By Fatimah Fawziyah
It’s always nerve-wracking to start a job and compete with the ‘big boys’, but Mohamed Syairoz Mohd Odman, 39, Assistant General Manager, Strategic Relations Division of Berjaya Corporation Berhad says it’s always passion that leads people to success.
Know that it’s a universal fact that passion and hard work are the key to success. He pours his heart and souls into this work, he loves his job and he loves what he is doing and that’s what that has brought him here.
“Being an Assistant General Manager (Government liaison for group), Strategic Relations Division, is all about making sure the relationship between Berjaya Group and the government ministries goes on well. Therefore, I have to make a lot of friends from many government departments and agencies,” said Mohamed Syairoz with enthusiasm and a glowing smile in his face.
Good attracts good, and this belief governs how he manages people and work. He believes in taking care of the staff, developing them professionally and giving them opportunities to grow. In turn, they will give their loyalty, take care of customers and help the company grow. “We would not be where we are today if not for our people,” he said firmly.
However, all of these experiences helped him move away from the comfort zone. As with all the things in life, there must be a balance. With this job environment, he believed that we should not over-stretch ourselves. One must be realistic as we cannot do everything unless we have a good foundation.
He is also an advocate of work-life balance. He tries to take small breaks for self-reflection. He also encourages his staff to do the same. Therefore, they can take this time to improve themselves. Their job doesn’t have to be confined to the office, as there is much to learn from the world out there too.
Here are the highlights following the interview conducted with Mohamed Syairoz Mohd Odman:
Writer: During your time in IIUM, how did you contribute yourself to society?
In campus, I was very active as a student leader and involved in a lot in club and society. I was heavily involved in community works, in out-reach programmes, particularly in the rural areas, for the needy and the poor. Other than that, I was actively helping out the youth and children. So, those are the activities that I did regularly.
When I involved myself in community work, it is actually helping to build the character of a person. The more I get involved in society works, the more valuable experience I can gain. Moreover, I continue to build the character such as helping the people, knowing their needs as well as putting myself in their position to feel the difficulties. I think those are good and quality activities most students should participate in. That’s why I always join whenever there is an opportunity to participate either inside or outside Kuala Lumpur with peers.
From there, I believe by helping the community it brings me to where I am now where I hold several positions in the community and society like the NGOs. I also believe those experiences which we gathered during our studies can be applied in my work today. We shouldn’t leave it behind. Our contribution at student level is only in terms of energy and our abilities. But when we are working, we can use the experience of helping the community and society in various ways such as by giving our time, energy, and whatever contribution or in monetary form that can help the society. I believe the experience we gained from studies can be nurtured and it makes us a responsible person who can help the society for betterment.
Writer: What are the specific names of the societies or associations that you are involved with?
Firstly, Rumah Taman Seri Puteri, Cheras. This is a home for rehabilitation centre (Pusat Perlindungan Wanita). So, my friends and I are helping them in terms of their needs. I was appointed by the government to be among the board members of the visitors. I was involved actively in helping the students at Yayasan Pendidikan Cheras especially in educational activities, so we provide coaching in terms of language as well as tutorial. The other society is The Book Village Foundation, this is to promote reading culture among the society. I started joining it during university days when we involved in this reading community.
So, in all of these clubs, I am on the board of these organisations. When I am in these positions I can help promote it more actively. This is because “The Book Village Foundation” is not only promoting reading in the society, we are also promoting public speaking and help to polish up their talents and capabilities.
Writer: What sorts of specific events you usually do in “The Book Village Foundation”?
“The Book Village Foundation” is actually an international body and I was the former International President for the World Books Town. I was the world President in 2011 when it was launched. So, here we help to promote secondhand books all over the world. Why we promote secondhand books? Because the objective of our movement is that we want to make reading affordable for the poor. When reading is expensive it cannot be reachable so the society will find it expensive, difficult, and far from them. They need to spend a lot of money to buy it. When they need to spend a lot of money for books they tend to turn away from it.
Because of that, our movement is not focus only for international but also local. We promote secondhand book reading and it would be any book from any field to promote reading as a habit. We also get in touch with the publishers, book sellers, book shoppers, so that whenever they make book sales we will make a special deal in terms of books and we help to promote this at schools, private colleges and universities so students and youths are able to buy books at affordable price. Slowly, it will become a good habit for them. Later on, if they want to buy expensive books it is up to them. It’s just to make it as culture but first of all, we must get them to be interested in it.
After all, we did not buy the books but we just get engaged with the book sellers, publishers and book shoppers to participate in our event. We just facilitate the location and we organise the ceremony. We are the one who make it happened. So, that’s what I do in this organisation.
Writer: You joined a number of organisations and be a part of the society, is this the way you developed your leadership skills?
Definitely! When we get involved with the society we actually develop the quality of good attitude. What do I mean by good attitude? It is that we know how to deal with the poor, less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, people in rural and urban areas, etc. So with this we are able to bring ourselves to work with all levels of society. Therefore, from this kind of leadership that I hold like organising those programmes, I am able to lead the team of different characters. I’m sure that the programme directors have to deal with different character and attitude. Some are easy to handle, some are lazy to do works. So, how does a leader handle this kind of people?
If you are not exposed as a programme director or programme coordinator, you hardly handle people under you. Those are the good experience that helps me in building my leadership character. I was working with different areas until now and I met different people every time. We have to know and understand people’s character because there are cases, some of the team members like sisters don’t want to talk with brothers, and brothers refused to talk with sisters, brothers having problems with brothers. So, we have to know how to handle. We have to think how to make people love the work with us and enjoy working in team.
Writer: How did you become successful? What did you do during the past that has brought you to where you are right now?
You know life is just like a wheel, sometimes we are above and sometimes we are below. So, when I think such, not all the time we will be above. But, during our time when we are above, we need people under us to help to fulfil a task. Even if we are at the upper level, we must know how to make coffee, how to use photostat-machine or prepare for LCD projector when there is a meeting. It seems small and nothing but it means everything. It doesn’t mean if you are the boss you cannot send a letter. Being a boss means you are able to do a lot of things. Show good attitude as a leader, don’t just give order. Show them how to do and not what to do. By the time we are below, we have to know how to bring ourselves into the situation.
When we have the principle that life is like a wheel, we can be dominance either at above or below situations. When you know both situations, then you will know how the workers feel for instance, if they have to do over time, you will understand how tired they are. For the boss, taking care of worker’s feelings is very important. So, since I graduated I have held different kind of positions. I am not that successful as compared to other people, but with this little experience that I have, Alhamdulillah I get to be here in this organisation and I can use it to help other people. Just always remember that when we are above we have to bring other people to be above too. The job as a leader actually is to be a cheerleader. We have to cheer the employees who work under us. With that they feel happy and without excuses or stress they willingly do the work.
Question: What do you expect to achieve five years from now?
Five years from now, I wish to work on my own. I would like to lead a team on business and adventure so that I can have time and power to decide on my own. I think I have gathered sufficient working experience. Therefore, I think I will give a few more years and then I would like to venture to a business activities that I am able to control my time. I am not decided yet what the business is but there are few options in my mind. However, the objective is that I want to do something that I am able to control my time and can spend more time with the family while doing the things that I like.
Writer: What’s your plan to prepare for upcoming years?
There are two things that I am doing right now that would be very helpful. Number one I am finishing my MBA at Berjaya University and this is my last semester of study. Yes, a degree is important but MBA is different than the normal master’s programme because it’s related to work. It’s always beneficial. I’m not encouraging fresh graduates to go straight pursuing their master s degree because it can’t be itemised with work and working experience. So, by pursuing MBA, the knowledge and experience that I have helped me to boost my understanding towards business and management. These help me to be able in make decision for my future.
Secondly, I am also a member of Toast Masters Club. I am currently the President of Toast Master Clubs’ in Berjaya Holdings. This is a worldwide club and there are 4000 clubs in the world if I am not mistaken. Here we learned public speaking and leadership programme. Yes, I can do corporate presentation but I want to improve myself by joining this club. We as a human beings, we cannot feel arrogant and we have to learn until we die. They said why am I joining this Toast Master Club while I can speak fluently in English? This is because I want to improve myself. Just take this little stone for example if we want to make it shining, we have to polish it right? Same goes to human beings, human can be gleam but once we polished the talent then they will shine. So, by joining this club it helps me to improve my communication skills, confidence level, language skills, talking to a huge audience with the correct body language and it helps me to be a better person.
Writer: Tell us the principle that you hold that has brought to where you are right now
Do everything with passion. Don’t do something halfway. If I start it then I must end it properly. If I want to write, I will write conscientiously. If I want to speak, I will speak conscientiously. If we do something half-heartedly regardless in anything either society, family, working environment so the work will not have the quality, we will not be prepared. So, I have to do it with passion. I have to be very detail because when we do it with passion the outcome will be different.
Did you face any challenge during your time in IIUM until now?
Oh! Yes of course, when I started my work I was very young. Right after graduating I was working with IIUM. During convocation I was working so I went out for a while to take the scroll and came back to work. But, the boss said, it’s ok just take a leave. The challenge that I face is my thinking. Before this whatever I am doing I was supported by friends. The environment as a student during university days and working times are different. However, when we started entering job environment, our way of thinking is based on our perceptions. Previously, I was very less in diplomacy. When I said I want black it means I want black. But I cannot be like that. After a long time, there must be person who will not be satisfied with us. As I grow up I realised different people have different opinion and different way of finishing the task. In an organisation we cannot think about ourselves, we have to understand the team members. Plus, in working we must learn to be a reliable person so we can be an indispensable person.
We have seen now, a number of graduates who are are jobless. What is/are actually lacking in the graduates?
Attitude. If you have a problem with English fluency you can learn but attitude is within ourselves. Attitude is basically education from home and how you mingle yourselves with people and the environment. Treat people nicely, practice sharing, and build a helping environment. Attitude is not only about hard work but it is about how you bring yourselves into the surrounding. If you don’t know the skills then read, or now with the technology we can just google it. Shy people are those who do not expose themselves or never join any society or club.
What is your advice to all graduate out there?
They have to be passionate in whatever things they are doing and very consistent with it. They must be sincere in showing their passion towards work. They must have the right attitude. If you see something wrong with your way and passion, then take an action to change to the right way. Follow your passion.***