Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
My dad has always been my role model and inspiration, especially for my career.
His story has constantly sparked an inspiration in me to be better and to learn each and every day. It has driven me to attain my highest career role (so far) at only 25.
This is his story as narrated by him…
Where it all began…
In a small community of Sentul in 1957, a Eurasian couple, Edgar (a manual labour of the Malayan Railroad Company), and his wife Ruth, had just welcomed their first born child. A son who they named Andrew – that’s me!
[Image Source: Jaz. Celebrating My First Birthday in 1958]
My family lived in moderation and simplicity, spending only on necessary household essentials.
But despite it all, my father always ensured that we had enough food on the table and that we went to school.
One night my father asked me something difficult
When I was 15, I had to undergo the Form 3 exams, known back then in 1972 as the Lower Certification of Education (LCE). I was enrolled in an all boy’s school called La Salle, in Sentul KL.
Though I believe I’ve done the best I could, it turns out my results were far from great and I was required to re-sit the examinations to enable me to proceed to Form 4.
[Image Source: streetdirectory.com.my]
But one night, my father sat down with me personally. He was already 55 years of age and had retired. He said, “Son, I’m probably asking a lot from you, but difficult times are coming and I need you to start working.”
I was silent and I looked down at my hands. I asked, “Does this mean that I will need to drop out from school?”
He nodded. “I am retired and my pension alone could not sustain us all. I need you to help me support our family now and to give your siblings a chance to continue on with their studies.”
Without any second thought, I agreed to it.
My father told me that he had made arrangements with our neighbour, who was one of the staff at a resort out from Kuala Lumpur. He had recommended me to the Human Resources Department and I was to work there as a Cleaner.
I asked my father if I should do anything, but he told me that all I needed to do was to pack my things and follow our neighbour there.
It was emotional and scary, but I had to be brave
I was only 16 when I left home.
When the day arrived, my father and I didn’t say much, but he had a disheartened look on his face.
I was feeling emotional deep down, but mostly, I was overcome with fear and uncertainty. I had never been away from home and I wasn’t certain on what I was supposed to do. But I had to be brave, for my family.
Then, my neighbour arrived with his car and I knew it was time for me to go. I looked at my father and I gave him a hug, holding back the tears in my eyes.
“Take care of yourself…and thank you.” He said. I then hugged the rest of my family, took my bags and got into the car.
The journey to the resort was more than 2 ½ hours. There were many concerns passing through my mind throughout the journey, but my neighbour tried to keep the conversation going to calm my nerves.
Then before I realized it, we arrived at the Resort. It was still under development in a secluded area in the jungle.
Once he parked, he unloaded our things and said, “Alright, come with me and I’ll have you registered with Human Resources.”
We walked through every passage and climbed every step, and I instantly felt lost. It was like a maze in there. But in just a few minutes, we arrived in front of the door with the words “Human Resources” on it.
I went through the necessary registration procedures and by the end of it, I was given my offer letter which officially stated that I am now their employee.
Right after that, I was brought to the staff quarters, which was located on the outskirts of the Resort. After I settled in, I started preparing my things for my first shift tomorrow. But just as I was about to fall asleep, I couldn’t help but feel home sick.
First Time on the Job…
I reported for duty at 2:30PM, half an hour before the commencement of my shift. I changed into my uniform they provided and met up with my Supervisor.
[Image Source: Jaz.]
My job scope depended on the area assigned to me, either inside or outside of the resort. On my first day, I was assigned to clean the inside of the resort.
Tasks included sweeping and mopping floors, washing toilets, clearing garbage and ashtrays, and wiping windows.
The first taste of how working felt like, I would be honest, it was bitter. This was my first experience of labour work and it was very difficult.
Many times I felt like calling it quits and just going home. But then I would remember my family back home and how much they needed me. I would then bring myself together, cope with reality and continue working.
By the eighth day, I was assigned to cleaning the external area of the resort. Job tasks included sweeping the roads, collecting garbage, cleaning fish ponds, and cleaning the staff quarters.
The tasks may seem even more tedious compared to cleaning the indoor area, but by then, I was already accustomed to it.
My Curiosity Gave Me An Opportunity…
I was a curious chap when I was working and I always had loads of questions for my seniors. This made working interesting and fun for me because I tried to learn new things every day.
I learnt about the chemicals used when cleaning, the machines used when we needed to perform deep cleaning on tiles, and the reason behind all the precautionary measures when handling chemicals and heavy machinery.
Along the way, I befriended senior staff members of other departments who were pleasantly surprised and were open to teach me.
One morning, while I was buffing tiles in the Coffee House, a HR staff named Shane approached me. “Andrew, can I have a word with you?”
I nodded my head. I couldn’t help but wonder what he wished to speak with me about. I won’t deny it, but I was a little concerned that I may have gotten into some sort of trouble.
“I’ve heard so much about you, especially about your keen interest to learn new things. Would you be keen to be a part timer at the Coffee House during your spare time? You could learn in depth of the operations here and at the same time help out the team.”
I was startled, but I didn’t give it a second thought and agreed to it on the spot. Shane said that he will make arrangements and I could start by tomorrow.
[Image Source: Jaz]
And so I did. I went through training with the Supervisor who first taught me about the operations that go on Back of the House. I polished glassware, stacked buffet plates, and reset tables at the dining hall.
After a year of helping the team, a vacancy was open as a waiter at the resort. Encouraged by my colleague, I applied for the position. A few days later, HR called me to the office.
They told me that they had something else in mind for me: the job as a Bartender for one of the Bar’s in the Resort. Intrigued, I accepted the offer.
I accepted the offer because I was intrigued to discover new things in the role. And so, my days as a Bartender commenced. I was only 18 years old.
Within one year, I became Captain, at the age of 19
Being a bartender, I learnt the art of mixing beverages to create a signature mocktail or cocktail. There were so many ways of serving beverages too, such as ‘on the rocks’ or ‘neat’.
After a briefing with Hans, the Bar Supervisor, I proceeded with work as usual with minimal supervision, as there wasn’t any difference in operating a bar. I still made time with self-studying of the menu.
Without me realizing it, Hans was monitoring me from afar and was impressed by my diligence at work and how motivated I was to learn.
He called me aside one day and said, “Andrew, I’ll go straight to the point. From today onwards, you follow my lead and I will teach you everything I know.” I never questioned him and agreed to do as he said.
[Image Source: Jaz. During a Briefing Before Commencement of Duty]
Since then, Hans taught me everything there is to know in managing a Bar. It wasn’t just about preparing beverages. He taught me about inventory stock counts, analysing data of beverage sales, understanding profit and loss, forecast and more. These are the kinds of things I have never imagined learning and everything involved Maths!
Back in school, I wasn’t good with it. My favorite subject was History, while Maths was my worst subject. But surprisingly enough, learning from Hans, I started getting really good in Maths. It started off from simple calculations made in my mind, to being able to do complex calculations.
Under Hans’ mentorship, I was promoted to Bar Captain within a year. I was only 19 years old at the time.
Unemployment, stress, and worry of feeding my family
I worked close to a year after I was promoted, until I received a call from my family on the passing of my father in December of 1976.
Right after the funeral service was completed, I tendered my resignation to work in KL and be close to my family.
I was still attached to the hotel industry when I returned to KL, but the opportunity I’ve gained from all the knowledge that was shared to me by Hans and the rest of my colleague was beyond my expectation.
I was offered to be the F&B Supervisor at Century Hotel, in charge of the restaurant’s operation there when I was only 19 years old.
At 21 years of age in 1981, I was employed at the Federal Hotel in KL as part of the Front Office Department where I learnt about the Telephone PABX system.
Right after, I was hired by Mimaland when I was 22 years of age as the F&B Supervisor with the responsibility of being in charge of the restaurant’s operation.
[Image Source: facebook.com/Mimaland.Gombak]
But not everything was ever smooth sailing. After Mimaland, I ventured into a Catering Business, which is where I had my first downfall as the business didn’t take off according to plan.
That led me to unemployment and it was a devastating time. Emotionally, it brought me down; I was concerned on how I will feed my family, pay the rent and the utility bills. But I told myself that I must never give up and that I need to keep moving forward.
After 6 months of unemployment and continuous job hunting, I landed a job at Ria Hotel as their F&B Supervisor.
Later on I ventured into Sales & Marketing with a Kitchen Supplies Company where I learnt about marketing products and generating sales.
Between 1987 and 1988, I was hired as the Restaurant & Bar Supervisor for a couple of restaurants, before returning back to hotels and working as the Banquet & Bar Supervisor for one of the developing hotels in Subang Jaya.
From dropping out of school to becoming a manager
I’ve learnt a great deal of knowledge from the year 1976 to 1989, on how to manage and operate Restaurants, Bars and Banquet while leading a team.
I ventured into fields of work that were entirely new to me, just to gain an idea of how it runs and operates.
By the end of 1989, Hans got in touch with me. He had returned to the Resort and had recommended me to HR for the role of Assistant Storekeeper.
I told Hans that the field of work was completely new to me and I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how to run the department.
He reminded me of all the things he taught me about inventory back in the old days and said that he believed I was suited for the job.
So, I went for the interview and in 1990, I was the Assistant Storekeeper at the Resort and by 1994 at the age of 37, I was upgraded and re-designated to be the Assistant Warehouse Manager.
In 2005, after I’d resigned from the Resort, I was hired by a Manufacturing company to be their Warehouse Manager. And I’d served them till I retired at the age of 55 in 2012.
[Image Source: Jaz.]
Looking back, everything was surreal to me. I was the boy who flunked in Maths, had dropped out from school without completing my LCE to be a Cleaner.
But I persevered and I learned till I became a Warehouse Manager. The reward of my curiosity and thirst for knowledge has granted me great opportunities.
Here are the things that I’ve learnt from my life experience and what I try to instill in my children…
- Have humility as you learn. When you are humble enough to learn from people, whether they are young or old, you will gain so much out of it – knowledge, respect, sincerity and friendship.
- Never belittle anyone who does not have a similar education background as you. Instead be kind and share your knowledge with them. They would appreciate the knowledge you share with them
- Keep learning. Learning is continuous and it never ends. Even after you’ve completed your education or attained the highest position in your career, there is still much to learn.
- Never be ashamed to say that you do not know the answer. Never act as if you know and give a false answer. Be brave to admit your uncertainty, but make sure you learn.
- Growth, especially in career, takes time. Never rush and compare your progress with others. Focus, learn and develop yourself. Only then will you see the result you’ve worked for.
- Accept criticism as a way to improve yourself. Don’t let ego get in your way of learning. People tell you things to help you improve, not to let you down.
- It is alright if you fail, but it’s important that you don’t give up. Keep persevering till you reach your goals. Failure is a learning process; it makes you wise and stronger.
For more stories like this, read: I Was Broke and Divorced at 38. Here’s How I Survived and I Was 30K in Debt And Became A Street Beggar — Now I own 5 Massage Parlours
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