Foolishness, thy name is the Malaysian education system

She graduated in the top 10% of her class, earning her a First Class Hons. Degree. Then she went off to the Promised Land – a premiere telecommunications company that is well-known in the country and the immediate surrounding areas. Shortage of salespeople, they told her, so in she went and began her 8-year bonding period with her employer. She’s in her 4th year now. Performance evaluation shows that she hasn’t been performing. Not meeting expectation, she’d told. A brilliant scholar, they told me, so I naturally I was curious. What a dynamic, pulsating brain she must have, I thought; limitless capabilities of processing logic, defining possibilities, designing multiple options for solutions to complex problems and all that shite. Her friend asked me to talk to her. I reminded her friend that she must be the one asking for help, but her friend insisted that I pop by for a chat. I had time on my hands, and I was only meeting MM much later for dinner, so I met up with the brain box for a chat. And what a chat it was…

Me: So, you’ve been here for almost 4 years, ya?
(She nods)
Me: How do you feel about this place?
She: I like it here. I want to stay in this organization.
Me: Right. What do you like about this place?
She: It’s a secure job. Lots of benefits. I can be sure of a good retirement package when I’m done with work.
Me: A – ha. How do you feel about your current role?
She: I hate it.
Me: What do you hate about it?
She: I’m not good at it. I don’t know how to be a salesperson. Every time I go for performance review I get a bad experience. I’m never meeting expectations. Every year I wait for a vacancy announcement in the technical area so that I can request a transfer but I never hear anything. I give up already.
Me: That sounds tough.
(She nods)
Me: You really want to go into the more technical line, huh?
(She nods again)
Me: So…what are you doing about it?
(She looks up, startled)
She: About what?
Me: About getting into a more technical line of work in this same organization.
She: Didn’t you hear what I said? I waited for the vacancy announcement every year and there’s none! It’s really not about what you know in here, but about WHO you know. How can YOU not see that?
(She reminds me of a lioness about to go hunting)
Me: Other than waiting for the announcement every year, what else are you doing about it?
(She remains silent)
Me: Did you discuss your dismal performance with your boss?
(She resorts to glaring at me)
Me again: Did you identify your own development plan? Did you propose action plans to your boss? Did you inform your boss what could be done to help improve your performance? What did your boss say about your continuous, consistently bad performance? What role are you playing in your sales team? What’s the purpose of you being there?
(Her ears are almost as red as her face)
She: It’s HIS responsibility to develop my career! I shouldn’t be telling him how to do his work!
Me: How would this look like to heads of technical departments? What would you think this would represent?
She: It would represent me being unhappy in my current work and I’d only be happy in a technical line that suits my honors degree.
Me: What if I tell you this picture could be representing something totally negative?
She: How can that be? I’m a techie, and so are they! They would know that a techie like me would be unhappy doing Sales, and that’s why I suck at it.
(I decided to move in for the kill. Better put this cretin out of her misery now.)
Me: What this picture is showing them could be this: you have no interest in learning something new. There is no flexibility at all in your behavior no initiative at all to venture into something new no creativity at all to discover how else to use the excellent brain that you’ve been given that helped you gain the best result in your exams. Rather than take the lemons that you’ve been given and make lemonade you sit and whine and handed over the power of choice to other people. They might be thinking how can I trust this person with the tough techie work in my unit if she can’t even handle Sales? How can I leave her to work independently and/or with the rest of the team like a well-oiled machine when at the slightest downturn she gives up everything and will in fact bring the whole team down?
( I didn’t even pause. No comma throughout, just a question mark at the end)
She: How would you know anything? You know nothing about me! You have no idea what I went through!
Me: That’s right. I don’t. Then you tell me how wrong my estimate is about the kind of image that you’re presenting to head of tech divisions.
(She glowered at me)
She: So what should I do then?
Me: What do you WANT to do?
She: Get a techie job.
Me: So, what are you doing about it?
She: You’re supposed to tell me that. Aren’t you some sort of life coach or something? Some coach you are, if you come here and ask questions and expect ME to come up with the answers.
Me: Now this picture is representing not only stubbornness but a preference for spoon-feeding.
She: So you’re giving up too? Guess even you can’t handle someone like me, right? I knew that you were some bogus wannabe coach or something.
(I got up and looked at her. Poor kid.)
Me: I prefer to work with people who want to work out their issues, who are ready for change, who are ready to release whatever inside them that are holding them back. People who recognize that if doing what they’re doing doesn’t give them the results they want, it’s worth to change what they do until they get the results they want. I show them the potential paths forward and they decide where to go. Until you are mature enough to know what I’m talking about, I wish you good luck and take care. If you need to talk, call me.
She: What makes you think that I would want to talk to you?
Me: Because surely you’re not as silly as you sound, are you?

I thanked her for her time and walked out of the lounge area. I stood at the lobby watching MM’s car come up the driveway. He leaned over to kiss my cheek and asked me who I met. I paused for a bit, got a new piece of chewing gum out and popped it in my mouth.

I had met the typical output of the Malaysian education system, I told him.

He grinned. “Poor baby,” he said. He kissed me on my forehead, put the car in gear and drove me off to dinner. Yeh. Poor baby, said the voice in my heart, as I thought of the young woman I left sitting in the lounge.


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