Being surrounded by passionate talent is key to success

Datin Norliza Razali started at IBM as a Client Relationship Manager. Developing and executing relationship plans, understanding client’s industry and at the same time identifying opportunities to develop various client-valued solutions helped her learn the ropes. With her passion for communication, client relationship and sales were then optimized in her various roles as Change Management Lead, Workstream Lead for one of the major oil and gas players in the country.

She then progressed to assume the position of Vice President and subsequently Deputy CEO at a Management Consulting company where she exercised her passion in strategic alliance, business developments and solutions provider. As an advocate of Technology, Datin Norliza has started a CSR programme with Pusat Penjagaan Anak Yatim An-Najjah where she has built a small computer lab for the children in the age group of 6 to 17 years of age.

She founded Tresdata Sdn Bhd focusing in Enterprise Asset Management, Technology Solutions, Big Data & IoT and Management Consulting.

A recipient of the Women Icons Malaysia award in 2019, Datin Norliza Razali shares her thoughts on making it as an entrepreneur in this chat with AsiaBizToday.

Charting out as an entrepreneur

I founded the current business in 2016. It started as my passion in technology and business. My background as an Electrical Engineer and the experience that I had gathered in the Utility and Oil and Gas industry provided a newfound passion in addressing the challenges of the industry in promoting automation with advanced technology enablement.

In my years with multinational companies, I gained the knowledge and built credible networks with business partners both in local and international. In order to build local capabilities, these are the partners that I collaborated to create local talents and contents for us to be able to serve our clients. Training and understanding our service offerings and client’s need are the things that I emphasized to ensure that all of my team have the same alignment and are able to work independently and together as a team when needed.

Motivation to get into this

I see the opportunities in the market to do something better than it has been done before, and therefore work out how we can deliver upon this notion. The market requires a good solution and what better way to do that than delivering it from our homegrown talent and solution provider.

Experiences running this business

It has been a great ride so far riding the waves of evolving trends, competitions and even technological advancement. The talents that we recruited too gave us the edge that we require from time to time. We learnt a lot throughout the process and I think that is the best experience so far; being able to learn, unlearn and relearn various processes, knowledge and insights while running this business.

Factors that keep you going

Knowing that I have people counting on me through this business. Not only that I am passionate in delivering effective solutions, but I am also passionate about developing talents. I believe in providing opportunities for talents to continue to grow and develop their professional and personal skills. Great talents produce innovative, out-of-the-world solutions while having the good work ethics. So even though one day, they may no longer be with me, I find a sense of pride seeing them flourish elsewhere, doing great wherever they are.

Challenges in running the business

Of course, obstacles are inevitable especially in doing business. But mostly it is about defying the social expectations especially among male entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, I believe that we made it to where we are today through hard work and perseverance, and most importantly, you’re there. Earning people’s trust and respect too can be challenging. Therefore, the confidence has to be intact in order to defy these challenges and emerge as a strong and competent entrepreneur.

Source of inspiration

Of course, my family has always been a great influence in this. I grew up with 3 generations of great businessmen among my family members, relatives and friends. The closest was my late father. His strength, determination and wisdom inspires me to work equally hard as him. I will always carry with me his spirit and I know that whatever I do, I do to the best of my ability and that will make my father proud.

Other than that, my mother and husband are two of my important support structures, always there to lend a helping hand and advise on the workarounds of the business.

I also seek inspiration from other prominent figures in the business world. I read and internalize their success secrets as part of my source of inspiration.

Proudest moment so far

Seeing how my team has grown. We work very closely with one another and I spend a great amount of time monitoring their progress and mentoring them. It is a great joy seeing their progress daily and eventually able to lead the projects or initiatives and own them. It truly is a proud moment being able to say that my team did it.

Definition of success

Success is a very personal thing. What drives me is spending majority of my time focused on work or tasks that are fulfilling, able to maximize my potential and help other people in a meaningful way. Seeing others succeed through this is another form of success for me too.

Advice to other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women

I strongly believe in the power of empowerment. Being a woman, it is not easy to pave the way in the business world especially with various stereotypes of how women, in general, do things. Nevertheless, with strong empowerment, budding women entrepreneurs can go far. It is crucial for us to continue encouraging one another to be authentic and most important unapologetic for being just us. Women entrepreneurs should be able to celebrate their wins, no matter big or small, with strong sense of pride. Therefore, to all the women entrepreneurs out there, empower one another and spread the good energy that you have to inspire more women to come onboard.

Helping others discover their light bulb moment is a great feeling

Mette Johansson has worked in leadership roles at multinational corporations for 15 years before she founded MetaMind Training, a training consultancy which provides learning programmes in leadership, people and communication skills.

Mette is driven by seeing others develop and grow – professionally, as well as personally. She loves and lives learning. She is currently the Chair for KeyNote – Asia’s Women Speakers, Asia’s leading directory of female speakers.

Recognised as a Women Icon Asia in 2019, Mette took time out to respond to queries from AsiaBizToday on her career, experiences and passion that keeps her going.

How would you encapsulate your professional journey and experiences?

I was working for a large company in various roles. I don’t think I was necessarily discriminated against – I rather experienced what silences a lot of women: being discredited. Many women are not as confident in their skills as men are, and when we are not seen as leadership potential, we start believing that we’re nothing special.

I had various setbacks in my career, including being told: “why don’t you just focus on building a family” at a time when it didn’t cross my mind that I would ever have children, and “you don’t have to come back to your work – I know that women don’t really want to work for a long time when first they get children” when I was pregnant with my first one. I knew I wanted to take care of my baby, but I also knew that career and babies would go together in my world. Being discredited, and not presented too many opportunities deflated my self-belief and self-confidence.

I had some good times – the first boss who believed in me was a Japanese gentleman, who was shortly before retirement. But afterwards, I had a setback because my husband was seen as being in the lead of the family’s career.

Six years ago, I was at a very low point. When my husband was transferred to Singapore, I was given a job, which I saw as being very much below my level. It was not sustainable, and I quit.

That was the turning point, and I am not looking back.

I started exploring what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. What are my strengths? What fulfils me? What’s my passion? I’ve definitely found it, and it has changed my life; it has changed me.

I’m a learning junkie. And I get a kick out of seeing others have that lightbulb moment; when they discovered their potential, or when they get excited about learning something new.

When and how did you set up your current business?

Because of my love of learning, I set up a training consultancy. We’re leading in the area of Authentic Leadership, and we do a lot of work in helping others to find their calling and sharpen the “soft” skills they need to be successful. With a network of highly capable people, we offer Diversity and Inclusion programmes, both to achieve gender and cultural balance at the workplace.

However, I spend as much time on a non-profit movement I initiated in Singapore end of 2017. It’s called KeyNote, and is already the world’s leading directory of women speakers. We are on a mission to bring diversity to stages around the world. There are too many conferences and meetings with a heavily male-dominated speaker line-up. We are a bunch of inspired women who want to change this.

What was your trigger and motivation to get into this?

I am a member of a Women’s Professional and Business organisation called PrimeTime. As a professional speaker, they suggested that I put together a list of names of women in the organisation who speak professionally, because they occasionally get speaking inquiries and would like to refer members.

Together with a friend, I googled and saw there was no such thing as a directory for women speakers in Asia, so I thought “Why keep this list internally? Why not make a directory?” Many that I contacted didn’t take me very seriously, until they saw the directory live: WomenKeyNote.com.

It’s become my most important mission for me now. And I am happy to say that dozens of other women feel the same. We are over 40 volunteers who work hand in hand to bring gender balance on stage. We’ll continue until the day there is a good 50/50 balance – because there is no reason why one gender should speak up more.

What have been your experiences running this business?

Oh, it’s very rewarding. Almost everyone understands why we need diversity on stage. Men are supporting us, and even pledging to not speak if there are no women represented.

We focus on three areas: we connect speakers and event organisers, who need speakers – a big part of this is our online directory. We recognise women speakers – we make them more visible by joining forces online. Finally, develop more KeyNote speakers. We have an in-person training programme in Singapore, and we are bringing this online next year, for women all over the world to benefit.

Which are the important factors that keep you going?

It’s so easy to give women that little nudge; that little boost of confidence that they have a voice. Just like I was discredited during my corporate career, and the longer I worked in corporate life, the less I saw myself as a leader: women often don’t see themselves as speakers. At KeyNote, we focus on unleashing the passion in people, which often drives them to speak up. We boost the self-confidence and give a few technical skills on top to polish them a bit, too.

Have you faced any obstacles in your initiatives? Do you think you have faced specific challenges because of being a woman?

Today, I love being an entrepreneur and running a non-profit initiative. It means I can choose who I want to deal with. I get loads of support from peers, which gives me the courage to stand up and speak up about what needs to be said. I don’t really see obstacles any longer. I’m someone who sees opportunities rather than obstacles.

Where do you usually find inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from living your values. Being true to what is fundamentally important to you, and then daring to live it, and communicate it. This will connect you with others, who have similar values and purpose in life. When you’re inspired, you’ll inspire others, and you will attract others that you’re inspired by!

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

Creating the world’s leading directory of women speakers, and knowing we are able to move the needle on diversity and gender balance is definitely all the way up there.

We know that by getting women to speak up, we will not only create role models for other women to be inspired by; we will also get people used to listening to women. Whether at work, in the board room, in academia, in government – and even in the home.

How would you define success?

Too many people strive for material goods. This only makes you enter a race for more and more. Success follows happiness – not the other way around! And success comes when you’re able to live your core values. Because your core values are what’s truly important to you – and that will make you happy.

What Advice do you have for other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?

Take time to consider what you truly want in life. You need to find the sweet spot between A) earning and B) adding value by C) focusing on your strengths. And in general – if you believe you’re nothing special, consider the option that your environment is discrediting you. We’re all special, and we all have immense power if we take time to reflect how best to realise ourselves.

Pay it forward and the world will be a better place

As the CEO of a Charitable Foundation, which runs two arms; the Medicare Heart Charity Fund, which runs the first charitable cardiac diagnostic and treatment centre in Malaysia and Medicare Kidney Charity Fund, which houses 12 dialysis centres throughout the country, Dato’ Aliyah Karen raises millions of ringgit each year to sustain their highly subsidized programs.

Over the last twenty years she has started many new initiatives to benefit poor Malaysians, who are in dire need of financial and medical assistance.

A strong believer “we are here not just to live, but to give”, Dato’ Aliyah Karen was recognised as a Women Icon Malaysia in 2019.

In this conversation with AsiaBizToday, she shares insights into her professional life and what keeps her going.

Your Career, Journey & Passion

I was a Public servant for three years prior to moving into a non-profit, which I was quite sure then, that it was temporary. 21 years later, am still here at MAA Medicare Charitable Foundation, where I serve mainly the underprivileged kidney and cardiac patients and get to organize and plan events while ensuring our patients get the support and medical treatment they rightfully deserve. Obviously, the passion to make a difference has led me to explore and assist others beyond the doors of the foundation.

How did it all start and what are some of the activities that you undertake?

The Foundation was established in 1995 and I joined them in 1998. The sole purpose of establishing the Foundation was to assist patients who couldn’t afford dialysis treatment, especially at private centres by providing highly subsidised dialysis treatments. The last 24 years, Medicare has assisted and provided medical treatment and care to thousands of needy kidney sufferers. 12 dialysis centres in 9 states with over 800 patients currently are receiving treatments 3x a week on 4 hour sessions each treatment. As we are not government funded nor receive any public grants, we constantly organize events and programs to raise funds. We have established the patients welfare fund to help kidney patients who can barely afford the daily necessities let alone their treatment cost. We have the Kids@Medicare program to assist the school going children of our patients with back to school supplies each year end. We have the CARE (care and respect the environment)program our staff and patients commit to recycling medical waste, boxes and wood platelets into some interesting craft items etc.

Your motivation to get into this

The sense of satisfaction from being able to help the needy and make an impactful difference; day in day out.

Your experiences running this venture

I’ve learnt that transparency and honesty in handling public funds is crucial; using them wisely for the benefit of the patients have created opportunities for many people to know and trust the Foundation and continuously support it. That we need to be prudent in our spending without compromising the quality medical care we offer our patients.

The important factors that keep you going

That the Foundation is the second home for kidney patients and a new alternative home for heart patients who simply cannot afford the exorbitant cost of private treatments.

Challenges you have faced

The obstacles are usually due to manpower and financial resources, both of which we could use more of. My line of work is not gender related. The good news is people recognize the good work I have done, much of the credit should go to my team which helps me consistently. The unpleasant news is that people assume I may not fit into a male dominant role as working in an NGO means I am not a corporate head.

Your source of inspiration

I am constantly listening and learning from many great speakers and motivators who inspire me to do more. Family and Friends are constantly encouraging and giving me the boost and endorsement to carry on making a difference in the lives of the needy patients and other needy causes I have got myself into.

Your proudest moment so far

I was able to personally buy and donate a dialysis machine and have my late mum come visit one of our dialysis centres and tag it. Seeing that proud look on her face on how important she felt was a historic moment for me.

Definition of success

I believe we are placed in this world for a reason. We first strive to do and make something of our lives, which we eventually call ‘achievements’. We then should assist others with our achievements and make a difference no matter how small it is. When we can share, care and love without thinking twice nor expecting anything in return we have achieved success.

Regardless of what you set out to do, pay it forward first. Help before you’re helped and give before you’re given. Pay up front so all you need to do later is collect and cash in!

Success is a legacy of intangible wealth

Jigna S. Shah, Founder & CEO – REVE’

REVE is one of the top high-end clothing brands in the state of Gujarat, India. Having graduated from the prestigious NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) today, Jigna has her own flagship stores in upmarket localities of Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Being one of the 100 Womennovators of India in 2018, Jigna Shah is a great role model to women and a highly accredited designer who has not only worked on national ground, but also taken Gujarat on the international map. Nationally & globally feted for her various achievements, she is also the Chairperson in All Ladies League (ALL), world’s largest all-inclusive international women’s chamber and a movement for the welfare, wealth, and wellbeing of all. She has several notable achievements, some of which include the Global Award as one of the “50 Most Influential Global Youth Leaders” by World Federation, and the prestigious “Udgam Women’s Achievers Award” in the Business Category for 2014.

Here she provides some insights into her journey, passion and beliefs in conversation with AsiaBizToday. Copy edited by Sekkappan Seval.

Your Career, Journey & Passion?
REVE’ Fashions is the only brand in high-end Western wear specially designed for Indian structures by using rich Indian textiles and hand embroideries. It has been frequented by popular Bollywood, Tollywood Stars, Politicians, Business Tycoons, most Elites & High-end professionals of India in the last 20 years.

I am from a highly educated family background who emphasize on excellence in academics. With advice from my father, I finished my Masters in Commerce and took up a position in a reputed university as a professor in Economics. However, after the sudden death of my father, I did not find any reason to continue my career in teaching, as I was not enjoying it after all.

I wanted to soar the heights of recognition, popularity, name, fame and wanted to grow everyday with new experiences, meet interesting people and travel the globe. I then decided to take up Fashion Designing as it was something that I was passionate about since young.

When and how did you set up your current business? Can you tell us briefly about the activities that you undertake?
I started from humble grounds, operating from a small room in my house. After a few years of diligent work, I joined NIFT to allow me to learn the technicalities of the field. Later on, I continued working from home and took on small orders from a close set of clients, I made enough money to buy a small studio! That then led me to start my own retail flagship store in the most posh area of city.

I mainly undertake in activities such as working on projects like Ahimsa silk (Non-Violence silk), giving training and employment to rural artisans, contributing to the sustainability of various NGOs like a blind girls school, other than my main profession of manufacturing.

Trigger and motivation to get into this?
I believe that learning is a constant process, and we need to move forward everyday. A main trigger would be to live an interesting life by meeting people from all walks of life. I am motivated to be in the fashion industry which is ever evolving and growing, by enhancing my personality and building international connections.

Experiences running this business?
My experiences range from funny, happy, sad, courage, to understanding the people I cater to and their psychology. In short, business is 24/7 mentally stimulating job, where our mind is constantly busy with challenges, growth and so on. Nothing in business is pre-decided or able to be carried out with a textbook guide. It is very dynamic and sporadic.

Important factors that keep you going?
Respect from my customers and their positive feedback is one main factor. I believe that the creative field keeps you alive for new creations, and will not be possible without the love and support from my clients. Also, seeing the satisfaction on the faces of my women labour force when they realise they are empowered enough to support their families really gives me an energy boost to keep going.

Faced any obstacles? Do you think, you have faced any specific challenges because of being a woman?
The first and foremost challenge was to manage funds to cope up with the growing scale of demand and production! However, the term ‘challenge’ is an ongoing process in business.

Labour, product improvisations, innovations, client satisfaction, staff retaining and so on are all the challenges to face on a day to day basis! Being a woman, my biggest challenge was to handle factory male labour. As a female boss, I was not taken seriously unless I resorted to measures such as raising my voice and losing my temper. I suffered heavy losses in my factory due to the agitation of labour which took me 5 years to recover.

 

Usually find inspiration from?
My biggest source of inspiration is Mother Nature!  I enjoy trekking in the Himalayas or take a peaceful vacation at serene places to re-energize my energy and creativity. Meeting strong, inspiring personalities is also my source of inspiration.

Proudest Moment so far?
Receiving the Global Award as “One of the Top 50 Most Influential Global Youth Leaders”!

How do you define Success?
I feel success is a legacy of intangible wealth in the form of knowledge, experiences, education and so on, which you can leave behind for your next generation to follow!

Advice do you have for other aspiring Entrepreneurs especially women?
Follow your heart to chase your dreams! Woman, you are not the weaker gender, you are the power house! Go, conquer the world and leave your mark behind through the work that you do!