Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why I Am Still In Malaysia

The Malaysian Insider is running a series of articles submitted by various Malaysians on the brain drain issue and emigration. I guess its only fair for me to put in my dua sen.

Did I have the opportunity to leave? That would be the first line of questioning. Yes, in fact most of my relatives are already residing in Sydney. I was working part time as a taxi driver in Sydney during my second and third year at University of NSW, which is to say I barely made it to classes especially in my third year. Thankfully, third year was the easiest, lots of essays.

I had to stay on after my degree after hearing my friends were getting RM400 a month as an accontant at Peat Marwick in KL. Gawd, it was just after the Pan-el crisis (readers younger than 40 please Google that before proceeding). Surely I was not going to go back and slog as an accountant with my Acctg Finance degree for RM400. Not when I was puling in A$90 for 9 hours as a taxi driver, tax free. (OK, its 20 years ago).

I had to enrol for my honours year just to stay on. I thought, fine, as the honours year could count as the first year for my Masters of Commerce as well. I would have to pay A$6,500 but I reckon I could make it back easily. So, no more cab driving, got myself an Asst. Accountant job at a NGO, Freedom From Hunger, hey they paid A$24,000 a year, even though the premises looked like a replica of the Sarawak longhouse (don't ask).

That stint as an accountant did wonders for me, it made me very sure that I would never ever want to be an accountant for the rest of my life. That lasted 4 months and I jumped at a Trainee Sales position at Nomura Securities Australia, gawd, I even had to take a pay cut to A$21,000. I was a natural salesperson, b.s. my way selling Japanese stocks, CBs, warrants and within 6 months I had a company car (Mitsubishi Sigma) and a 100% jump in my salary to A$42,000, and I wasn't even 24.

After two years my salary was bumped to A$65,000 with the usual 4 months bonus. Then James Capel was looking at how great the Asian markets were and was looking for someone to start a desk. At 26, I moved to James Capel as Head of Asian Markets. I asked for A$120,000 just for the fun of it, but they said yes OK. Gulp...

Now, I could have stayed there and move around every 3 years and before I was 40 I'd probably be running the Investments side for Bankers Trust or Suncorp or AMP. But it wasn't so easy. I could see that the higher rungs were limited in prospects for non whites. The culture was still very old school. There was too much rugby, beer, cricket, rugby 7s, prostitutes, etc... and you had to work the system.

Chinese Name: Yang Ying 楊穎
Date of Birth: February 28, 1989
Place of Birth: Shanghai, China
Background: Her father is 1/4 German
Place of residence: Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Height: 167 cm
Weight: 46 kg

If I didn't mind, I could have just stayed on and lived comfortably. But I made my way back to Malaysia because I thought if everyone felt the same way, no one would do anything for the country. I have a lot of Ipoh friends who studied in NUS and now making great careers in Singapore, not one out of the twenty or so friends came back. All of them have more more than S$400,000 in the CPF and almost paid off at least one condo (min. S$800,000), the richer ones have a few properties of course.

But I had to make a detour first to Singapore before coming back as there were still (then) zilch opportunities) for me back home. I stayed in Singapore for 3 years managing funds for a private European bank. Funny thing was, I really liked business and finance, and I really liked to write, so I applied twice to The Straits Times and Business Times Singapore. I was offered twice, once for S$7,200 p.m. and another time for S$7,800 p.m. to work there. Sigh... things would have been very different if I took that up. I did a couple of columns for Business Times instead..lol.

Did I make a difference by staying? I don't know. I wanted to find out for myself, career wise, how far I could go in my country. In my small ways, I hope to be part of the struggle to get Malaysia to a better place. Even though, I may not live to see it, even though (if) I had children, they may not even stay in Malaysia ... even so, I want to see Malaysia progress. If every one just shrug their shoulders and pack their bags, who is left to switch off the lights?

Hong Kong model Angelababy Diesel Be Stupid

Angelababy Diesel Be Stupid on Hotspot magazine

I came back because I wanted to read papers that talks about things I care about. I pick up the Sydney Morning Herald, I just head straight for the puzzles column and sports section. Food is the least of my worries, there's always good food everywhere you go. Family, heck, I could have brought my entire family over.

I do not see this as a sacrifice, just my chosen path. I do not begrudge anyone. I make my way around, I live well enough ... but please fellow Malaysians, make a difference, remember to vote, get your friends to vote, get your relatives to vote ... or else don't ever complain about the country.

Angelababy Diesel Be Stupid on Hotspot magazine

Angelababy Diesel Be Stupid on Hotspot magazine


Jesse said...

The story sounds hanging. You detour to Sg and but choose to come back to Msia. What did you do after coming back?

Andy said...

Thank you for all you have done.

mgtp12 said...

"That stint as an accountant did wonders for me, it made me very sure that I would never ever want to be an accountant for the rest of my life."


Regards. www.dimpledbrain.com

clearwater said...

Did those who returned to live in Malaysia out of personal convictions make a difference? Very little, and very few did, unfortunately. The system beats you down, eats you up, spits you out like a spent rag doll. Those in political authority just don't care enough to make a conscious change for the future betterment of all. Until there is a popular awakening that cuts across ethnic, religious and social divides, the existing system will perpetuate itself until it collapses from sheer ineptitude.

Ivan said...

Wao! Amazing history in your life. Your career paths are ever more challenging, dynamic & fantastic! All this colouring your life.. just wondering whether are u a successful investment banker- “salesperson” ; or else how can u get 2x paid; company car..

Salvatore_Dali said...

not an autobiography la... just say that i had been back in Msia for the past 15 years

There were just 3 houses selling Japanese stuff to OZ n Kiwi institutions ... its a huge market, plus i think i can bs better than anyone can... while waiting for my knowledge to catch up to my abilities lol ... I think I was bringing in comm to the tune of A$400,000 a year ... i mean it was the mega bull mkt of Japan then.

Ivan said...

wao. help company make 400k; but u salary only revise up 24k. is that a norm? hmm . .

Sometime thinking to colour my life by work at oversea. .at least after 20-30 years down the road, i might have something to share with my grandchild.

yau said...

Cheers to u Sir. Ur blog shld be Malaysian's daily read.

Roy said...

Thank you Dali. I made the same choice, to come back here. No regret. As a matter of fact, I'm glad.

Jesse said...

I think the readers wouldn't mind you write an autobiography of your life. Sounds colorful and exciting.

Richard Cranium said...

Something you said in your post struck a chord with me.

Why is it that folks in Malaysia complain of lack of opportunities as they climb the ladder, but would go to a Western country and willingly endure the "whites-only glass ceiling"?

Boutique Classical Attitude said...

Malaysia is a great place but we need more leaders like u, pls consider running for the next election.

ronnie said...

My classmate uprooted his family and left for Australia about a decade ago. He operated a mini post office. He complained that the racism in Australia was bad and moved his family to Canada.

The opportunities in Canada are very limited. He therefore decided to leave his teenage kids in Canada and return to KL to look for a job. According to him, a large portion of Asians who emigrated to Australia made their fortune in Malaysia. Many of these businessmen still have businesses in Malaysia.

They enjoy the best of both worlds having a leg here and another in Australia. These people will profit from their businesses here and repatriate it to Australia.

Is this fair for those who remain?

roadrunner said...

Times have changed, multi-nationals now accept Asians into the upper echelons of management, how many most JV partners are from China I am fortunate to be one of them, having grown up in Australia I follow the footy, have a cold one with my work mates on a Friday (knock off 3), and love nothing better than chucking a sickie (MC) after a big weekend. What Asians have to remember is that we are in a foreign country we need to play by their rules, integrate with their culture not for little Malaysia’s or mini China’s where ever we go.

Malaysian’s leave Malaysia because we realise that the stories are true, the grass is green on the other side. I too have a passion to see freedom in Malaysia, equal opportunity and a true representative government.

But it is too easy to cop out, how many people died in the American civil war? Or perhaps the French revolution, what about the Red –Shirt protests in Thailand. Are the Malaysian people willing to stand up for their rights? The simple answer is no, its easier to move to the greener pasture across the pond.

sulaiman said...

Things r changing. There will be ups and downs, but the trend is clear. Keep on writing. Your thoughts has substance.

solomon said...

U are here becoz u care for the surrounding and your root is in Malaysia??

Mu said...

Hope everyone got your message: please vote or else don't ever complain about the country..very well said..

Chris Liew said...

Did you make a difference by staying?

That's a very big yes in my books.. You have inspired and helped shape a lot of us readers here.. and that's a lot of us..

Cheers and thanks man!

hc said...

In fairness, Australia has changed a fair bit over the past 20 years. We used to debate a lot on multiculturalism years ago but the issue is no longer a hot topic, at least not in the daily news. The government,large and small corporations are more willing to do business with Asian countries.

In schools, learning another language besides English is compulsory up to Year 9. My daughter's Chinese language teacher is an Aussie with French-Canadian blood. She can even deliver a seminar paper in Mandarin to a Taiwanese uni audience.

There's nothing to stop anyone from rising to a visible level in business and politics. The current finance minister is a former malaysian and is a female. Discrimination exists in every society, the only difference is whether it's legalised or subtle. We live in a real world, hence it's difficult to legislate good social behaviour or body language.

Not everybody wants to be a top guy in a company or to be a high-level minister but what we all want is equal opportunity, a government that respects all voters, regardless of political affiliation and a public administration that service every individual like a customer.

I look forward to the day when 1Malaysia becomes a reality, not just another catchy slogan or a typical vision statement like what u see in some big companies.

In the final analysis, the choice of leaving or staying put is very much a personal decision. There's no black and white answer.

Liao said...

Malaysia cannot change overnite, a drastic change will create revolution. Everybody in Malaysia has the same mentality..."Wait and See". As time pass by, I wonder what's the conclusion like..

Mr. Dali, you should post your experience in Malaysia Insider. I like the last part. Who will turn off the light..

David Ng said...

Great write up. You should submit it to Malaysian Insider (if you haven't already).

I did the Singapore thing for a while too, even got my PR and driving licence. But eventually, my wife and I decided to come back. Strange but I actually miss home. I thought that the grass was greener on the other side, and to be fair, it probably is for some, but I changed my mind after a couple of years there. 2 years on, I am still relatively happy about my decision. This country may not be perfect, but what home is?

Strangely, in my observations, only about 1 in 7 Malaysians working in S'pore renounce their M'sian citizenship and take up S'porean citizenship. Most of them are PRs. The reason they give for keeping their M'sian citizenship is that they don't intend to retire there because S'pore is not their home, it's just their "office".

Just my 2 cents worth lar

Rosie said...

After studying postgrad in Singapore, a colleague wanted so badly to stay on in Singapore but she listen to her Singaporean seniors advice. At first, she regretted coming back to Malaysia to start her own business as she struggled for a year. Now, she's so established but I think she misses the cosmopolitan lifestyle, less crime rate and strong Singapore currency. Another guy still works in Singapore - I attribute it to his high EQ and personality which could blend with the kiasu culture. As for me, I stayed just across the Causeway and I've thought how lovely and "modern" would it be to live in Singapore just like my cousins. That idea would have stuck if not for the opportunity for me to actually stay and work in Singapore for 3 years. The experience "open my eyes" - all that glitters is not gold. I appreciate for my humble life Malaysia and continue to hope it doesn't spiral down further from here.

Andrew said...

Your patriotism knows no boundaries. Your will to see change and effect change in this country that many has given up on is highly commendable. Sir, I salute you.

green said...

:D I like the 'Be Stupid' girl photo.
Stay hungry, Stay foolish. Godspeed.