In my search of greatness is written by Sharifah Zakirah, who recently joined the Huawei Malaysia’s team.
What makes one a dreamer and another a doer? A dreamer simply dreams of achieving goals; however, a doer takes the initiative to step out of their comfort zone and venture into uncharted territories.
Bits and Pieces
I have been an Administrative and Diplomatic officer (PTD) in the Government for 11 years. The position itself is challenging but it has taught me to be holistic and to multitask; allowing me to perform various roles, generating new skills and experiences.
I first joined the civil service in 2010 and was then posted to the Ministry of Higher Education at the Management Services Division. In 2014, I was moved to the Infrastructure Development Division of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture. Later, I joined the Tourism Policy and International Affairs Division in 2019 and I have been taking care of international affairs ever since.
When the pandemic struck in early 2020, everything changed. Everyone was forced to change their daily routines to prevent the spread of the virus. The pandemic definitely caused a great dent to the economy, especially the tourism industry which relies heavily on international tourists, due to the endless lockdowns and border restrictions that were imposed. All activities and programmes related to tourism were temporarily frozen. The drastic and abrupt changes greatly affected my mental health as I struggled to maintain an optimal work performance, while at the same time trying to adapt to the new norms of digitalisation. There were days where I felt completely demotivated, but I never gave up or gave in. I made the most of what I could to adopt and adapt to this new lifestyle and to focus on being agile and nimble in these trying times.
Door of opportunity
In the midst of this frustration and struggle, an opportunity presented itself to further quench my thirst for knowledge. A conversation was struck with a friend regarding her time in the PCF Programme (Cross Fertilisation Programme) in 2020. At that time, she was seconded to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and was part of the consultants’ team to complete the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint.
The Cross Fertilisation Programme is one of the government's strategic initiatives to transform the public sector into a service that prioritizes success and a high-achieving culture. Through this programme, the Government officers are placed into various private companies for the purpose of skills and knowledge sharing, enhancement of leadership and management skills in different organisational environments as well as for governance structures. The programme also aims to expose officers to a high-achieving culture so that this can be adapted and practiced when officers return to serve with the Government.
This idea fascinated me as I am constantly trying to challenge myself and to expand my horizons as well as to satisfy my thirst for knowledge. After the endless corporate filtration processes, the D-day was finally here! I was appointed to Huawei Malaysia in September 2021 at the Public Affairs and Communications Department as a CSR Manager.
There’s more to it than meets the eye
My first impression of Huawei was that it was about mobile phones and other gadgets. However, there is more to Huawei than meets the eye. I have learnt so much more about what Huawei does in the last several months that has changed my mindset about the company completely. Huawei plays a part in our daily lives in various aspects, from connectivity, cyber security, Big Data, Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, routers, gadgets and the list goes on. It caters to various industries with different backgrounds, providing solutions towards a better and safer world. Huawei is constantly finding ways to improve itself as technology progresses and to maintain its position as a leading powerhouse in the technology of the future.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility a.k.a CSR?
From what I understand, CSR is where companies become socially accountable to the society and its stakeholders. However, upon joining Huawei, I have a better understanding of what it really is. Apart from the distribution of tablets and Smart TV solutions to students and the underprivileged, CSR is about sustainability. At Huawei, the focus is on matters such as talent development and knowledge transfers. As the saying goes – “If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry tomorrow. If you teach a man to fish, he will be rich forever.
Huawei realises the importance of grooming the younger generation into having the necessary ICT skills for the future. In 2008, the Seeds of the Future programme was launched, a global flagship CSR programme by Huawei. It is an initiative that aims to cultivate young talent, ensuring that the tech savvy and change-resilient young people are equipped with the skills and mindsets needed to be competitive in the workplaces of tomorrow. A good education is the fertile soil from which dreams become a reality.
I was entrusted to organise the Seeds for the Future 2021 programme. Despite the pandemic, we managed to carry out the programme under strict restrictions. Twenty students from both public and private universities were selected to participate in the 10-day programme, conducted in a hybrid manner, with a mixture of online classes being live streamed from China, as well as social activities and visits. Regardless of the obstacles presented, Huawei successfully executed the programme.
Seeing is believing
The first big event I experienced after joining Huawei was the Launching of the Huawei Customer Solution Innovation Center (CSIC) officiated by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. I was very excited. It is not every day that you get to meet the Prime Minister in person. The planning process was a big challenge. Nevertheless, the endless hard work and effort paid off, with the launching ceremony successfully conducted. The newly refurbished and upgraded CSIS boasts all new exhibitions, showcasing the company’s state- of-the-art technology and solutions.
Perks of being attached to another corporation is that you get to meet new people and expand your network. Huawei’s working culture itself amazed me and still continues to amaze me continuously. Taking power naps during lunch breaks are encouraged at the Huawei office. Due to the differences in working cultures however, this is frowned upon in most Malaysian offices. With that said, scientific studies have showed that taking 20 to 30-minute afternoon naps could help improve moods, alertness, reaction time, short-term memory and focus.
Huawei cares for all their employees, be it local or expats. When it comes to expats, being homesick is the gravest of illness. As such, Huawei took the initiative give them a sense of home by preparing a cafeteria manned with chefs from China to ensure the environment and the food resembles what is served back home.
Words from the “moderately-wise”
My journey with Huawei has been breathtaking. Although my time at Huawei is slowly running out, I am looking forward to making the most out of my remaining time left and to excel in what I am doing. It feels as if it was only yesterday that I entered the doors to Huawei. Alas, everything that has a beginning will surely have an ending.
One of the best takeaways that I will take away from Huawei is the camaraderie and unity among the employees – a brotherhood or sisterhood of likeminded souls trying their best to contribute towards the digital transformation of this country. I learned to persevere when faced with challenges and to be creative in providing solutions. My superiors gave me enough freedom to take the initiative in all the projects that I was involved in. This has enriched my working experience and the insights I gained could be used in the public sector as well.
Apart from that, Huawei taught me how to be resilient in an environment where work flows in endlessly, with some projects having almost impossible deadlines. To be honest, I was quite overwhelmed at first. Nevertheless, I rose to the challenge and overcame the obstacles.
The main challenges I faced was the need to communicate with people of various aspects and behaviours in order to complete these tasks. That's where I improved my communication and people skills, finding the right words and communication methods to achieve the desired results.
All in all, I will return to Government service equipped with these soft skills and a broader view of what it is like in the corporate sector. Just as I have managed to be a bridge between the Government and the private sector through this programme, I will impart the knowledge I have acquired that I feel will improve the Government service, when I return. Bringing the best from both worlds together, I believe, will be my greatest contribution from this programme.
Written by Sharifah Zakirah, who recently became part of Huawei Malaysia’s team in the cross fertilisation programme, an initiative by the Public Service Department to encourage knowledge sharing between Government officers and the private sector.