Why We’ve Returned Home

Mar 24, 2014 1 Min Read

Malaysia is vastly different from what it was since its inception, and so are its people.

The question of where this nation is heading looms in the back of all our minds, whether young or old.

I, for one, am constantly amazed by how rapidly we’ve grown. In the business sphere, there’s an unshakable sense of excitement.

With an average growth of 6.5% per year since our independence in 1957 to 2005 as identified by the CIA World Factbook, we rank No. 6 out of 10 best countries for long-term growth as stated in HSBC’s The World in 2050 report.

We seem to be poised for the years to come despite the gloom and doom consuming the airways. Promising indicators like these pave the way to a silver lining for this nation, defying the almost unpacifiable doubt weaved into every politicised article we come across.

Returning home wasn’t a decision that came easy to me and promises of growth backed by factual data wasn’t the way I went about making my decision.

In my case, it was always family that lured me home. You’d think that it would be an easy decision, but after spending what I consider my most formative years in a different country, I realised how impactful a place can be on our decisions.

For me it was the lifestyle that I had become accustomed to which made the change so much more difficult.

The reasons are different for each of us but when you dig deeper, you’ll find commonalities in our thought processes, what fuels us to move forward and interestingly enough; what binds us all as Malaysians.

Beyond the nasi lemak and roti canai which I asked everyone if they could make when they visited from home, there is in fact a deeper sense of nationalism in all of us.

It’s shown in our natural sense of cultural understanding, our love of Malaysian food, our celebration of all ethnic holidays. It’s safe to say that we’re a unique bunch.

As soon as I returned, I noticed areas in which I could be of assistance. When I first picked up the newspapers, I noticed that there were opportunities for more subjective content addressing topics like ageism, inclusive work environments, work-life balance, gender biasness, etc.

So, I gave it a shot and asked for a space in one of our national newspapers.

Under the guidance of an editor who has an appreciation of varied insights, I found an audience and I continue to do so today with my column in The Edgy – speaking to the generation I believe we should be paying focus to.

Little did I know that my thirst to write and a different point of view was in fact an already identified area of need.

The National Key Economic Areas list Communication, Content and related Infrastructure as a key milestone for us to transition from a middle-income to a high-income economy.

In my line of work, I find that often times, the lines between communications and marketing are often greyed.

Communications is the strategy behind marketing and content, is in fact king! I hope in the near future initiatives like the above will make this distinction clear.

I’m a believer in continual improvement; there is always room for betterment and change.

Like many who have braved moving overseas, I realised how small the world really is and how fast time passes by.

If change is to come about, it would have to come from within. Gaining better insight into unique organisations such as Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd, who are determined to make a difference, brought forth relatively silent efforts that are sadly less communicated in the media.

These would be positive efforts I’m sure quite a few of us would like to read about. Government initiatives are simply not sexy. However, they are necessary.

Each story further to mine in this feature will introduce a fellow Malaysian making contributions in national key economic areas by knowledge sharing, going beyond the expected, putting aside any inhibitions and returning home to make a difference.



Senior lecturer, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Universiti Putra Malaysia

Returned from: The United States

How did you find out about TalentCorp?

I was working as a research fellow at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City when I first heard of TalentCorp back in 2011.

I was invited by some friends to attend an informal meet-and-greet event with two TalentCorp representatives.

I find TalentCorp’s outreach sessions very informative.

The representatives knew the audience well and they were able to address different kinds of questions patiently.

I also enjoyed attending these sessions because of the opportunity to meet other Malaysians.

I got in touch with TalentCorp for advice on how to apply for REP.

The process was quite straightforward and I am thankful for the assistance I received.

Are there any key messages you would like to share with fellow Malaysians abroad who are looking to contribute beyond borders or looking to return home?

I know many Malaysians residing overseas and pursuing a career in research who are looking for opportunities to contribute through dialogue sessions to learn about each other’s work, to share research ideas and to exchange research expertise.

Participating in these discussions is the first step towards forming future research collaborations.

I would also like to see Malaysian scientists who are living abroad give research talks in seminars when they are in Malaysia for their vacation.

The purpose is to expose Malaysians to the kind of work they do overseas.

In short, there are so many ways where we, as a global Malaysian scientific community, can work together and the key is to take the active step of reaching out to one another.

What are your hopes for Malaysia?

I wish to see more young Malaysians become interested in science. Not merely as consumers but as discoverers and innovators.

One of my roles as a researcher and lecturer is to cultivate a love for science in these young people and to inspire them to do things that can impact the world and improve the daily life of people.

I also hope that the Government will continue to support the research community so that science will one day become a thriving industry in Malaysia.


Head of research,

CLSA Securities Malaysia

Returned from: Singapore

Tell us about your experience being back in Malaysia from a professional and/or personal point of view.

There was no real tipping point – there is a lot of flexibility inherent in being a single professional.

However, after over four years in Singapore and having picked up a lot of experience working in an international financial centre, I was ready to come back to Malaysia to apply my enhanced knowledge base and skill set to a management and leadership role.

There was also the social pull of family and friends, as well as that comforting general sense of “belonging” that comes from driving on Malaysian streets and having ready access to quality nasi lemak!

Working with a Malaysian team is a really great experience compared to many of their global counterparts; I see the typical Malaysian professional as a great balance of intelligence, flexibility and sociability. No wonder we are such a popular import around the world!

Can you give us some insights about your profession and/or the industry you’re currently in?

As far as the equity research profession in Malaysia is concerned, we are really on par with regional best practices and standards. This is a globalised business with few cross-border barrier issues, so a combination of progressive regulators and competition proved that the industry has kept pace and will continue to do so.

Perhaps the biggest change from a structural perspective is the change in client rankings.

Ten years ago, foreign pension funds and fund managers would be the primary source of business for international equity houses like mine.

Now, with the fall-off in international interest re-investing in Malaysia and the continued growth in domestic savings, i domestic funds like the Employees Provident Fund that are our most important clients and we are proud to be their partners as they increasingly invest in the region.

Are there any key messages you would like to share with fellow Malaysians abroad who are looking to contribute beyond borders or looking to return home?

My move back has been working out well for me but of course, you have to do your own careful cost-benefit analysis before deciding as it is a big decision.

Engage with TalentCorp early on – It has a lot of resources to lend (which I only found out about after my decision) that will help you make a decision.


Process technologist,

Shell Refining Company Malaysia

Returned from: Australia

Please tell us about your journey home. Did the REP assist you in this transition?

My journey has been relatively simple because the company that I am currently working for took care of my logistics, transport and temporary accommodation.

This is a real plus because it would be very stressful for my wife and I to deal with the arrangements of returning to Malaysia.

The application for the REP programme is very straight forward and user-friendly. All I had to do was to upload the relevant documents and information through the internet.

From time to time I had questions and these were addressed by a staff whom I met back in the outreach session. Throughout the whole process I felt my application was taken seriously.

Tell us about your experience being back in Malaysia from a professional and/or personal point of view.

It is great to be close to family and friends. Not to mention, now, I have full access to my beloved Malaysian food- from nasi lemak, rendang kambing, roti canai to bak kut teh. On another note, it was like travelling to a new country and I am adapting to the lifestyle here.

Having worked five and a half years abroad it was definitely the right time to return home to work when the opportunity presented itself.

In my first week of work, I already felt the need to pace up with the stereotypical Malaysian working ethic.

In the last three months, the company that I am working for has given me a good breadth of exposure, therefore it is worth it.

Being in a growing industry, I believe there will be plenty of opportunities ahead which align with my career goals.

Are there any key messages you would like to share with fellow Malaysians abroad who are looking to contribute beyond borders or looking to return home?

For Malaysians who are interested to return, the objective and the goal of returning should be clear. All the queries and uncertainties about the prospect of returning should be addressed.

Hence, the motivation to return has to come from an intangible factor. This can be family, patriotism or simply the Malaysian experience!


Executive director – project management/construction, AECOM Perunding Sdn Bhd

Returned from: Hong Kong

Please tell us about your journey home. Did the REP assist you in this transition?

It’s been great being back; Malaysia is flourishing well. I am privileged to be involved in some of the larger projects which fall under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), and through these I have met many professionals who are driven to deliver the projects in earnest, all for the benefit of the country, people and environment.

My journey home was quite simply laid out; I was fortunate to have multiple offers made to me at the time and I eventually chose one that suited my lifestyle and career plans.

The REP process was very efficient, the website laid things clearly and I received responses in a timely manner, all of which left me quite impressed.

My company did assist me in this as well, having processed a number of professionals similar to my case previously.

Can you give us some insights about your profession and/or the industry you’re currently in?

I’m in the construction and development field which is ever-growing. The ETP in place is a necessary step towards us meeting this goal and eventually would help raise the economic standards of the country.

I do feel that our nation is at crossroads. Whilst we have the platform necessary for growth and development, we now have to ensure that our plans are implemented rationally and delivered to meet their objectives.

Going ahead, I would emphasise focus on ensuring efficiency for managing developments, and with a sustainable view for the long term, both in the physical and socio-economic context.

One challenge we continually face is the shortage of skilled and experienced talent.

Enhancement to our education system needs to take place with emphasis on both language and leveraging on our diversity, and initiatives like TalentCorp may well hold the key to unlock the hidden potential of our professionals and harness both local and foreign Malaysian talents.

Are there any key messages you would like to share with fellow Malaysians abroad who are looking to contribute beyond borders or looking to return home?

Without a doubt Malaysians stand in a good position in terms of professional progression here. Mechanisms like TalentCorp can help ease the move back and assist with the sourcing of potential careers.

Having been abroad for quite some time and met many Malaysians working overseas, I believe we are all patriotic and given the correct opportunity, I feel many would want to contribute towards the betterment of our nation.

I do hope we continue to develop as a nation in a proactive, transparent and well-considered manner, focusing on the importance of developing our society.

Needless to say, raising the economic standards of the people together with promotion of racial harmony and religious tolerance would be key in achieving the dreams our forefathers had planned for a truly developed and united Malaysia.

Poonam Balan is a returnee from Canada. She now works with TalentCorp in furthering our communications and collaborative efforts with the Malaysian diaspora dispersed all over the world. For more articles like this, click here! 

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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