Aussie expat plans to stay for the long haul
I left Australia in May of 2013. I got on a plane and flew, of all places, to Mumbai, India. It was a nice nine degrees Celsius in Melbourne when I left, and when I disembarked in Mumbai it was 30 degrees – at 9pm!
I went to India because I’d been offered a place on a leadership programme run by my company, and it decided to throw me in the deep end. From there I’ve been to Singapore and Tokyo, and now I’m in Kuala Lumpur (KL).
And Malaysia is where I’m planning to stay. But, why?
First and foremost, I want to put my career on the fast track! There are millions of people climbing ladders around the world, and international experience is a must-have if you want to get real traction!
From there, it only makes sense to come to KL because there’s no better place to get cross-cultural experience than in Malaysia.
It’s a country where culture, creed and religion are intermixed and the people are the warmest and friendliest you’ll ever come across.
This makes my journey a little different to other expats you might read about, though, because I’m not coming in as a chief financial officer or a business head. I run a team of five brilliant people who look after a set of complex products our company offers, and I love the job.
The long term
For my initial contract, I’m running the expat deal; my apartment, bills and flights are all covered. But, if I secure a role here after my contract ends, I’ll be paying my own rent just like anyone else.
But, it’s more than worth it because Malaysia will be the launching pad for my career.
It’s from here that I want to build upon my experiences and skills to see me through the rest of my professional life, because I believe that beneath the relaxed surface that Malaysians present to the world, there is a passion to learn and grow and explore that is, to an extent, untapped.
So why, you may ask, would a high potential junior manager with complete geographical mobility pick Malaysia as a springboard to achieve these goals?
1. Companies want to move here
You have an intelligent, multi-lingual workforce who are very easy to manage because, culturally, they are warm, friendly and people-focused.
In terms of selling yourself, saying, “yes, I’ve worked there, I understand the culture, the people and I have proven success working there” opens up opportunities just by itself.
2. Right now, Malaysia needs people who are committed to talent
I am passionate about growing and developing staff at every level, and teaching them to care about growing and developing others.
When lots of jobs are created in professional services, you end up with more roles to fill than you have talented managers committed to people development as their first priority. It’s a passion of mine, and something Malaysia has a hunger for. A perfect fit, not to mention an excellent opportunity to prove yourself.
3. Malaysia is the gateway to Asia
Being a key member of Asean, next to Singapore and near Hong Kong and other financial centres, with regular convenient flights to everywhere you’d ever want to be, not to mention cheap direct flights back to my kampung of Melbourne, Australia.
4. Malaysians have everything it takes to be excellent leaders of people!
They are warm, kind and focused on people.
That’s a power I want to harness because I think that if the world had more Malaysians in leadership positions in organisations, they could spread that culture of community and care and help us all remember that, at the end of the day, work is work and we have to make room for life too. That’s a journey I want to be a part of.
You see now the potential and opportunities present here for those willing to seek them, and the chance I am taking is that I have what it takes to unlock some of this in the people I meet and influence.
Initially, I was asked to come to KL because there was a team in my organisation with some goals to achieve, and I am someone with the unique set of tools to help achieve them.
I understand what makes a team run in finance, and I have gained analytical skills through previous roles which continuously come in handy.
But success wasn’t guaranteed.
I’m an Australian, after all, which traditionally makes me very direct.
We also have what is called “low power distance”, meaning we treat our friends and our prime ministers almost the same way, except truthfully I’d think twice about letting our prime minister take a beer from my fridge.
But the reason I’ve been travelling is to gain the insights I need to succeed anywhere.
In India, I learned when to fight for something and when it’s better to lose a battle in order to secure a war. In Singapore I learned the value of hard work and dedication. In Japan I learned how to work in a hierarchy.
In Malaysia, I’ve learned the value of a soft (metaphorical) touch, and I’ve used the skills I gained prior to succeed culturally, while helping build on the foundations my team had built before I came along.
And by my sixth month here I already knew I wanted to stay.
I’m now in the position of asking my managers if it’s possible for me to find a role in an industry where local regulations would ordinarily not let them hire me.
I’m hoping my demonstrated successes and my passion, not just for people development generally, but my belief in the unique qualities Malaysians bring to the table, will be enough to get me over the line.
With all this said, I find it so interesting that so many Malaysians leave the country in order to start building and growing careers, leaving a gap that’s going to allow me to launch my career at a faster pace thanks in part to their absence.
I can understand the allure of international travel; after all I’m doing it myself. But for people who want an international career, for people who want lofty goals and large responsibilities, I can’t understand why anyone would leave this country at a time when the business environment is growing and shouting out for talented, people-focused managers and leaders.
With the world at its doorstep, Malaysia is a hidden trove of professional opportunities and a place where I feel very privileged to have been accepted.
If everything goes well, I will be staying for the foreseeable future and working towards a bright future.
Christopher Moore is an Australian finance professional who can eat spicy food. He is living and working in Malaysia, with plans to stay. If you are interested to get in touch with Christopher, email email@example.com. For more Starting Young articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 18 April 2015