Learning To Be 'Teachable'

Oct 31, 2014 5 Min Read

(Above: Mr Hee Kim Fah, CEO of GTI Media (left) presenting a token of appreciation to Mr Johan Merican, CEO of TalentCorp Malaysia (right) during the Malaysia’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers Awards Night 2013.)

Career advice from GTI Asia CEO Hee Kim Fah

Many great leaders start from scratch before reaching the top. Different paths, opportunities, life choices, starting from their very first job, have an impact on the journey to the top.
We speak to Hee Kim Fah on his first job, and his journey to becoming group chief executive officer of GTI Asia.

Q: Do tell us about your first job.

I started off as a computer engineer in an engineering company monitoring and evaluating projects.

I was fortunate to be involved in the construction of the biggest power station in Malaysia at the time.

I was responsible for installing a computer system to keep track and automate all the cables, both power and control cabling, laid or to be laid, in the power station.

Q: How important do you think your first job has been to your career development and personal life?

As a fresh graduate then, being given a task to put into place a computer system was overwhelming. It was a mammoth task and extremely challenging.

I learnt that if you put your mind into something, and be open to get help from experienced people, the seemingly mammoth task becomes achievable.

This has given me the confidence to face other challenging tasks in my career.

Q: What are the important attributes and factors that have a bearing on a person’s career success?

The attributes and factors to a person’s success is determination, willingness to learn from others and understanding that giving up is not an option.

I believe that our willingness to learn is probably our biggest asset. Personally, my hunger for knowledge put me on a quest, not just as a pioneering graduate in the computer field, but also to further my Master’s degree at Stanford Business School.

Apart from that is networking. In other words, it’s our ability to treasure relationships, not just with our colleagues, but also with our superiors, customers and business partners. That will greatly help in one’s career success.

Q: Any regrets as to how your career path has panned out for you? If you could change it, would you have it any other way?

Some people have asked me: “if you had a chance to rewrite your past, what would you change?”

My answer would be that I like it as it is and I’m happy with what has happened thus far – all the successes and the failures.

In hindsight, it is the little failures that lead to our success. If you take them away, we might not be able to have the successes of yesterday and today.

Q: Do you see yourself scaling greater heights in your career?

At the level where I am now, I have the opportunity to put many of my ideas into action.

Following my passion to help the younger graduates, we do try out many new ideas and efforts to guide them with better career and learning opportunities.

Q: Who do you look up to as role models?

I look at things from a different perspective. Rather than a specific role model, I believe that people who come our way can be our role models, despite their imperfections – especially those who work with us every day.

Earlier in my career, I looked up to most of the superiors who were assigned to me and tried to learn as much as I could from them.

I mainly focused on their good traits and their strengths rather than their weaknesses – something important for every young worker to practice.

Q: What is your wish for the young people?

I often tell my team, including my children, that there are two important elements that can help you make good progress in life.

They are being learnable and teachable. If we are given the opportunity to learn from those who are better than us, we should continue learning. This includes going back to school to fill any knowledge gaps.

If people come to teach us, even if they are pointing out our mistakes in anger, we should be humble enough to listen and learn from them.

Personal story

For Hee, the most memorable event in his career was when he was given the opportunity to promote a company and pioneer the Multimedia Super Corridor initiative in Malaysia at the young age of 34.

He cherished the rigorous planning sessions with officers from the Prime Minister’s department and meeting the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Words of wisdom

“No task is too difficult or too easy. At the end of the day, deliver your best. To the young people who are embarking on their career journey, take on the tasks given to you and grab every opportunity that comes your way. If you don’t have opportunities, then ask for them!

“It is important to be patient in your careers and do your tasks well. Form good relationships with colleagues and superiors. Build a reputation that you can achieve anything under any given circumstance.”

First published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 1 November 2014

Editor's note: Just as Mr Hee benefited from having capable superiors that could offer him guidance, so can you if you could just find the right mentor!

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Hyma is a Special Education Teacher who is passionate about making an impact on the lives of children through education. Her hopes is to save the world, one child at a time. She was previously part of the Editorial team at Leaderonomics.com

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