Week 30 Reflections

What would make someone want to work late or be on call for?

Setting the Context

Growing up, I’ve been indoctrinated with the idea of a 9-to-5, of work-life balance, and of setting boundaries.

After the dot com and proliferation of online “entrepreneurs”, came the movement of grit, work hard and burning the midnight oil. Heck, if you’re in the office at 9:00 am for a 9-5 job, you’re late; when you leave at 5:00 pm to the same job, you’re working “half-day”. Some pushed back and were given various labels by seniors and veterans who either “went through the same thing” or “had it worse”. Colleagues and superiors perpetuate this toxic environment.

Then you have to appreciate the distrust towards big businesses following the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the subsequent 2001 Financial Downturn, the 2008 Subprime Mortage Crisis, and various corporate scandals. Now with the pandemic, things take a negative turn. Tides are pushed again in a different direction.

Whether the arguments and counterarguments are substantiated or anecdotal, it comes from experiences that could be rationalised based on their context.

So, my question comes rather odd in the context of this backdrop…

…when jobs are scarce and competition is high.

…when times are uncertain and emotions run wildly high.

Looking into the Past

Academic Life

Currently, I’m doing the Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons) programme at Universiti Teknologi MARA. It’s my second attempt after dropping out in my final year in 2008. My primary motivation is to close a chapter that has haunted me since. Admittedly that returning to law school in such an interesting time re-ignited an interest that died all those years ago. My interests are in constitutional law and in politics.

Copywriting & Content Writing

Dropping out wasn’t the end of the story for me. I was exploring copywriting during the time. Around 2005-2006, I had opportunities to write for a member of the Dewan Negara (Senate), write blogs from an online community. After leaving university, I continued to write print ads for an advertising agency. Took on various roles and projects as a freelancer.

Consulting, Social Data Analytics, and Digital Marketing

2016-2018 was an interesting period for me. The world of social data analytics and digital marketing opened up to me. In an average week, I would go through social data sets of 25,000+ by 20+ columns to come up with management reports. I provided insights and counsel to clients which included government-linked companies, ministries, government agencies, as well as for-profit organisations. During the Global Entrepreneurship Community (GEC) Summit 2017, I was even involved in producing the word-for-word transcription for speeches and addresses. The Internet was down preventing our team to live stream the session.

Event Management

Digital wasn’t my only communication platform. I was involved as the floor manager at events that cumulatively drew 22,000 attendees in December 2018 & January 2019. I was the understudy in Penang, the assistant in Singapore, and took on the role during the two-day event in Kuala Lumpur. Long before that, I was Chapter Network Education Coordinator, Ambassador, and Director Consultant under the Business Network International (BNI) Sarawak Region between 2014-2016. Besides Chapter launch and Business Open Day, I delivered training programmes for members as well.

Taking a quick detour of my professional life, family and relatives helped me participate in event organisation. As a mourner, I still coordinated two funerals while attending to well-wishers. Iban funerals are no small affair. Coordination included developing the obituaries, the acknowledgements, food and drinks were adequately served, and preparing the eulogy among others. I was fortunate as well to be able to help out in private events where VVIPs and VIPs are among the guest list. Though non-professional, do not make the mistake of assuming protocols, customs, social precedence, and rules of etiquette were off the table. One needs to bear in mind who gets greeted first and seated where. While interning at the Parish Office, I helped execute leadership retreats, youth camps, as well as taught Bible Knowledge classes.

Public Affairs & Media Relations

Let’s come back to the more recent past. This was right after the 2016-2018 stint where I was communications consultant and strategist to Heads of Corporate Communication, Assistant Vice Presidents of Advertising & Promotion, and Marketing Managers. I wondered “what next after data?”

It’s public relations. I was briefly accepted into two public relations agencies: Strategic Public Relations Group (SPRG) Malaysia and Ogilvy PR. From July 2019 to March 2020, I was exposed to the media relations side of communications. Prior to this national role, my media relations experience was limited to a few Sarawak-based press releases and press invites in 2010, 2015, and 2016. In this period, I was exposed to renewable energy, telecommunications (5G) and healthcare industries. Together with my team’s support, I handled media junkets, launch events, press releases, MoU signing ceremonies among others. I was fortunate to attend several Dewan Rakyat (House of Representative) sessions before the pandemic.

Where to Next?

It’s 2021. I feel like my journey has come full circle. I’m back where I started albeit with more experience, insight, and half-a-gain more wisdom. In fact, I was struggling to identify what do I want to do next. Amidst the exam and the few clients, I’m wondering what next.

Dewan Rakyat Political Drama: 26-29 July 2021

This week Malaysia was shocked by a political episode that transpired in the Dewan Rakyat. During the sessions where Points of Order were raised on Monday (July 26). The Honourable Member for Kota Bharu, also the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing Law and Parliamentary Affairs, informed the House that all Emergency Ordinances were revoked effective July 21. Pressed by members in the August House, the Speaker decided to have the Member for Kota Bharu to address the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (August 2).

The Istana Negara released a media statement stating that His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong never granted consented to any revocation instrument (12:02 pm, July 29). It wasn’t an act of refusal, it was because the instruments have not obtained assent yet. Thus, when Kota Bharu made his statement on Monday, it was premature.

At 7.00 pm, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement counterclaiming that the revocation was not done according to the provisions of the Federal Constitution. The statement asserted Art. 40(1) read together with Art. 40(1A), Federal Constitution: that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act on advice and shall accept the Cabinet’s advice.

This is a first Istana Negara-Perdana Putra conflict in over a decade. The last conflict between the two instutitions was in 2008. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who was also the Sultan of Terengganu, refused to appoint the candidate for Menteri Besar. The candidate asserted he received the letter of appointment from the party to lead the State. It triggered a political crisis which could become a constitutional one when the Dewan Undangan Negeri assembles.

Let’s return to the present day.

While the political drama was developing into a serious constitutional crisis, I was making remarks on it, the proceedings of the House, as well as having discussions with our batch’s Constitutional Law II class.

It struck me that no matter how hard I try to ignore communications, politics, and constitutional law, I will continue to be drawn towards it.

If you are hired, are you willing to be on standby 24/7?

Yes, I was asked this question in the past month. For some reason, my mind went to my two-year stint and several instances which involved being on standby 24/7.

Yes, there were instances I hated being in the office longer than I need to be.

But if you think about it, many do it willingly. Some would say they are well-paid. True, sometimes money is the motivation. I realised money as a reason isn’t sustainable for me. When we were preparing some tender submission documents years back, I was highly annoyed I stayed quite late in the office. It was that moment that I promised myself never again will I work outside the hours I’m paid.

Sounds contradictory, right?

The past few weeks, I was trying to understand what was the general rule and what was the exception? Today it dawned upon me: it’s not so much about the job, the salary, the JD, or even the environment. (Sure, fancy office with some cool doo-dads are novel, I guess.) It’s about the purpose and the contribution I can give.

If the only value is a retainer, it feels hollow. High stress without meaning or value is a waste of time. It is a waste of effort.

More so when I started out as a copywriter and self-taught the tricks of the trade. Heck, in those “free seminars”, I sit and can see through the b*llshit. I did it for a living! I had to “sell” TV programmes through “sexy” TV commercials after reading sh*t synopsis! I won’t say I’m immune to advertising tricks. I bought tonnes of digital products from social media ads myself. But I saw the value in the things I bought: deck templates.

When you’re into something that provides value to others, where and when you can create value, there is no such thing as “9-to-5”. Understandably I’m writing from a position of privilege. Not all would discover what they want to do. There are challenges that prevents them.

As I write this, I would like to also do myself justice. I have my own challenges and limitations as well: financial as well as mental laden with some physiological limitations. That is why crafting my niche area isn’t easy. I’ve antagonised myself and lost sleep over it nights on end. Each time I am forced to minimise my loses, it pushes me deeper into the feeling of failure and disappointment.

This Week 30 Reflections was written over a few days; my LAW486 – Law of Contracts II finals came in between. In fact, i have no idea as I reach the conclusion of this entry what my train of thought was.

What I do know is doing my Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons) programme for the second round may have started as “closing an old chapter”, but it certainly helped me rediscovered my passion and love lost long ago. This time, I have a chance to do things all over again. And do it better.

If an initiative or enterprise meant something to you, you’d give it your all, wouldn’t you? For some, it’s winning. For others, it’s the money. Then there are those who do it for legacy. I used to think I wanted to do something for all three. I realised these were not my reasons.

Realising my Drive

What drives me? Integrated communications to effect change is just the means. It’s not my why.

My why is simple: I want to leave an impact, to create value, to grow and help grow.

Whether my clients or stakeholders, the candidness of giving that meaningful value leading to growth matters the most to me. And so happen that constitutional law, strategic communication, and political marketing/communication are my go-to areas.

I enjoy the national arena just as much as the sub-national arena. In the coming years, it’s time to put into motion my regional plans. In fact, after 2 years at Ogilvy PR, I hoped to join Ogilvy Consulting or one of the consulting firms.

Let’s return to basics first. I recently closed a RM9,000 media relations deal spanning 6 months. Yes, it’s way below my fee. But I have to start somewhere. I won’t let my limited experience media relations hold me back.

Not anymore.

Author: Aldric

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