Category Archives: Personal

A New Journey

Saturday, 21st June 2008, was an extremely cool night. I was standing there in front of the stage in my company’s appreciation night and I gave what I would personally classify as one of my best speeches ever. The crowd rallied, my spirits were up and we had a great after party that followed. It was a speech for my people. The people who had worked so hard for me and who I truly honestly think is the most amazing team I’ve worked with in a good while. The party, was my way of ensuring that these guys were celebrated.

Life on top

Life on top is not all that breezy. Social relationships and constructs of the employer-employee relationships guarantee that things will change no matter how you separate the work life barrier. People listen to me when they don’t have to because I’m their boss. That freaks me out. I’ve framed my life around the fact that the man and the actions or ideas is separate. Hence, outside of work, I’m an ordinary person, not a boss. It’s a concept that not many people can grasp.

But more importantly, when I was sitting by the pool that night during the after party, I looked at the people who were around me. They were all my people. My friends. My staff. They were all imperfect. Heck, I was imperfect. Yet, in my drunken haziness, an epiphany struck me. These were the people, who, no matter how imperfect they were, were perfect as an organizational unit.

The people in the organization I work with are nothing short of impressive. I don’t say it enough, but I truly believe it. I paid a visit to another site office the other day and there were some people talking about the service they were getting from my unit. Sure, it was a small service, but they were saying how professional the people were and were raving about it. I listened, smiled to myself, and got off in the next floor. I never saw them again.

Many Malaysian companies fail to realise that the average Malaysian organization has an advantage that most European and American organizations never have – sheer diversity. It’s an advantage that Malaysians tend to forget simply because we’ve been conditioned to differentiating ourselves and not exploiting the diversity in every aspect of our working life. In reality, the more “campur” (mixed) an organization is, the better it’s chances of surviving in the real world. I really like my team because I see this diversity in the organizational unit and it’s something that I treasure greatly.  But I digress…

The Last Hurrah

Monday, 30th June 2008, will be my last day with Shell IT International. I fondly remember the first day I joined the group. On that day in December 2005, I had signed up for a job which I had no clue about – a Helpdesk Analyst. I had been working in Malacca for two years and missed the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. Fast forward to 2008, I currently lead a team with 91 people. It’s an organization that has thought me a lot and an organization that I will forever cherish as the place where I truly grew up. So there is a little bit of sadness due to nostalgia in me as I leave this place.

Yet, behind the glassy eyes and the fear at the back of my head, is the excitement of heading to new and unknown territories. I will be joining the Electronic Data Systems Corporation or more popularly known around the world as EDS. Change is always a difficult thing for people. It’s difficult because, you never know what you’re going to get.

But unlike my other big changes in life, this time I have a leverage that I never had before. I have people working for me which I must commit to taking care off. Skilled knowledge workers that are the heartbeat of my organization and that play an extremely important part in my life right now. I have decided that my leadership team will continue to invest in the people that work for me. And it’s an investment that I believe will have big payoffs in time to come. These returns will only be possible if an organization unit makes a concise effort to attract, train and preserve a culture that rewards people for their commitment. My dream is to make an organizational unit where everybody challenges everybody to constantly improve themselves. For me personally, this means making sure I put in the time to make my extended leadership team members better than me. Only then will I have to continuously push the bar higher for myself and reach for the stars.

Which brings me back to the topic at hand. The journey over the next few months is going to be an interesting one. It’s a journey where I will have to deal with the challenges of change and the excitement of new opportunities. I am scared, excited, worried, happy, nervous and exilarated all at the same time. And I know that this only means that I will have to prepare myself for tougher challenges up ahead – which is really cool, because it means that there are plenty of opportunities to learn and provide new learning opportunities.

The 4 Minute Mile

Somebody asked me the other day if I was a mad person for leaving the Oil and Gas industry. After all, with oil prices at USD$143 per barrel, I would be leaving a cushy lifestyle for an extremely competitive environment.

I told that person, that I had this exact same discussion with another individual when I left academia for Shell. I’ve come to realise that the only way you’re going to shine is if you continuously push yourself to do the impossible. What many fail to realise is that if you have the support of your people, even the most impossible tasks, become achievable. For example, when Roger Bannister was the first person to run 1 mile in under 4 minutes in 1954, he had the help of two of his friends Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway, both who acted as pacemakers for Bannister. Mind you, at that point in time, everybody said it was impossible to do a four minute mile. 

Unlike my previous leap from academia to the oil and gas industry, this time, I will have the force of a whole team to back me up in the pursuit of greatness. The reality is that I won’t have all the answers and I don’t know all the questions that I will have to face over the next few months. But my imperfections disappear because I have a perfect team. The sum of my team’s imperfection is an elegant perfection. Elegant perfection.

And although Malaysians continue to doubt ourselves and our abilities to deliver world class services, I’m convinced that I will be able to do it with my team. We’ll kick ass and show the world that Malaysia Boleh, is not a term that is used for stupid records but also a term that is used when we truly put in effort to become the best.  And greatness I will achieve with them.

Onward to EDS!

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Be a superhero

I wrote this article a few years ago and it was published in the New Straits Times on the 16th of December 2004. I’m reproducing it here for archival purposes.

Public Speaking

I was 11 when my English teacher, Peter Siew, coerced me into participating in a debating tournament. He told me he had chosen me simply because I was one of the more talkative students.

Much of the day of the competition is a blur now. But the few things I still can remember are very vivid.

I remember walking up onto the stage, staring at the crowd in front of me, and being consumed with indescribable fear. I was shivering; my heart was pounding; my knees were so weak I thought they would collapse under my tubby body at any moment.

“The school … the whole world, will soon be laughing at me,” I thought then as I pondered on how I would argue a motion effectively so it would not only excite the crowd, but also clinch the debating title for my school. Ten years down the line, I found myself before speakers from all over Asia – the Grand Finals All Asian Debating Tournament 2002 in Bangkok. That year, I won the Best Speaker In Asia award. And there has been no turning back.

How did I do it? With my five-point strategy.

Become your own superhero

They say 99 per cent of public speaking-related problems can be solved if you are confident. A lot of the fear is self-induced. I made myself overcome much of my fear by invoking an “alternate” speaker.

When I’m on stage, I’m not Suresh Gnasegarah, an ordinary Malaysian from Petaling Jaya. When I’m on stage, I’m Tubby Gnasegarah – invisible, charming, spectacular, and ready to take on the world. I am my own superhero on stage.

Become one with your environment

If you’re going to be giving a presentation to a group of people, make sure you arrive early. Get used to your surroundings. Walk around the room in which you’ll be presenting in. The more things you are comfortable with, the better you will feel and the easier it will be to speak.

Look, stare and embrace

Speakers who bury their faces in their script will never be good speakers. If you’re unable to look at people, try looking at the four corners of the room. This method also helps speakers who are nervous and creates the illusion that you’re engaging with the crowd. When the audience feels they are being “watched”, they will pay attention to what you are saying, and your confidence will rise.

Prepare, prepare and then prepare

Not many people have the ability to speak off-the-cuff. Having trained many people throughout my career as a debater, I realise that many people feel preparation is not important.

Again, preparation here doesn’t mean the process of memorising a particular speech, but researching your subject matter and ensuring that you know the material you are going to present. Nothing turns an audience off more than listening to an unprepared speaker.

Relax and enjoy yourself

Crowds love speakers who are having fun themselves!

 

These five golden rules have been the pillars to my various public speaking experiences. Hopefully, they’ll help you too.

* The writer is an information technology lecturer in the Multimedia University.