Career

That Sexist Condescendence

Note: I wrote this post last year, only now I found the time to finish it. A bit outdated it is.  

A couple of weeks ago when everyone was talking about Brexit, I came across an article listing down a few things about the British Prime Minister who was then stepping down post-referendum. That article reminded the readers of one incident when he was recorded giving a ‘sexist and condescending remark’ in the House of Commons by saying ‘Calm down, dear’ to one female MP.

Of course, that, to my ears, sounds truly sexist and condescending, no matter how he defended what came out of his mouth.

And that made me recall one particular moment in my previous life as a career woman that made me feel equally angry if not more.

It happened two years back, when I was invited to attend an internal interview with the HR department of the company I worked for, after being selected into their so-called Talent Programme. The truth was I hadn’t been in an interview for a long, long time and might have been severely under-prepared (partly because nobody knows about that interview and what it was about,  being a new programme and all).

So I had this 30 minutes interview with this particular HR personnel, an HR guy with warmth that I could barely detect, and that particular session saw me fumbling for answers over questions. I’m not going to dwell on that, but I could remember how irritated I was to keep hearing: ‘Listen, lady, ….’. He kept using the word ‘lady’ over and over again it got to my nerve. The first time I heard him saying that, I felt like punching his face and leave the room in an instance. I hadn’t feel that way for quite some time, so it left me puzzled as to why I was that angry.

But now that I am reminded of that feeling upon reading that article on Brexit, I know why I was annoyed: He chose to use that word in my moment of weaknesses and self-doubt and it made me feel like my being a woman was being pointed out as a reason. I worked for male bosses all my working life and never once they made me feel that way. I wonder why that HR guy did that, if he said those lines out of habit because he thinks they make him sounds cool, or because it made him sound more English (he said them lines in an accent which, well, annoyed me but not as much).

In a work setting where my capability is the one at play, I need no reminder of my gender. Or to be really honest, in most settings no one needs to be reminded of the gender, implicitly or otherwise. I am not saying that I am free of such sexist judgment or gender-conditioning myself. Years of being fed with such fallacies certainly made some marks on my psyche, but now that I have children – a girl AND a boy – I realise that there is an urgent need for me to unlearn so many things or I risk being unjust to them both, and by doing so limiting their potential.

Yes, being politically correct can be tiring (and at times sounds utterly ridiculous) but we have seen enough as a society that words can kill.

Words certainly can.

I Need More Time

I have a few more days left before leaving the workforce, and I know for some time in the future, I need to answer the same ol’ question of why did I do it – quitting my corporate job.

I have a set of different answers that I usually give – and my answer depends on the asker. One of the answer in my answer scheme is ‘I want to spend more time with my child(ren).

The range of reaction to the answer are always amusing, but I won’t discuss it here. But it is true that lack of  time is always the most pressing thing for me.

My job doesn’t require me working out of hours that frequently, but my conscience could not live with this average breakdown:

24 hours – 6 hours (I sleep) + 9 hours (office hours) + 2 hours (commuting) = 7 hours left

Out of that 7 hours left, where I could (most often) be with my child(ren), I have to minus a few more, because children sleep for longer hours, hence the remaining waking hours are getting scarcer. When Isa was younger, he slept at 9 PM, three hours before I did  and woke one hour after me. It was a relief for us parents, but a curse in disguise too. In that case,  I was then left with a mere 3-hour period to spend with him, and you know about the morning rush of us working parents, so really what’s left of it? Of course, his waking hours get longer as he grows, but then I will have more children requiring my attention.

When working a full time job is just a choice and not a necessity, resorting with the excuse of ‘What is more important is quality, not quantity’ is for me (and myself only, perhaps) is bullshit.

So yes, I quit because I want to spend more time with my child and future children.

 

p.s. I was lucky that Isa commuted with me to work so that’s an additional 2-hour window of waking hours spent together, but it doesn’t qualify as a window of quality time, however I tried to justify it.

The Coming Soon Chapter

Yesterday was the 1st of October. Yesterday marked one of the biggest steps I have taken to reinvent my life.

I have submitted the letter tendering my resignation, after working for five years (five this coming November) in the company.

It was true what people wrote about resigning. Even if you hate the job, to actually write the letter and meet the superior to tell him you are quitting could be something you don’t do happily. What more if you have no reason to hate the job, like in my case.

I chose to meet my head of department half an hour before the end of working time is over. I told him I am resigning, and his first question was “Where are you going?”

I told him I am going nowhere. I am just quitting. I need more flexibility in time and would like to spend more time with my family.

A family man himself, he quickly understood.

“I’m sad. You are very promising, but I know I can’t be selfish. I totally understand why you need your time-off.”

I told him I am still happy with my current job, but I have priorities. He was even delighted, strangely,  to hear that I am pursuing a higher degree.

“It’s really great that you are doing that. “

Then he said something of the effect that someday when I am back to the workforce, a higher degree might be a prerequisite, just like when he was somehow forced to leave his previous position as Head of the company’s R&D leg because he has no PhD.

He agreed that children is the most important part in life, and he agreed that in a balanced marriage there should not be two person rushing to climb the career ladder. I told him my husband is a brilliant man who’s doing great at work and I have a lot of other things and interests I’d like to do and pursue, so quitting is just a natural thing for me.

He smiled. I smiled even bigger.

There. That’s it.

Should the new year come, it will definitely be a great new chapter in my life.

Turning 29

A few weeks ago I turned 29. I have a good relook at my life, and turning 30 may not be as scary as it sounds.

But 29 is a prime age. As my best friend and I always say: when we were younger we always thought that 29-year-olds are..guess what, old. And mature. But look at where we are now.

It is funny.

My boss, who is a favourite of mine, of all bosses I have worked with has tendered his resignation. He is looking to migrate for some personal reasons. He said that he is soon turning 40, and if he needs to move to other jobs (which entails lower position and hence salary) he might as well do it now.

It struck me hard, more than I thought it would, the things he said the day he announced to me that he’s leaving.

I am turning 30 in less than a year, and if I were to reinvent myself I need to do it now.

Yes, I have a fulfilling job. It is still a dream job. I have all the recognition I need and the only thing left to do if I am really into winning this section of my life is to push myself a bit harder.

But whether I have excelled at least at the same level as my career in my other roles, I have doubt.

My role as a wife.

My role as a mother.

Most of the time I feel that my work and career has consumed much of my energy, and for the other roles there are only left-overs.

That is not right. I am never, never at peace with that fact –  I am disturbed by my incapacity, which is ultimately of my own choice.

This is not me trying to ‘have it all’ as they said. This is me worrying that I could not really give a satisfying answer to  God on the Day of Judgment.

If I were to reinvent myself, I need to do it now.

Now.

I am 90% firm on this life-changing event I am planning, God willing.

May He guide us to the right path, the path of those women who have attained His blessings and mercy and have been given a place in His Paradise.

 

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Ramblings on a Sick Day

So here I am. It’s Tuesday – the first working day of this week, and right now I am supposed to go pick up my son from the creche. But I am not.

I am on my bed, at home, alone. I am sick. 

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We had a long weekend of four days with two public holidays sandwiching the weekend. We took the opportunity to make a journey to the East Coast attending my husband’s cousin’s wedding. We booked a hotel room – seafront – thinking that we would have an awesome time at the beach post wedding.  

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do all that. I suffered from diarrhea that made me stayed up all night long, and the next day I had to live with stomach ‘trauma’. No food allowed – only ORS and charcoal tablets prescribed by our doctor cousin. I had to forgo the great all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast served by the hotel cafe and all the fancy food of East Coast that I truly love.

My husband was fine, but he had to take charge of Isa alone, so it was not much fun for him too. Added with the twelve hour journey home (thanks to massive traffic) instead of the usual 5 hours, it could not be worse.

When I reached home, I already was feverish. And this morning my head felt like it weighed a tonne.

And while I lie on my bed, I try not to think about the work I left in the office.

That’s the lesson on uncertainty for me. 

I plan. But God indeed is the best Planner of all. 

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I have not been writing since last week. I was extremely occupied, and to be honest I almost lost my breath trying to do all those things. But apart from my husband and son who keep making me smiles, there are small things in between that give me relief, albeit small.

A few months back I was invited to an assessment by the company’s HR – who told me that I was one of the selected, qualified talents in the company. I was like, okay, it was not a big deal, it’s good if they think so, but I don’t expect anything from that recognition as ‘talent’, nor I expect anything will come up out of it. 

It was the typical test about personality and whatnot, and as self-aware as I am, it took me less than 15 minutes to complete them all. So what if I don’t suit the organisation? I don’t care. I don’t want to be the CEO anyway. 

But last week they came back saying that I passed that stage and going to the next one – development centre. I was told that it consists of interview, role play, group work – all those that I may hate. And they asked me to fill in a form – my profile.

Well, first, that news that I passed the previous stage somehow made my day. If I ever end my career, I know I’ve done the best, and sort of end it on a high note. 

And second, while attempting to fill in the profiling thing, I was struck by the question ask: Are you willing to relocate? Should the question asked three years ago, I would at first instance say yes. But I have to tick ‘no’ to all options: Both home country and international locations. While I am willingly doing that, it gets me into thinking – how much I have changed over the years. My priorities. My career aspirations. My fear. My limits. The go-getter side of me almost broke down into tears thinking about how much I have missed in life looking at the form, but the more prominent part of me sees this as minor. 

It is never a typical mother-sacrificing-career situation for me. When I dig further into the pscyhe of all these, I recognise that I thrive at my workplace due to the reason that working full time is pretty much an option for me. It is optional. I am not bound by anything – should I hate my job, I can literally quit now. And I am grateful to my husband who makes that option viable through his proper planning. alhamdulillah.

What that means to me is I am free to set my rules. I am not going to work long hours more frequently than necessary. I am not going to stand by something that is totally unacceptable that it hurts my conscience just because I am afraid I am going to lose my job. I am not going to keep my mouth shut on certain things for the same reason. I am free to be myself, in short. 

And I have to admit (and have admitted this to the husband often) that I think and feel that I am much smarter ever since I got married. I will have to elaborate the ‘how’ and ‘what’ in another post, but in short, I am able think more deeply about issues and matters than before almost naturally. Well, I guess that happens if you get an ever skeptical husband who questions everything that you do and every (preconceive) thought and notions you have. 

Overall, yes, myself years ago would have mourned over inequality in the opportunity for me to grow career-wise nowadays as a wife and mom, but I guess right now I am contented where I am. All praise and thanks I return to Allah the Ever Merciful and Loving.

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On a final note, being nearly bed-ridden today, I missed my son badly. The fact that I could not lift my head to take a look at him one last time before he headed to his creche made my heart sore.

I am going to wait for him at the door. Both of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped in the Rat Race

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I have always considered myself very, very fortunate career-wise.

Though I graduated with an Engineering degree, I have known much earlier that my passion is in environmental field, which was then transitioned into sustainability.

By what seems like a chance, my first job landed me straight to sustainability field.

I am forever thankful with that, knowing that there is not many graduates out there who both know exactly what he/she wants to do, and get to do what they exactly wanted.

I turned down offers that will give me higher salaries, to work in the field that I loved, and still love. There were days when I questioned myself about that, but most often I’d be consoled with the fact that what I was doing will lead to a greater good. It has never been about money. It is a choice I made to do something that is meaningful. And hopefully pleases God.

But you see, corporate life can kill you, albeit slowly.

Three years ago I’d be very happy to be at work, convinced that it was never about money but the satisfaction that I had from doing good and the right thing.

And today, I wonder where has all that gone.

I question myself almost everyday. Have I turned to be another money-chaser? Have I turned to be another climber of the corporate ladder looking for status and recognition? The salary has been good, and the bonuses. I have received promotion. And I realise that these have slowly kills my initial good intention of ‘saving the world’, leaving me to become just that. Another participant in the stupid rat race.

I know the passion is still there.But I know too, very well, that the career that I once loved has turned to be another day-to-day job. It is only rarely that I am reminded of the greater impact of the work that I do. I have become another part, replaceable at that, in a huge machine.

I hate what I have turned to be.

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Being a mother, has again made me question myself.

Conservative as I am, being a sustainability practitioner, I believe that a family institution with one breadwinner and one staying-at-home parent will conserve the balance in the society. While there are many exceptions to this (this include higher cost of living which requires two incomes per household in order to meet the basic needs), I have grown to realise that there is no where I’d rather be than home.

With my son.

Doing things I love with him.

Without having to worry about whether my colleagues will hate me for leaving early every day, or having to take emergency leaves just to be beside my ill son, or who has to pick up Isa when I have out-of-office assignments, or having to put Isa through a terrible 2-hour daily journey of going to and back from work/creche, which is totally unproductive.

No, this is not another mother’s guilt.

This is a person trying to stay true to her conscience.

Breakfast with the CEO

Last two weeks I received an exclusive invitation to have breakfast with the CEO of the company I am working for along with other 6-7 employees. As my company is huge with more than 100,000 employees in 20+ countries around the world, I could not help but feeling honoured to be selected (though the basis of selection was, well, unknown).

The session was scheduled to be in the morning, and to attend it would require me to tweak the logistics a bit – and my husband was alright with that.

So I RSVP.

Only to cancel it just the day before the session.

You see, I told my husband, I’d like to attend so that I can directly ask the CEO on a few matters, work flexibility issue is one of them. I’d like to know his take on this, since the company does not seem to move towards offering more flexibility in terms of working time and location which I perceive is very much needed by many mothers working in the company.

And of course, for some, the opportunity is something they could be proud of – I’ve seen some of my friends posting their photos with the VP this and that of their companies on Facebook (though I really could not fathom why).

But I let go of the opportunity, simply because:

1. I resent the idea of having to leave Isa earlier to have a breakfast with some man who is not even aware of my existence before. To attend this session, I was supposed to leave at 6.45 AM latest (because it starts at 7.30 AM!). That’s like 1 hour earlier than usual;

2. My husband said he could drive Isa to the creche, so that means he didn’t have a pressing need to be in his office much earlier – which entailed the fact that we can actually travel together to work today instead of commuting separately. And I will never be able to resist spending more time with him (despite in massive traffic) unless I really have to;

3. I just hate protocols – and believe me there will be though it says that the session is going to be informal. We live in a country we some people will demand a correction for any title missed out on a damn memo (and Malaysian’s CEO has a lot of titles in front of their names).

I didn’t even care to reschedule though the organiser allows me to – I don’t think a good meal at an award-winning restaurant will ever beat the pleasure of seeing my son smiles in the morning. Full stop.