Inspirational talk by CEO of NSTP, Dato’ Mohammad Azlan

By Wafi Rashid

GOMBAK, 28 November 2014: The Boss was the name of the event of the morning and the boss, Dato’ Mohammad Azlan Abdullah, was in campus today and both students and staff were honoured by his presence as he delivered an inspirational speech of success and the hardship that comes with it.

The Department of Communication managed to convince Dato’ Azlan to take time out of his busy schedule in order to share his experiences with students and staff members of IIUM, particularly the students and lecturers of Communication Department.

For those who are unaware who he is, Dato’ Mohammad Azlan Abdullah is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NSTP and has a vast experience in the corporate world. This event was brought to you by the Department of Communication, IIUM and was run by a team consisting of students of Organisational Communication. The Human Sciences Seminar room was the venue for the morning of the event that started at 9:45 a.m. and ended at noon.

The talk delivered by Dato’ Azlan was not quite in a manner that you would expect, it did not involve him standing behind a microphone stand and reading a text that was already pre-written. Rather, the Boss would walk around the room from one corner to the next with the remote control to his slide presentation in one hand and his voice was clear enough for the whole room to hear what was said while interacting with members of the audience. The language he used would be similar to the language used by a group of friends sitting in a coffee shop talking over roti canai and teh tarik. You could say it was more of a dialogue rather than a speech.

Anyhow, Dato’ Azlan began the morning by giving the audience a brief background of his life, qualifications and working experiences.

Dato’ Mohammad Azlan Abdullah was born in Terengganu in 1968 but attained his Bachelor’s degree in Business(Accountancy) from the University of Tasmania in 1990. He has gained precious experience working in corporate companies such as Coopers and Lybrand before moving on to Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS) for seven years as he ended his time at PLUS as the Head of Toll Department, then joining Big Tree outdoor advertising in which he claimed to have an emotional connection with it due to the fact that he was the first General Manager of the company and he played a vital role in the rise of Big Tree. He is currently the CEO of NSTP, the role he assumed in January 2012.

The role he assumes today is his hardest to date as he has to deal with a workforce of over 2,200 and a revenue that adds up to more than RM800 million which is an immense contrast compared to his previous role at Big Tree in which the company started with a staff of only about 30 people. The job proved such a challenge that after the first few days of being with NSTP, he found himself having to stay in a hospital bed overnight! At the moment, he does not deny that the newspaper industry is going through a tough time but he is determined to prove his critics wrong and prove that the newspaper industry is not a dying business.

So what keeps the Boss going? Dato’ Azlan outlined a few important aspects that should be followed in order to keep a person motivated and help him strive towards his goal. Firstly, he strongly urged the audience in the room to create a “big picture” that is what you want to do with your life and where you want to be, the ultimate goal.

Secondly, he spoke on how, we as students and as people have to challenge ourselves to achieve greater things and we can only do this by stepping out of our comfort zone. Last but not least, actually it might be the most important rule for a successful career. Dato’ Azlan stressed on the importance of having a balance between technical ability and soft skills. One characteristic that he warned the audience to never possess is arrogance. “You can be garang but not arrogant,” he said with urgency.

Dato’ Azlan also spoke highly of his time working with PLUS and the colleagues that he met during his time there as well the experience he gained during the decade he worked with Big Tree. He stated that the position he held in Big Tree gave him the first glimpse of what it would be like to run a business.

The session ended with a Q&A session with audience members but I managed to personally ask the Boss a few questions.

The first question that was asked was, “What is the biggest regret in your career?” in which he answered that it would be not joining a merchant bank. As a person with accounting background, he felt that that would be a grand achievement to join a merchant bank but he never did.

“I don’t think I would be able to join a merchant bank at this point if given the opportunity because of my current position,” he added.

He later said that that was not much of a regret and says that apart from that unticked box, he’s proud to say he has no regrets.

“Do you have anything to say to the aspiring bosses out there?” was the second question in which he answered, “Everyone is a boss in their own perspective” but he once again stressed on the importance of having a big picture.

“What’s next in your career?” His answer: “Well a lot more work has to be done in NSTP and the print industry, and I would like to prove my critics wrong and show them that the print industry is not a dying business,” he said, determined.

Dato’ Azlan cited his inspirations from Steven Gerrard, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. He is also an avid Liverpool supporter. When asked what’s Liverpool’s chances of winning anything this season his answer was, “Nothing! We don’t have a chance this year!” as the two of us laughed.***

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