Friday, August 31, 2012

The Merdeka Story

I was never big on Merdeka. Always thought it was just another public holiday. Can't even be bothered to switch on the television to watch the big parade on the morning of Merdeka.

But I decided on something different this year. I've not been back in Krash Pad for quite some time and recently saw the opportunity to organise something for the kids. Merdeka Appreciation Day! That's right. Managed to rope in a few of my friends to help out and they turned out to be such pleasure to work with.

When we planned it, we were thinking hard how to make the day educational yet exciting for the kids. Nothing too heavy or else we risk turning the day into another Sejarah lesson. So, we decided on a few activities; Merdeka charades, screening of old Merdeka advertisements, sketches by the kids on how they view Merdeka and a session on traditional costume designing.

I loved the sketches by the kids. They were divided into 3 teams and were given 20 minutes prep time to come up with a 5 to 7 minutes sketch. The first team's sketch was on how young people these days are so consumed with the modern life that they have forgotten old history and how much our ancestors have sacrificed for us.

Another team's sketch was a replay of the things that happened during pre-Independence. The violence by Japanese army, the Malayan army fighting hard against the enemies despite the lack of sophisticated weaponry, the hard lives of Malayans before Merdeka etc. The final team's sketch was divided into different eras; pre-Merdeka, during Merdeka and post-Merdeka phases. How our lives have changed for the better with each phase but a lot still has to be done.

So nice kan? There were some errors in their historical facts but that aside, I was amazed with these kids' creativity and confidence. They came up with the whole plot, script and acting within 20 minutes! Incredible.

We were also fortunate to have Tunku Abidin Muhriz (IDEAS founding president and one of the trustees for Yayasan Chow Kit) and his cousin, Tengku Munazirah (founder of Hope Factory) with us. I first met Tunku Abidin at McKinsey YLA dinner a month back and we discovered our common ground: Krash Pad. He told me to let him know if I was coming down to the centre anytime soon and there he was yesterday. Tunku Abidin gave a speech on Merdeka to the kids, stressing on the importance to appreciate our History better and hope the kids would study hard and contribute to the nation one day.

We brought chocolates, cupcakes and even a hamper for the winning team! These kids are such joy to be with. As usual, when you're doing a project with them, they're not the only ones who will learn something, we (the organiser) are also on the receiving end. Forget the 'Janji Ditepati' theme, the ridiculous notion we have to be thankful for what our politicians have done when it is in fact their job and put aside the politicking that goes on within our nation.

Yesterday was so innocent and pure. The day spent with kids who have nothing but love and good thoughts for the country. Despite being at-risk children, like what Alia Astaman said on her Twitter, " whose love for the country was unconditional and untainted by political agenda; simple and trusting." If these are the kind of youths we have then perhaps all is not lost.

Kist also shared this very interesting inside story on Tunku Abdul Rahman; how he was badly treated by the British when he went to London to get the independence agreement. He was put in a room where if it rained, the water will seep through the ceiling, he was served food on plates that had cracks. Basically, he was treated no better than the man on the street. But this man swallowed his pride for the nation and clinched the independence for us in the most peaceful manner. THIS is the kind of leader we can be thankful for especially when he did not go around asking people to thank him for his significant work.

Can't thank my team enough; Alia Astaman, Alia Ezannee, Arvind, Elena and Kist. I'm glad you guys had fun as much as the kids did. Definitely our most meaningful Merdeka so far, yes? At least to me. 

Another thing we realized, we are horrible at speaking formal Malay! Especially in public. There really is a difference between speaking the conversational Malay and the formal tahap Dewan Bahasa Malay. Though I've to say, Tunku Abidin had the worst Malay among us on that day. Hehe sorry Tunku! But really :p

Will post some photos from the day. As soon as our wonderful photographer, Megan pass them to us. Thank you, Megan for being such a great sport too!

Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan yang ke-55, kawan-kawan :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

D-day is coming!

So, A-level results will be out this coming Monday. Am I nervous?

Heck yeaahh!

It's nerve-wrecking that all those 2 years in KY boil down to this one moment. Kinda like SPM but this is even more crucial. Imagine, 2 years of our lives which we will never get back, our future and where we will go for the next 3 to 4 years, RM400,000 worth of scholarship/parents money are at stake. All will be revealed this Monday.

I can't say much of my chances. Will I strike my straight As or will I walk away with less-than-impressive results? People keep telling me, "Ahh, I'm sure you'll make it!" or "You'll ace them la, no worries." or "Insyaallah, mesti dapat semua As kan". Very kind of them to say it and I think most of them sincerely meant what they said. But I've to be honest, the last 2 years have not been a walk in the park for me.

I never had a moment of surety where I could confidently say, "Yes, I'm gonna make it!" There is always a "But what if...?" echoing the thought right after. One thing I was sure of was that I definitely worked harder in my last year in KY. My AS results was the much-needed wake up call, calling me for a change in my game plan.

But I can't be sure if it was all enough, enough to guarantee me my scholarship and university place in Bristol. Which led me to think of 101 different back-up plans if I happen to miss my AAA mark. My parents have assured me they WILL send me to university this September. If not in the UK then perhaps a twinning programme somewhere locally first. I suggested a gap year so I could apply to the US but mehh, I'm already so old! It'll take me half a decade to get my undergraduate degree.

At this point of time, all I really want is to make my parents proud and at best, not to burden them in any way. But I think I've to accept that whatever happens after this is, it is by Allah's grace.

If I do meet my scholarship and university requirements then alhamdulillah, this is the path He wants me to walk on.

And if I don't meet the requirements then I'm sure Allah will lead me to another path. A detour or a different route but He will get me there, Insyaallah.

All the best for Monday, friends!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The McKinsey experience

This post is one week late. I've been busy and lazy. Mostly lazy. Hehe.

Anyhow, I applied for McKinsey Youth Leadership Academy, got interviewed and got into this year's programme! In the next 7 weeks, we'll be divided into teams and we're supposed to come up with a social entrepreneurship initiative which will be presented to our mentors at the end of the tenure.

But first, we had to go through the first workshop which was about a week ago. Got to rub shoulders with some of the impressive industry leaders and learn a whole lot from their stories and advice. 

First half of the day, we had 3 guest speakers who came to share their experiences in their respective fields. Mark Chang; CEO of Jobstreet, Khairy Jamaluddin; UMNO heartthrob and MP of Rembau as well as Azran Osman Rani; CEO of AirAsia X.

Mark Chang talked about his humble beginning as he hailed from a poor family in Kampar, Perak. Today, he is the CEO of a company worth more than RM700 million. Mark said the 4 pillars he holds to when managing his business are 1) Make sure the company is profitable 2) Create a happy working environment 3) Leave an impact on society 4) Humility

These are not magic recipes, by any means but they are noble pillars to hold on to and clearly, it has paid off well for Mark Chang. 

Next up was KJ who spoke on his leadership experiences in politics. A politician with one of the best oratory skills around, no doubt. Some of the points he touched include the need to diagnose a problem thoroughly before initiating any actions. Also, as a politician, one must be relevant not only within the party but outside of the party too. KJ also stressed on the need to have policy-oriented politics instead of politics based on people's dirty laundry that we often see these days.

Which led me to ask him some very touchy questions at the end. Since he doesn't believe in championing just the Malay rights (or so he claims), I asked if he thinks race-based politics are no longer relevant in Malaysia and if we could do a way with it in the future? On top of that, despite having great vision for changes, many top leaders in UMNO do no agree with him, so does that mean his leadership is not the best fit for UMNO culture?

And he went, "Haah, I might as well go back home now." Hehe. He did answer them, in a very round-about way. Good boy. I'm not a fan of UMNO but I'm certainly a fan of KJ. There, I said it. 

Then we had Azran from AirAsia X. Out of all our guest speakers, I thought Azran had the most exciting, colourful life stories. He was jumping from one job to another but they're all so interesting! While the other 2 speakers before him kept telling us to have a vision, to plan for the future yadda yadda, this guy came in and broke all the rules! 

He told us it's impossible to plan for the future when the world is changing by the minute. Taking example from his job at AirAsia, he said there isn't a point of having a 5-Year or 10-Year business plans in an industry like aviation because there are so many variables that you can't control. Like oil  prices fluctuating every day, unforeseen natural phenomenon like the Iceland volcano eruption that put a halt on Europe air travels etc etc. How do you plan for these things? 

You can't! What you can do is learn to analyse and make decisions quickly but most importantly, not be afraid of making mistakes. He said, "Ask 5 level of Whys for a problem and Why Nots for an idea" every time you're about to venture into something new. Impressive stuff.

We spent the evening working in our teams alongside our assigned McKinsey consultants. We learned first hand how these people work while they impart some of their invaluable tips and guidance for our projects. For free! McKinsey consultants working with you for free, how cool is that? Outside, their consultant fees would cost some serious bucks we would not be able to afford. 

Then we had our dinner with our mentors at KL Hilton. This year, we have 23 mentors who will help us with our projects and gosh, they're such amazing people! Some of them include Johan Merican from TalentCorp, Dzameer Dzulkifli from Teach For Malaysia, Tunku Abidin from IDEAS, Dr Habibah from Ministry of Education and many other astounding industry leaders.

Each team gets 3 to 4 mentors and I'm excited to have this unique access to these people who clearly have done some amazing stuff in their lives. My team has come up with a project on the table but more on that later. Still in the planning process and I hope it goes well. 

Some photos from the day.

KJ speaking on his leadership in politics. 

Clockwise: With Johan Merican; CEO of TalentCorp (he's also one of my mentors, yay!), Dzameer; co-founder of Teach For Malaysia, Azran; CEO of AirAsia X and Tunku Abidin, Chairman of IDEAS

Of course I had to take one with this man too.