Saturday, August 23, 2014

Excuse me, did you just arrive from London?

When I was asked to give a talk on career day at my alma mater - this time under Ansara KB umbrella, I was unsure. Unsure whether I was the right person and have the right credentials. Have I done enough in my career to give me an air of authority to talk to anyone, especially school leavers? Do I have a career worth talking about in the first place? Or would I be talking nonsense and confuse them even more?

Or worst, guide them into the wrong career!

I am not sure who nominated my name to be honest - was it Ku Hamid, or a former teacher in KB? I am not an orator, nor a speaker who speaks from memory, and with gusto, and did not have to prepare to give a talk. As a rule of thumb, I need powerpoint slides to guide my talk.

And I don't talk without doing some kind of research and back up my talk with data first. So I had to ask a staff of mine to prepare 40 pages worth of slides and I prepare another 40 pages, and software with a demo so that I can illustrate my points.

And I will bring chemical engineering down to SPM students' level.
I am going to change the title to Chemical Engineering for SPM Students, or better still, I am a chemical engineer!

Even if the talk was only for secondary school, and secondary school students - albeit smart students, I need to do a good job, and not a half-hearted one. I need to make an impression on them.

But I over-prepare myself in the end, which is typical of me. I was told I have from 1030 hours to 1300 hours, so I took it that I have 2 1/2 hours to talk. That will be 80 slides in 2 hours and 30 mins worth of simulation demo of the very basic principle of chemical engineering.

My presentation and demo materials
All in all, it took five days of preparation for my engineer and another 2 days for me. That's 7 man-days worth of worth of work for a 2 1/2 hours talk. Too long a time, but I had to start from scratch. I didn't have anything to start with. I even told the organizer (in jest) that I can talk for whole day if I am required. A senior at school Abg Zahari quipped that one should not give the microphone to 3 types of person, unless we are prepared to give them ample of time to talk.

1. a trainer
2. karaoke singer
3. politicians

Yes, of course. I fall into the first category!

But I did not expect the worst, to be honest. In the end, it became a 15-min talk. It was a nightmare, too early in the morning to have one. I have 2 1/2 hours worth of slides and I am given 15 mins?

That's the official allocation, though I am quite sure I took a lot more. More than my fair share of time. We had to talk to a bigger group and each discipline of engineering have to share the 2 1/2 hours available.

I was waiting for nasik berlauk, but this guy turned up first, so it has to be nasik tumpang for me
And after I was given a good breakfast of nasik tumpang - many hours after waking up at 3 am, I was in no mood to argue. I had to re-group and move on. 

That's life, I guess. Just make full use of what's given. I think I had gone through enough to know what to expect, and when to argue and fight, and when to accept.

When I was preparing the presentation earlier, I was not expecting to fight for students' attention or to ensure that chemical engineering had to be their chosen discipline. I was there to give them a choice, so that they can choose wisely. Nothing more, nothing less.

Our super senior Abd Zahari talking about aviation and being an aircraft engineer
It was not a competition amongst all the branches of engineering. Not to me anyway. I was not there to say chemical engineering is most important profession in the world. I was there to put the right perspective for the students to choose a career.

But I came fully prepared with data as back up, so I did not make mere statements.

Anyway, so what if chemical engineering is less important than some other disciplines - or more important. It is how you made use of it to build your career and what you contributed to the profession, to the nation and in the end how you lead your life.
Looks like me, talk like me. Is it me? I am not so sure.
So, I had 3 good questions from the students, more than my fair share of questions - for 8 speakers. And perhaps many students are considering to take up chemical engineering, again more than any other engineering profession.

That's definitely me. But taken at the wrong time when I was facing the other side and when my slide is not colourful and attention grabbing. This is when I started talking about the ideal gas law. Hahaha..nothing much, all SPM level physics
I feel good. If I had made some kind of impression on them, it was worth the trip to KB on a very early Sunday morning. I did not cost me that much - more like paying for a bus ticket, but I did lose many hours of sleep, which at this age, I may or may not need it.

One thing I am impressed is the fact the whole event was conducted in English. Heck, even the doa was in English. And the students spoke fluently in English, even during Q&A.

I am impressed. Good job, teachers.

The event was officiated by a former student - a very successful one. Datuk Kamarul is owner and CEO and the brain child behind Uzma Berhad. He is not just a successful entrepreneur but also a well known petroleum engineer.

To me, he had visions of what he wants in the future at the start of his career. I wish I was like that when I was just starting in the 80s. But I guess I did not have visions of myself in 30 years' time then. I was then happy to just be an employee. NOthing more than that.

Datuk Kamarul officiating the career day talk.
I am not sure during my time, in the 70s, of how many time I was invited on stage. I remember competing in quizzes ( and winning at least one), and of course many of those quizzes were conducted in the hall. But for better or worse, I am neutral about remembering those. if at all. If one remembers too much, I guess it can mean one thing: one had had public caning on stage!

I will be scarred for life had that happened to me. Haha, in retrospect, I can laugh I guess.
View from the stage, taken by yours truly. It is now an air-conditioned hall
There were 30 of us, ex-students that days. Many medical specialists amongst us that day, and of course a wide ranging careers from engineers to accountants, including artist - graphic artist that is. From the well known such as our good Dato and Nik Hasyudeen to the unknown like yours truly! From the old like yours truly to the youngsters.

And by virtue of being the second oldest batch that was there, I was accorded a seat during the official photography on stage. Nothing more, nothing less, I told my former classmates - I am there only by virtue of my seniority and not because I was one of the more successful person, career-wise that is. I am happy - and contented really, to admit. So it was my minute of fame, I guess.
The 'talker' on career day 2014.
While I was sitting and listening for others giving their point view - after all, I was the first speaker, I was approached by a former student, who had just graduated from Vanderbilt Uni in chemical engineering. She has good grades and that is a good university for chemical engineering. And had just returned home in June.

I did not know that someone had snapped a pic of me chatting with her, technically interviewing her during the career day talk at MRSM
It was a quickie interview on the side. I was not expecting it, to tell you the truth. Yes, she can have a job with us, but I told her that I want her to exhaust her avenue or decide on her career to what kind of area and company that she would want to work for. Technically, I think many companies much bigger than mine would be interested in hiring her, so I am a bit cautious in hiring. I would hire her if she wants to be with us for the medium term.

Good to see and here people graduating with good grades from good school. Especially MRSM students.

On stage during the introduction - young and old
I met with a few teachers, some of whom I would meet every now and then. I saw and talked to Ustaz Ridhwan, whom I had not met since 1981. I reminded of the car he had in the 70s. While I don't remember of the make or model anymore, his number plate starts with AR - obviously it was not registered in Kelantan.

He was washing his car near the old building and I was between classes, or was going to the library. Having a bit more time then, I approached him. "Ustaz," I said, "you have my name for your car."

"AR stands for Abdul Rahman."

He smiled. "Bukan, AR tu untuk Abang Ridhwan," he quipped.

That my ustaz for you!
Ustaz Ridhwan and I at the Dewan Makan after the talk
Another funny incident occurred and was related to me by Cikgu Nik. At the end of the day, she was showing me around, and told me of this incident. "Rahman," she said, "they were asking me about you. Whether you were the guy who had just arrived from London."

I looked at her in bewilderment. I did not arrive from London and I doubt it if anybody would travel that journey for a career day talk unless he or she is already KB due to one reason or another. Either they made a mistake or.... Then  it dawned upon me!

"Oh, yes upon arrival at the registration counter, I did declare that I have just 'landed'. Pardon my English. Probably the way I spoke and pronounced the word landed, it must have sound like London!" I laughed.

Err, sorry lah. May be I should quit talking in English. I must have certain slang or tried to speak with a certain slang la kut.

Excuse my English!


The career day reminds me of Almarhumah Cikgu Azizah.

In the the days before Facebook  (late 90s, very late 90s), and the proliferation of cheap air travel, she contacted me and asked me to come and officiate the career day at my alma mater. Officiate: that's what I remember. May be I am supposed to just give a talk to the students. May be. I am not sure, to be honest.

But I remember she mentioning the word - rasmikan.

"Rahman datang la KB. If you are busy, just make a day trip. You can come in teh morning, and leave in the evening" she said, matter of factly, during the phone conversation.

My first view of my alma mater that morning
I did not make it then. I had to apologize profusely, but I presume I was too busy. Too busy building a career. Then I was. I was between assignments, so I was briefly in Kuala Lumpur. Otherwise, I was supposed to be in Houston.

Of course, since that day, I have made it to KB and my alma mater a couple of times. I had met Cikgu Azizah at her home in 2002, and when she was sick in Damansara at Cikgu's Somchit's house, but it left me with a deep scar.

For not heeding to a request by a former teacher of mine. She was not asking for the world from a former student. 

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruh Almarhumah.


If these are your pictures and would like to claim credit, please contract me, or leave a comment below. I got this from various sources and am still waiting for the official pictures with more of me during the talk itself. :) 

Credit to Hiday, Ansara KB Reloaded, though I believe the actual sources are many more.

It was a very early wet Sunday for me in KL on the 17th Aug

 when I left for KB
Chatting with Wak Leh, a batch mate prior to giving the talk

Cikgu Wan Nasihah and En Nik Ahmad, former pengetuas

Aaah, kambing golek

With Cikgu Nik Faridah during lunch

More group photo of ex students with former teachers

More money from Uzma?

I think this comes from Nik Hasyudeen's FB

During breakfast

Talk for medical career

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