December 26, 2011

I am a dog, not a cat … and you are my “god”

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I have been thinking back lately … way back … a few decades back and yes, I am that old already. I thought to myself, I am a very fortunate person … in many important turning points of my life, I met people who helped me unselfishly. Starting from primary school, I remember Puan Salleh, who was very fond of me (and knowing that my family was poor) made sure that I was given free school meals (oats and bread) during recess. Sometimes she even brings homemade sandwiches for me. She gave me my first story book called Aesob’s Fables … I must say that she actually got me started on reading.

When I started working (after secondary school), my very first job was an electrician. A couple of years into the job, one of my bosses, Mr Looi, asked me to leave the company … not that he wanted to fire me but he actually recommended me to work with his friend. He found out that I was quite good at drawing so he convinced me that I would be better off working as a draughtsman than an electrician. That provided a good stepping stone into the next level of my working life.

So what the hell all these have to do with dog, cat and “god”? Stay with me … read on.

From there, I moved on to a technical design job with an international British company … working under an English guy called Mr Philip Waldron who exposed me to all the technical design works in the construction industry. Mr Philip Waldron taught me well and recommended me for an overseas assignment in HongKong. I worked on one of the projects of the famous HongKong Shanghai Bank building. Back in those days, when you get sent overseas to work, it is a BIG thing! My father actually called for a “torng kai pai sun” (slaughter chicken to offer to the ancestors) thanksgiving session for the family. Really, it was that BIG!

The British company ceased operation during to the mid 1980s recession and I was paid off adequately. With a bit of money in hand, I decided to go back to study … and I went to study Commercial Arts for a year. After that I joined an advertising company doing mainly audio video production works. A couple of years with the company, Mr Harold Nettleton, a senior partner, encouraged me to try my luck in the corporate world … “join the client” as he put it. He said “Shiek, on the agency side, people pay, you run whereas on the client side, you pay, people run”. And I took his advice.

So, I applied for a Marketing position in a newly formed division of an insurance company. It was the biggest turning point of my life. Under the guidance of the division’s head Mr Tan Cheng Keang (or CK as we called him), I started my first job in the corporate world as a Marketing Executive. It was CK who gave me the opportunities to develop myself and moved from an Executive to a Manager of the Direct Marketing Department. After 5 years with the company CK left for higher career advancement and a few months later, I too decided to leave.

Hey, where is the dog, the cat and the “god”? Hang on … I will come to them soon.

I then formed an advertising design agency. Again, it was CK (now MD of his company) who gave me one of my first advertising contracts and many more to come. With the support from CK and other clients, I operated the company until the late 1990s when the financial crisis at that time forced me to close the agency. I applied for job in a Swedish automobile company and got myself back into the corporate world.

 A couple of years later another opportunity knocks on my door. It was CK again, who offered me a job in his company as a Brand Manager for a famous scotch whisky. Without any hesitation, I went to work with CK advancing my career to another level in the corporate world. Though it did not last very long, it turned out to be the best years of my working life … a very rewarding and satisfying four and a half years in the wines and spirits industry before I made a decision to call it a day ... that was almost 4 years ago.

Okay, here comes the dog, cat and “god” part … you see, I am like a dog … dogs, when you provide them with food, water, shelter and affection, they will think you are god.  I am not a cat because cats, when you provide them with food, water, shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods (an excerpt from a quote by the late Christopher Hitchens). As for "god”, I don’t really believe there is an invisible guy up there … so, the people I mentioned here and also many whom I did not mention (I am sure they know who they are), I want you all to know, you guys are my “gods” who have provided for me, helped me and guided me to where I am today. I thank you all sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
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