’re not a policy maker. You’ve got to be sufficiently high up the ladder to be involved in the policy side of things. Now, all the things mentioned earlier about great companies result from good company policies. 

If the company comprise of good bosses who have the employees’ interests in mind, the company will fit into the description of a good company. A company that hires and retains good people. A company which treats its employees well. Of course there are other considerations as well, say commercial, legal, strategic and the like. But I think I should be allowed to generalise here. Let’s face it, 95 per cent of a company’s employees are at levels where they are not at all involved in policy making. Maybe 98 per cent.

Lesson? If you’re at that policy maker stage, exercise your discretion well. Where possible, have the employees’ interest in mind, subject to realistic considerations. Never forget where you started. Your conscience will serve you well. I always believe that if you treat people well, the oft-used cliche of “work with me, not for me” will hold true.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish everybody Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin. Take good care during your travels. 

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Cynicism, compartmentalisation and general musings

This post has been in my draft folder for some time and would not be up to date. Pertinent musings nonetheless.

I am someone whom you’d refer to as a cynic. I’ve always been a cynic. When I am confronted with a situation or an issue, I’ll almost always see the downside to it or even at times strive to find the negative side to things. I believe this side of me is due to my training as a lawyer. When a client presents an issue to me, the first thing that comes to my mind is the absolute worse the issue will get. By being in that frame of mind, I am able to formulate a solution which considers the worse situation first, before moving along to the positive side of the issue. I hold this belief firmly – hope for the best but always be prepared for the worst. That way I hope to never go wrong in my approach to every issue I or my clients face. Some call it pessimism. I think of it more as being cautiously confident.

That having said, I do try to balance my views, always taking into consideration the positive side of things. I have been training myself to put structure to every issue I face. It simply means being able to compartmentalize the issue into specific and clearly labeled boxes/pigeon holes in my mind. By breaking it up, doing that, I find that matters get easier to manage issues that come my way. You deal with it according to the boxes they belong to. When a solution is reached for the individual boxes, I will put them together and reach hopefully the best outcome. By saying that, I’m not saying there are 129 pigeon holes or boxes but just enough to give you a clear picture and structure to an issue. I find that it works well for me and I would recommend it as one of the approaches when confronted with an issue (I sense there’s an overkill of the word “issue” here).

Moving swiftly on. I almost never write about politics but I feel like I must. I am very clear about my choice. People who know me would know what I mean. On the same subject, I see a lot of hate in social media sites at the moment. I must say that some of my friends’ postings on Facebook shocked me. They say Facebook shows the world the person that you really are, but this just brings it to another level. I know everybody has beliefs and support a particular team but surely there’s no need to to throw tantrums is there? The level of labeling is frankly, absurd. If you look at the postings in Facebook, then the general elections would just be a formality. Based on the postings, we already know who will be governing Malaysia post 5 May 2013.

If you ask me, I just want a country that is peaceful with my rights preserved.  Most importantly, I want my children’s futures to be secure with a high level of security. Probably the same with every other person you meet. My message would be for everybody to think very very carefully before casting your ballot. Our future depends on it.

The above paragraph was written well before the elections. We know the results now don’t we? Subject to any challenges to the results of course. Oh, that and the ensuing mud slinging and racially charged comments. Just one observation of a simple point. When we look back, we realise that our future is shaped by what we had and went through in the past. I’m being very diplomatic and tactful here. It doesn’t matter that we have a brilliant attitude, great work ethics and the like. We still need help in realising our ambitions don’t we? It is very easy to see ourselves as the people that we are now. Some are utterly successful or at least have made it satisfactorily in life. But if we’d just spend some time to look back and contemplate on who we were then (without what we have now) and the way we conduct ourselves now concerning present issues wouldn’t we fall into the ungrateful bracket?

It’s sensitive, I know. But just think about it.

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Nureen Sabrina Albakri Shahrin Albakri

Nureen Sabrina Albakri, you'll always be my baby girl.

Nureen Sabrina Albakri, you’ll always be my baby girl.

I’m sure anybody who bothers to read this blog would’ve come across the mention of my eldest child, Nureen Sabrina Albakri. Well, this post is dedicated to her. She was born on 27 October 2000. That day remains as one of the best days of my life. Among her siblings, Nureen has always been the cool one. When we stayed at Nenek’s house and she was still a baby, she would be happy just playing on her own and not bother anybody. Even when it’s time for bed, we could leave her on her own, she’d play with her toys and eventually fall asleep on her own. Raising her was generally trouble free.

When it was time for her to go for her preschool, we sent her to Smart Reader Kids in Taman Seri Gombak. That was when she started surprising everybody. Barely a month into preschool, she spoke beautiful English. “With an American accent”, said her kindergarten teacher. We blame that on the countless Playhouse Disney shows she watched (not that it’s a bad thing though). She would never get tired of the shows. She began to use words like “humongous” and the like. Although my command of English is not shabby by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t recall having even heard of “humongous” when I was 5 years old. Since then, Nureen’s command of the English language improved by leaps and bounds.

In primary school, she was an average student. Of which I have absolutely no complaints. Her progress was steady if not spectacular. But when it came to English, she was the absolute star of the bunch. Reminds me of myself to be perfectly honest. I was never an excellent student back in primary school but I had no competition where English was concerned. And so the journey continued smoothly. When she was in Standard 5, I had to move to JB to work. At first I was concerned that without me around, her studies would suffer. Alhamdulillah that was not the case. Although all the time I am in JB, I’ll miss her terribly.

We were rightfully concerned when she was about to sit for her UPSR exams. I didn’t want to exert any pressure on her. In any event I thought that since we didn’t want her to go to any boarding school, UPSR would be a mere formality. But I understood the pressure she was under. It was not easy with UPSR being her first major examination since entering primary school. She suffered a fever as the exams approached which made me become aware of the level of stress. I told her to take it easy, at the same time managing my expectations. Results time came and she scored 5As. I was overjoyed and extremely proud. Who wouldn’t?

That having said, we didn’t want her to go to any boarding school although she qualified. So we enrolled her into one of the schools near home. And she has proven to be a revelation in her school. She was accepted into the best class in Form 1, the Special Program class. Apparently students who are accepted into the class were all top scorers in the UPSR exams. Again she made me really proud. In secondary school, her excellent command of English proved to be her strength again. Her teacher selected her to represent the school in an inter-school public speaking contest.

She didn’t disappoint and was placed second among participants from 20 schools. Apparently the judges were impressed with the way she opened her stint and that she was eloquent in the delivery of her piece. I truly wish I was there to witness her performance. I’m sure it was a joy to behold. Moving on from that success, she has been selected to be a member of the school debate team. Which I’m sure she’ll do well. There’s no doubt. Not any more.

To be honest, she reminds me so much of myself. We could laugh at the same Seinfeld jokes and she enjoys comedies as much as I do. There have also been occasions when I notice that our thinking and approach to things are even alike in some ways. What more could a father ask for?

Now every time before I leave for JB she’ll be my walking checklist. Did you bring your charger? Did you bring your wallet? Is your Smart Tag with you? What about your iPad? I’ll have to answer yes, yes, yes and yes again. I know she means well. And she’ll hug me really tight every time. Oh, and she’s a big anime fan.

I do not know if I’ve been a good father to Nureen. I hope I have. I’m so proud to have a daughter who is so matured, so easy to talk to, shows responsibility (sometimes she can be a bit of a child, but that’s OK) and is the best daughter a father could ever ask for. I know she’ll grow up to be a successful woman. There’s just so much more I could write about this wonderful daughter of mine. But I just want her to know that I love her and I promise to do my very best so she could lead the best possible life.

Don’t ever stop being who you are girl. I love you.

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