How do you measure success, what does success mean to you?
Making an impact on the people I work with and for, who appreciate and recognize the achievements and sacrifices I have made and making a difference to my family, friends and myself when in pursuit of that success. That makes my success sweeter. Alas, success is constantly a moving target for me. The journey is more important than the actual destination, as it is during the journey that we truly find satisfaction and love in what we do. That is success in itself.
What is the best career advice you’ve received and why?
My father, Dato’ Seri Mohd Khalil Hj Hussein, served the government for 30 years and was the Secretary General of several Government Ministries. It is from him that I learnt that is very important to “act responsibly when holding any position and when performing your work or attending to your obligations so you earn trust”. My father walked the talk. It was during his time as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Works and Utilities that the use of seat belts by all vehicle passengers was made compulsory. It is amazing to think about the number of lives that have been saved by the policy that he wrote and tabled.
I also learnt from him the power of building and maintaining genuine relationships with the people you have met or worked with. As Secretary General, he obviously knew many influential people in public and private sectors, and I marvelled at how he maintained his relationships with them. Every year, without fail, he would personally send out festive greeting cards to all of them, be it Eid-il Fitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Christmas, until the year he passed away at the age of 85, three years ago. After retirement, he would purchase the cards himself and have his grandchildren help put the stamps on the envelopes. Even though we suggested online cards in his later years, he refused and continued to painstakingly prepare and send physical cards out by hand until he passed away. It is amazing that people still remember him with fondness and I carry his name with pride.
Another influential person in my life was my former President / Chief Executive of Affin Merchant Bank (now Affin Hwang Capital), Dato Zuraidah Atan, who I worked with in the early 2000s. Currently a Board of Director with several public listed companies, she is now my dear friend from whom I seek counsel often for advice and who has also introduced me to her wide circle of contacts. She ingrained in me the value of networking and also emphasized on the importance of strategic positioning and strong profiling. Good positioning entices a potential prospect to learn more about your offering. It is that mental space in your target audience’s mind that you can own with an idea that has compelling meaning to him or her. It is in this mental space where your solution to the recipient’s problem shall be the catalyst to help form a meaningful relationship. This essentially means you need to know your clients and their problems as well as you know your own service offering.
Taking a leaf out of the golden rule of networking, which is focusing first on how you can be useful to a person and building on that relationship, not how that person can help you, is a mantra I use in my relationship with the media. At my previous organization, I roped in my colleague at the time, Eqhwan Mokhzanee (currently the CEO of AmIslamic Bank) to give educational talks on the Debt Capital Markets to journalists covering the business sector at BERNAMA office, the national news agency. The Executive Editor and journalists appreciated our efforts and sent us an appreciation letter.
When I was responsible for a financial literacy CSR programme for 13 year olds, we included networking in the agenda and gave prizes to those who managed to make the most number of new friends to instil in them the importance of making new contacts and building relationships from a young age.
What does one get from networking? On a personal level, I am able to nurture relationships authentically around common interests and mutual likes as well as broadening my horizon. On a professional front, I have access to a wider professional network that facilitates business development and building partnerships with others, which is crucial to my firm’s business.
Share a book that has most influenced your career or life? And why?
Without any doubt, it is the Holy Quran. There are so many inspiring and lesson-filled Prophet stories and narrations which have taught and continue to teach me vital lessons in life.
So, what lessons can I take from the concept of work? In summary, we are told to develop a strong and responsible work ethic and we should do our best to provide for ourselves and for others. The Quran instructs Muslims to persistently work whenever and wherever possible. “Disperse through the land and seek the bounty of God” (62:10).
The Holy Quran tells us to perform our duties and undertakings in a most perfect manner and to continually strive for improvement. In fact, there is much emphasis on work in the Holy Quran. With 360 mentions in different surahs, work has tremendous value in Islam. Accordingly, all verses that speak of these are included in the perspective of “quality management”.
What does the Holy Quran teach me about life? In a nutshell, it teaches everything required in life to sharpen ourselves and lead a life of peace, harmony, happiness and to attain all good things here and hereafter. Reading it helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Muslims are encouraged to read the Quran every day so the teachings stay in our hearts. My late father read the Quran every morning at 5am without fail and I am working towards that, too. The Holy Quran counsels, guides, teaches and enlightens me through thick and thin and teaches me to spend my life in a better way.