Climbing the corporate ladder with my Mum.

Assalamualaikum, and hello 🙂

As a part of my 27th Birthday Project, I hosted two separate sharing sessions with my parents. It was a good opportunity for me to spend some quality time with my parents doing what I like to do. It was also a way for them to also share the amazing things that they both are doing with their work. (plus, I’ve listened to them talk for 26 years, so it was someone else’s turn to listen to them).

On Friday, 20th August, I did a session with my Dad, Dr. Noor Azmi bin Mat Adenan, to talk about common health problems for young women and married couples. As a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist-oncologist, Dad shared some of the issues surrounding a woman’s reproductive health (such as PCOS, endometriosis, and more). The session was recorded, and you can rewatch it on YouTube here if you want to learn more!

Climbing the corporate ladder with the CFO of Dialog Group Berhad

The next day, on Saturday, 21st August, it was time for my Mum, Puan Zainab binti Mohd Salleh, to share her experiences working in the corporate world. My mum is the Group Chief Financial Officer for Dialog Group Berhad, and has been there since 1995. Personally, I am in awe of how well she built her career and climbed up the corporate ladder. And while it was not something that I fancy for myself (I ran away from the corporate world lol), I felt that a lot of my friends would benefit a lot from her experiences and sharing session.

Due to Mum’s request, we did not record her session. However, you can check out a PDF of her slides here. Since her slides are quite short and to-the-point, for the sake of clarity and sharing, I would like to share her 8 tips for those who want to work and climb up the corporate ladder.

climbing the corporate ladder zoom session
Hi Mummy! 🙂

Tip 1: Have a solid foundation.

To be excellent in the corporate world (or anywhere else, to be honest), you need to make sure that you have built a strong foundation. My Mum started her career with Price Waterhouse from 1988 to 1992, which was her training ground and gave her the necessary skills and experiences needed for her to kickstart her corporate life.

Having a solid foundation does not only mean building that building blocks at the start of your career. As you progress higher, and as things change and evolve, it is always important to sharpen your pens. New software and technology are constantly being created and updated. So, you must ensure that you are always putting aside the time and energy to stay updated with any new industry updates and affairs.

The last part of this first tip also involves understanding things from both perspectives. The world is not always in black and white, and therefore, it is important for us to seek out all the facts and understand both sides of the argument. Weigh in all the points and allow yourself to learn to see things from the other person’s perspectives. This would go a long way as you go further into the world (not just the corporate world).

Tip 2: Diversity

Mum expressed her gratefulness to my late grandfather who transferred her from a Malay-centric primary school to a more racially diverse school. This, on top of her experiences studying abroad, has helped her to learn the skills necessary to thrive in diverse environments. Dialog is a diverse and multinational company, and Mum has to work together with people from different races, gender, nationalities, and religions.

This is not just for Dialog though, as no matter what company or organization you work at, you will be encountering people from different backgrounds. To fully thrive in these situations, you need to know how to comfortably work with diverse people and understand that diversity is not a hindrance to the work itself.

Tip 3: Be proactive.

Mum’s first role in Dialog was as a Treasury Accountant (back in 1995). However, in 1996, Dialog was listed in the Second Board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE). When Dialog was preparing their first-ever financial statements for this purpose, Mum talked to her then-manager and offered to do the full financial statements. She knew she had the knowledge and skills needed to do the work correctly. Instead of staying quiet, she spoke up to ask for the opportunity. It all went well, and so in 1996, Mum was promoted to Finance Manager. She then climbed up the corporate ladder to become a Financial Controller. And, ultimately, she is now the Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

To be successful in (virtually) any career, you would need to be proactive in searching for opportunities to learn and grow. Some people grow complacent and comfortable in a job, and stop seeking out new things to learn. You will need to be proactive in fighting for your worth and asking for opportunities. So learn to speak up and stand up for yourself.

Tip 4: Highly committed.

You will have to be highly, highly committed to your work and in chasing deadlines. There is a high chance that you will be working on multiple projects or reports at the same time, so you will need to be able to manage the workload and stick to the deadlines. This also involves attending corporate events (such as open houses during festivities or annual dinners, etc), which may require you to work after office hours.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why I didn’t end up joining the corporate world despite having a business degree lol. I’m not much of a fan of attending corporate events, although I’ve had my fair share as Mum’s +1 for some of them. But some people enjoy and can really benefit from these events – so find out what works for you! 🙂

corporate events
Perks (or cons, depending on how you look at it) of being the only daughter of a female corporate leader is being her +1 to the many corporate events and Open Houses.

Tip 5: Integrity and Trust

Depending on what industry you are working in, there is a high chance that you will be working with some private & confidential information. Your superiors need to know that they can trust you with the work that you are doing, that you will be exercising the highest level of integrity in all that you do.

This may also involve managing external stakeholders (i.e. vendors, partners, etc), where you may have to be blunt in declining/turning down offers for jobs or projects that may not be the best suited for the work (i.e. say no to bribes or special favors, just because some people may have connections to certain political parties or higher-ups, etc).

Tip 6: Presentation Skills

It is not enough just to be good at what you do at work. People need to be able to see that you are doing a good job. This is where your presentation skills come into play. During meetings, you need to be able to successfully present any reports or outcomes from your projects to your team/manager/clients. This is more than just being able to create beautiful slideshows, but also understanding the data that you are presenting, knowing what to include and what to omit, and how to engage your audience.

Tip 7: People Management

Chances are, as you go higher and start climbing the corporate ladder, you will most likely need to oversee other people. As you get promoted to assistant manager or manager level, you will have your own team to manage. In other instances, like my Mum, you may also work with people from other departments across the company, or even with other branches across the nation or worldwide.

This is where your people management skills will come in handy. You need to know how to motivate your team members, how to lead them (and not just boss them around). You need to be able to assess their learning needs, to coach and mentor new employees and help them grow as an individual as well.

Tip 8: Seek blessing

This is perhaps Mum’s most important advice to all (regardless of what industry or work you do). You have to make sure the work that you do is blessed. Seek blessings from your parents (and spouse, if you’re married), and from God. Make sure that you are not doing something that is against what you believe in, and constantly review your intentions at work. Mum enjoys her work and treats it as an ibadah – the more she earns from her work, the more she gives back to the community.

Hello from Daddy & Mummy from our trip to Norway in 2019/2020.

Final words

Well, the final words from me are that I’m trying to get Mum to agree to do another session :p. So, if you found these tips useful, or would like her to share more on other topics or areas, do leave a comment so I can prove to her that people do value her sharing and experiences. She is a bit reserved in that she doesn’t like to put herself out there (unlike her super extroverted daughter) (which makes me wonder where I get this from lol). But she’s open to suggestions and would probably be more willing to do a panel session (if she can invite some of her other colleagues or friends as well).

Anyhow – hope you’ve found these tips useful! Sorry this took me like a week to write lol, been a bit busy with stuff :p. See y’all in the next post. Until then – stay awesome, and take care! 🙂

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