Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Tree Of Knowledge

There’s never a time to stop studying, no matter how busy Mahfuzah Muhammad Tarmidi gets in work and life.

Discerning readers should find Mahfuzah Muhammad Tarmidi’s name familiar.
The current Assistant General Manager of Corporate Communications for KDEB
Waste Management has been featured in our Hidden Gems section before – in fact,in its inaugural edition – where we gave a glimpse into the person who is an undeniable pillar of her organisation. Following her Master’s in Business Administration,she has embarked on the next leg – a Ph. D., and we caught up with her over coffee to understand why the pursuit of knowledge is a never-ending one, and how she manages her extremely busy schedule of career and family with studying over weekends.

“Working with passionate people drives me to match their pace, and propel them ever forward.” – Puan Mahfuzah Muhammad Tarmidi CMgr MCMI, Assistant General Manager of
Corporate Communications for KDEB Waste Management

Pn. Mahfuzah’s career is nothing short of staggering, the brisk biodata on the KDEB website doing its absolute best to summarise the breadth of skills and qualifications she has under her belt over the years. Indeed, it gives a little primer into how she applies herself to
all that she does; silk hiding steel as it were. But how does she do it?

“Pursuing a Master’s has actually been a long-standing dream of mine. However, between juggling my career and family, it had taken maybe 15 over years before a golden opportunity arrived. That came when top management, like Dato’ Ramli (Y.Bhg. Dato’ Hj Ramli Mohd Tahir, Managing Director of KDEBWM) and Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) interests had aligned: senior staff who were degree holders could be nominated to undergo UUM’s program to acquire strategic skills relevant to our industry. Master’s holders would obtain a more holistic understanding of their industry, while inspiring more confidence in their skills. Of the five of us who took up further education, I was the only woman.

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. We had to have classes online during the worst of the pandemic in 2021, while there was no break in work. What kept me going was my promise to myself: to always excel, to always be outstanding. As a perfectionist, a lot of the pressure came from myself, but aiming any lower was not in my psyche. When I set my
mind on a goal, I push myself to achieve it. I had to find ways to make time; classes being on the weekend made no difference as there was always something to do.

I was surprised to be recognised as the Recipient for Leadership Award by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) of United Kingdom. The award was approved by senate UUM and Chartered Management Institute. There’s a whole process of approval involved to be given the award – getting nominated, then subject to agreement from the senate – one presented to me by the Sultan of Kedah, no less. That, as well as my 3.90 CGPA.

Now that chapter is complete, I’ve recently enrolled myself into Doctorate of Business Administration. To give you an idea of the differences between them, a Master’s often involves more actual study, while you’re more independent for a Ph. D. I will be diving into studies and papers to write my own, based on my field of expertise and what it’s lacking, with regards to Malaysia. It will be a three-year journey compared to the relatively accelerated 1 1/2 years for my Master’s, and I will be ready for the challenges ahead.

While my ‘end goal’ is certainly self-fulfilment, I consider the journey itself to be equally as important as the destination. Learning is a constant process, and I welcome every opportunity to know something new.”

“Universities need to create critical thinkers.”– Dr. Zaleha,
Professor of Sustainability & Forensic Accounting and Director of Doctor Management & Philosophy at University Utara Malaysia

A seasoned veteran in the academic industry, Dr. Zaleha Othman, Professor of Sustainability and Forensic Accounting of Universiti Utara Malaysia initially started off her career as a practitioner in the UK. “In my 2-3 years working there as an assistant, I felt something wasn’t right. My spirit wasn’t fully there,” she reveals.

As it so happens, the love of her life indirectly led her on a journey of self-discovery. “It started with my husband’s PhD.” she claims excitedly. “As he shared with me his undertakings during his course, my interest piqued”.

Dr. Zaleha knew she found her true calling, and she never looked back. “Since my early years, I’ve always wanted a job where I can read for hours. After all, when your heart is in it, overcoming the challenges becomes a whole lot easier. You hold onto what matters – it’s that passion that has helped spur me on to drive forward in this industry for up to 24 years now.”

“We deal exclusively with postgraduates, so teaching and imparting knowledge as an educator becomes less straightforward.”

“We’re not dealing with younger people – we’re dealing with masters of their own trade.”

“They come in with pre-conceived perspectives and ideologies, whereas on the opposite end of the spectrum, the younger, wide-eyed students have not seen reality or experienced what life is like in the outside world.”

“We’re essentially changing the minds of people in our classes. It’s about convincing folks on how everything we do stems from the fundamentals – and that is done through empirical data collected from qualitative research methods, such as observations and experiences of people around us.”

“Wisdom ultimately comes from within. We don’t teach students to memorize in graduate school, we develop them to be critical thinkers. Not just any decision-maker, but a decision-maker who’s distinctly different – someone who’s willing to pause, reflect on the theories and fundamentals before carrying out with the final execution.”

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