Thursday, June 16, 2016

A year after PETRONAS

Its Ramadhan and I almost hit the one year number. Things have changed quite drastically since I left. The oil price (which somehow dictate our career) has gone down and doesn't seems to show any sign of going up more than USD 100 plus per barrel at least in year or two. A lot of people affected, and there were not one but a few waves of restructuring. Alhamdulillah, I'm still here but you never know when your time might come and just be prepared. 

So lets do a little reflection after a year of leaving. 

1.  Being outside comfort zone allows you to be more productive.
PETRONAS is a HOME for me. Bosses and colleagues trusted me. I hit success one after another. Then my ego went bigger and bigger. I was in this driver seat, but complaining nearly about everything.  Hence, I ALWAYS not happy to things. I wasn't happy with my boss, I wasn't happy with what I'm doing, basically everyday I have sessions of expressing my irritations to stuff. Looking back, imagine how many months if not years I've lost just from complaining. 

Here, especially with this current environment, I know no one. I don't have friends. I eat lunch when pumping, etc etc. So I need to start from ground zero, but since I am an experienced hire, the expectation is level 41. So yes, that allows me to think peacefully "how could I make things better!" every day. Looking back at my learning curve this year, I'm surprised how much I've gained in terms of learning in a year. A few times I felt "I wish I know this things then, I can do a lot of things to the stuff I have then...". 

2. Selling and visibility is tougher here.
This company hires the best from the WORLD, basically you have to compete to get heard. And with the current market, its crazy to see how people actually polarized to extrovert and you have to be VISIBLE and let people know your capability etc etc. I would say I'm still a bit lucky that my boss is an introvert and he knows how to look at people potential differently. But he will not forever be my boss. So yes, welcome to the crazy world.

3. Technical capability is endless here.
After I passed TPCP in PETRONAS, I don't know how to develop my skill. But here, I can see the path. The technically competence people are recognize here and you can have your career in this line. 

4. Appreciation is not just a pat on the back.
I believe that everybody in the whole organisation should play the role in recognizing talent and keep them happy. The top management together with HR can come out with "fancy program" (like the retention bonus I received). And the direct managers can challenge and praise whenever necessary the staff. But the whole system should be geared towards appreciating every effort of the staff and these includes some rare species. i.e There are people here, who are very good and love to be in research, those efforts are recognized, and they were tasked to do really difficult stuff. And when they come out with workable solutions, they are recognized by the whole group and people are asked to learn from them. etc etc.

5. Integration is the KEY
I am blessed to sit in a team of "true exploration". My boss has STRONG QI and processing background and he still does it. Beside me is a brilliant processing guy, and in the interpreters sits on the same floor. we work towards common goal. No clashing KPIs! one's success is the teams success. I observed this is not always happen in other parts of the company and other companies. Though I can see what makes this work is that everyone puts an effort TO INTEGRATE and TO SPEAK the same language. It is not easy! And it is a continuous conscious effort.

6. Company RESEARCH should bring workable solutions to the group.
With the advancement of computing technology, geophysical research cannot take more than a year now. Research has to be relevant to what the group wants and not academically correct, and only literature reviews. Well it is not rocket science but sometimes, we need to sit down and think what is it that we want to achieve!

7. Respect each other
Each individual has their own passion and strength and ways they can contribute. Respect that, and allow them to do it. But provide constructive feedback. Lets face it some of the stuff that you produce is useless, and move on.

8. Open to feedback and be happy to give them. 
Only a few people take LBVF as constructive feedback. Feedback is very important, you need to know what they are, and from whom does it come from. Be open to receive them, eventough sometimes it means sakit hati ya amat. But it is for your own good. And be prepared to provide constructive and meaningful feedback to person. Think that if it was you and keep doing the same mistake over and over again, how awful it is after 5 -10 years down the line, no own ever tell you that and at that time you've already turn into a monster. So, changes starts with ME. Be open to feedback, and start giving one. Sometimes after presentation, you can directly channel the feedback to that person. do it routinely and you'll create a culture.

Maybe that's all for now. take care!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Retain Top Talent

Companies put a lot of money, effort and time in the search for the top talent. Organisation like PETRONAS has started searching for these brains since they were high school. The talents were handpicked from not just somebody with brain but personality that can survive in challenging environment. But the next challenging step is how to retain those talent. Salary, retirement plans, health and wellness benefit might be the reason why those talent accept the job, but these alone cannot make them stay for the long haul.

Every employee is different, but most of the good employee love to work and they want to work happily. Job satisfaction, adequate challenge, appreciation, are some of the main factors to keep the employee happy and most importantly stay.

Below is some practical thoughts on how to retain good talent base on my humble experience.

1. Hand Picked.
It is an honor to know that you have been hand picked. Well in most big organization, you are practically hand picked anyway. but this go beyond, "yeah I passed the assessment/interviews, and they accepted me". or "HRPC/PDC endorse my movement to xx department". Hand picked is more than that, and an employee knows if he was hand picked or not.

Way back in 2007, 3 of my colleagues and I were handpicked to join the "technology department" and involve in the strategic alliance. And the boss.. she is still at the moment the best superior I had. She took time to listen, and plan for our career path. She drafted the journey. Each had individual unique plan and once you fulfill your obligation, she fought for you.

Then in early 2010, I was again handpicked to join one of the PSC in Sabah. Rather than a big "PDC meeting" my direct supervisor back then had an opportunity to choose from a pool of people and he choses me, to take over from a brilliant geophysicist. One of the very first conversation I had with him include, "well I do not know much about interpretation and my knowledge and experience on QI is very limited". But he was just, well, you can always learn those tiny software steps, but your foundation of geology and exposure on QI is what will help the PSC.

And later, insyaallah I'll be joining another company and some of the first words he use when he introduces me to his superior is... "Well Hakimah was the one who proposed the first COIL shooting.. etc etc".

Yes, to know that you are handpicked, is an appreciation. It is also an unspoken trust. And provide adequate challenge to the employee that she will try to own the handpicked character and not to disappoint the superior.

It is bold because I think only small percentage of overall employee like to be in the comfort zone. Majority of them cannot duduk diam after 3 years. Especially when you are dealing with top talent. Yes, the moment they YELL "move me out" even they do not know where to move, is the start of you creating push factor to them. And once they yell "move me out" it is no point for you to keep them longer. Their heart is already not there.

3. Listen, listen, listen to hear not to respond.
Employees always come to their superior for way out. Which also sometime include their development. Listen and understand. I always actually take time to digest the problem. I will ask for some time from my subordinate, and ask allah to show what is the best answer to give to them especially when it involves movement. Everyone have a role to play. You have to try your very best. The "Its beyond my control..." answer to me is unacceptable. Surely you have some control, he is your subordinate after all. Talk to your superior that you will be fine without him. but ensure a good transition plan is in place. but please listen to them.

that's all for now. :)

My Leadership Series: Fearless

As simple as it may sound but one of the hardest thing to do especially when you climbed up the ladder.

Fearless. Simply mean be bold and owner your ideas. Don't be afraid of peoples' expectation towards you. We are human after all, we make mistake. Leaders cannot run away from making decision. Everyday there is a decision to make. Be it as simple as what velocity model do I use for my map, to more complicated PSC extension option that will bring the highest value to the corporation. Evaluate all the options - fast, then make decision. Once you make it, own it, and be accountable to it even if the result turns out to be bad.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

My Leadership Series. - come with recommendations not empty handed.

This is the board that I sees everyday at the office. I surely will miss this board, but insyaallah I'll find ways to create the same at home or at the new office. 

It basically has some inspirational/leadership quotes from various leaders in the organization. So for my own reference and benefit of others, I'll elaborate them. So the first one that makes into the board is..

Come with recommendations not empty handed.

Very so often when we meet our boss or even naqibah we dwell so much on the problem. Easy way out we meet them for solutions. But a good leader is a person who always think on solving problems. 

"Make it a habit whenever you meet your boss you are coming with recommendations" (notice the s)

The kampung boy story...
I would like to quote Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim story when he wanted to propose ASB.

He met the PM at that time was Tun Mahathir. He obviously nail the rational behind ASB. Now comes the implementation part. He wants to make it so easy even the kampung people could get access to it, by just using passbook. This means upgrading the post office system entirely from paper to computerize system.

Tun said yes to his proposal and asked so what is the next step. He then handed him a letter to dato seri Leo Moggie the menteri tenaga, telekomunikasi n multimedia at that time - saying an instruction to upgrade pos Malaysia's system for tun's signature.

I just think that this is brilliant. Thinking upfront what to anticipate and making ur life and ur bosses life so easy. 

And with leaders in the company, I think giving them options are the best part to get at least one of your proposal approve and most important thing is to get the fund. Better is if you could relate it to financial exposure and the monetary benefit to it. Yup why not crunch in some NPVs and POS. Some people are more comfortable with numbers to make decisions. 

So all the best on your recommendations.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Leaving PETRONAS Part 3 - Why do I leave?

So Exactly Why do I leave?

I've fixed my relationship with my boss. The first interview job caught my attention but is this the reason why I leave?

It's all started after I passed my TPCP assessment in July 2013. I was practically the fastest person who exit ACD, and the youngest Staff. After that assessment, I sat down, thinking what do I want to do next. I was firm that at least in the next 5 years, I want to do more serious technical work, not the team lead position that I'm currently holding. But to be specific what sort of technical work? And which department to go?

To be honest, both the international and Basin Studies (XBD), I don't like them. I think maybe the way the department and business was run. In terms of robustness, I think exploration Malaysia wins. We still struggle to get the data internationally let alone propose a meaningful activities.  As for the XBD, those peeps go to a lot of data review, but rarely I see meaningful projects were secured. So no, at least for that year I don't want to go to both international or XBD.

MPM? Oh no. This is even worst. Maybe if they think I should go to MPM I'll go in the next 10 years but definitely not now.

I want a new breath. Different perspective, different way of thinking to look at things. I want to interact with different people. I want to know and understand how others do things. So I opted for a Masters program. A break for a year to satisfy my hunger for new breath and new environment. Then I thought, I'll come back and enrich others.

But Allah is a better planner. My application got turn down both by the management, and the university. Later that year, I conceive my third baby. So yes, no masters for me.

Comfort Zone
By this time most people already know my capability. Bosses trusted me. I read through LBVF, consistently peers, subordinate and superior praised my technical capability. My salary with PETRONAS is already very good. Work as a team leader is manageable. I mean, I already know the nitty picky details of the managerial work, and with my technical capability, it is easy peasy job.  PETRONAS is basically a homogeneous company, I pretty much know the culture and way out to things. I also know that I have a future with PETRONAS, both the technical path or managerial path. I basically sitting in my comfort zone.

I started feeling uneasy. I'm afraid this comfort will turn me into grumpy old lady, that later down the line wouldn't want to listen to the juniors because "I am old and has already eaten more salt than you". I also started feeling bored. I never sat doing 1 thing for more than 3 years, and I was with Sabah Exploration for almost 5 years and I am bored. I practically need to drag myself and creatively have to think of creative ways to make my job interesting everyday.

At the same time I missed being unknown. I missed learning new things. which include understand different background and culture. I missed being alone, nobody knows me, and started my learning curve. 

So I need to go out from this comfort zone. And this is the main reason why I leave.

Interview questions
It was the same question when I introduced myself and explaining my 10 years experience with PETRONAS. In 10 years time, I've covered quite a lot from the exploration spectrum, and also development. I was so steep on my career path in that 10 years time. I achieved a lot of things in that 10 years.
"Why do you want to go out since you have a very bright future in PETRONAS?" this is consistently being asked by all interviewers.

And I answered the same. I want to go out from my comfort zone and see where I stand with reflect to the world's oil industry. I want to learn new things. I want to learn different way of doing this. I've made 3 discoveries, until now we cannot monetize it. I want to learn how to do this differently.

If its for the money, I would have leave the corporation 5 years ago. If its for the money, I would not have come back in the first place. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Leaving PETRONAS Part 2 - I'm SORRY

So then finished the first interview episode. As an initial conclusion, even before seeing the monetary benefit, they sort of got me on board.
From Bangladesh to New Zealand. Definitely an offer not to be missed.
So then I go back home. Not knowing whether I passed the technical interview or not. But overall I have a good feeling.
But was I happy? Hell no. The moment I step in into my reality office the anger and the stress just poured down at my face. Saying something like, here you, wake up from your dream. This is your life. All the grunge and hatred just conquering me again and again I yes I am not happy.
A chat with a VP
The news that I started making move outside doesn't get very long to come to the VP's knowledge. Last time we had a conversation was like 3 months ago, and my former SM moved. Now I have a "challenging situation" with the new SM. We had another serious talk. I mentioned what I am not happy with. I showed her my roadmap. I confess that I do have grunges. There were occasions that happened between me and my superior, that it keeps hitting and like a big movie, keep on playing in front of me and I just cannot control myself from not feeling angry, demotivated, stressed and well you just name all the not good feeling.  
"You are still very young, with a lot of potential, I don't want you to make a mistake" this vividly some of her words.
Basically, the conclusion of the meeting is exactly what my husband tell me everyday. Go clean, meet your SM and tell him all your concerns. Some of it is valid, some of it might be not. And don't put your anger into someone that is not related. She also suggested to meet a psychiatrist. Just in case to rule out depression.
I walked off that room not feeling relief. I know I have to confront him. But I don't have the strength. My team is my strength to get through this tough time. But to confront him, I just cannot.
What sort of strength that you are looking for?
And strength doesn't mean anger.
I'm afraid of my own expectation. I am afraid that even after I confess and confront, things still wouldn't change. How could I face the situation again after all the energy spent to confront but it still doesn't change. I am weak, and I cannot let myself to get hurt again.
The next step
I stayed a bit longer that Friday evening. The next day, I supposed to have a weekend gateaway with my family, but hey she just ruined it I thought.
I cried again for the countless time. How am I going to get through this?? I am still long for my delivery. Then I just browse for a psychiatrist. Book an appointment. lets try this. What if I am totally in depression. I practically cry when I called. I don't want to go home in this state. I'll ruined everyones' feeling. then I called my sister. lucky she was still in the office. I went to her room. Practically had another session of crying and confession.
It felt a bit relief. I went home. But then again, everyone's mood was down because, umi is just finish another round of crying.
"Umi kena marah lagi ke?" my son asked. Oh no dear. I am just too weak to face all this challenge.
"there surely a reason why allah sent certain people to us. He wants to make us ready for a greater challenge" this basically the words from my sister that keep on lingering on my ears.
"be thankful that your ujian is actually in the office. Imagine if its happening in the family.." another good words from her.
The munajat.
To Allah is where we should turn to. Again, I meet Allah. confess it again to him. And after subuh prayer that Saturday morning. I just looked outside the window, and suddenly Allah sent an ilham to me.... "send a card, saying I'm Sorry"
The last time I make and send a card is to my husband. So I asked his permission to send a card to both my SM and GM. I actually went the trouble to buy the papers, and make the card.
Yes the next morning, I put the card on the bosses table. Going through the exercise is so released.
Now I've realized that the strength that I was looking for is...
To forgive myself sincerely. to accept that I make mistake too.
To ask forgiveness sincerely, and not to expect anything from them.
I also realized that, hurting other people actually doesn't cure the problem, it hurts you more.
And yes. The atmosphere totally changed. My relationship and my team's relationship with my SM totally changed. Not just my team members notice it, but people from outside notice the tone, the gesture, and the feeling. Yes human, as professional as we want to be, we still have feelings that creates the entire atmosphere of working environment.
Alhamdulillah. It was a life discovering journey. I treasured this moment so much. I treasured the lesson so much. And for the first time, I think we made a great team. I spell out my limitations. And he covers it. And I love working with the team more and more.