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10 Lessons I Learned From My Previous Employer

July 27, 2015

My Previous Employer

When I left Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) to join Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) recently, I had worked at UTM for more than seven years. Today, I feel the need to look back and appreciate the journey at UTM that has led me to where I am now, so that my current professional life will be as luminous as possible. Here are ten lessons I learned from UTM, my previous employer.



Lesson 1: Stay Focused

Being sent abroad and passing UTM’s complex requirements for my PhD were nothing short of dramas and obstacles. But I learned that, by overcoming each great obstacle in my own way, there is always a greater lesson to learn. Yes, there may be 1000 giant steps towards getting what I want, but if I set my mind and heart to it and stay focused, I am already halfway there, before I even realize it.



Lesson 2: Work Harder

Leading a post-PhD life was extremely overwhelming – teaching, supervision, research, publication, consultation, etc. Trained in a performance-driven environment, I learned to keep working and avoid gossiping. When the university presented me with a river, I could not rely on luck to supply a boat; I had to dive into the water and swim. Yes, luck only comes to those who work hard to find it.



Lesson 3: Be Passionate

Being given the chance to teach TESL-related subjects and to conduct research in phonetics was always like a dream come true to me. Throughout many years of teaching life and research practice, I learned that Passion is always an integral aspect of my professional existence. What I do doesn’t matter so much; what matters is that I love it and that I do it to the best of my ability.



Lesson 4: Open Up

Supervising and guiding students in completing their final year projects, teaching practices and dissertations made me realize that I was not the all-knowing professor. I learned that there is always something to discover in sloppily written literature reviews or poorly organized findings; I just need to keep my mind open to new experiences and take human flaws as perpetuating agents of growth.



Lesson 5: Stick Together

Crossing paths with students of various backgrounds every semester was always a joy; they came and went away like moving trains at a busy train station. But I learned that, if we are kind to each other and we touch each other’s lives in a deep and meaningful way, we would stick together beyond the classroom and beyond the many funny forms of networking technology.



Lesson 6: Take It Or Leave It

Managing conflicts with dear colleagues was a trivial affair. But I learned to grab on to those who help nourish my career, and not to focus on whoever that decelerates the progress of my professional being. It is crucial to know when to stop and say NO and take a step back from those who could harm me. When an opportunity comes my way, I am the only one who should decide to either take it or leave it.



Lesson 7: Be Strongheaded

Handling research grants and keeping up the projects at an expected rate were not an easy matter; some unforeseen things might turn up that made me waver with doubt and uncertainty. But I learned that, while I work so hard to achieve my research goals, I can stay strongheaded and be handsomely rewarded (or positively cursed) in a way that I would never imagine.



Lesson 8: Stay Alert

Working at a prominent research university like UTM requires a shrewd scheme and strategy. I learned that, if I sit around and wait for SCOPUS-indexed publication to land in my laps, I would probably get old waiting. The most important thing is to always stay alert to various opportunities that arise. I just have to grow in response to circumstances and make the most of my chance to shine.



Lesson 9: Play The Game Well

Being part of the transformation plan that UTM always strives to execute, I learned to play the game well and not to fall below expectation. I should be able to master the unwritten lessons, because they are like a series of closed and opened doors; upon gaining the insight and learning the relevant lesson, one door closes and another one opens, and I should always walk faster and further.



Lesson 10: Let It Go

Being a Kelantanese who moves constantly from the East Coast to the West Coast and then to the South Coast and now to the North Coast, I learned that I could always let go of my comfort zone, start a new life in a totally strange environment, and still be happy with it. I saw changes at many levels at UTM and I look forward to seeing many more. Change, as scary as it may seem, comes with an infinite realm of new possibilities.



Yes, every single experience at UTM taught me something that helped me become a better academician. So, thank you UTM for all these valuable lessons. I shall take this knowledge with me and continue my professional journey at UUM with more confidence and style. And I shall try to remain open to everything and make a concerted effort to always find new lessons in this new professional chapter of mine.

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