31 Jul 2015 12:00:00 AM

Jasmin Amirul

Interview with Jasmin Amirul, a Senior Vice President with RHB Group

Jasmin returned to work in September 2014 after taking a one year career break after the birth of her third child to provide her with the opportunity to care for her daughter. With the support from RHB Group, Jasmin now works as a Senior Vice President with the Group.

What were your reasons for leaving the workforce?

My previous employer had decided to consolidate operations to their Singapore office and had requested that I transfer to Singapore or any of their other locations within Asia Pacific. As I was 7 months pregnant with my third child at that time, this was not a viable option, combined with the fact that I was heavily dependent on family support for my kids during the day. I stayed on till the end of my pregnancy, and decided to take some time off post pregnancy to care for my baby.

What factors do you think made you prepared for the return?

I have worked all my adult life and whilst I have always envied others who seem to enjoy the non-working life, and we often joke about how we would love to become a “tai-tai” – the one year break made me realise that the “tai-tai” life was not for me, sadly. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my children, watching my youngest grow leaps and bounds on a daily basis, it became clear to me that I needed the sense of achievement that came with work, being able to clearly add value and achieve specific outcomes at work. I spent most of the 1 year involved in family-related activities, being a full-time mom, which ended up being more hectic than working in an office!

Being financially independent was another driving factor as well. Despite having a kind and understanding husband who supported me throughout my year off, I was clear that I needed to feel financially independent and to be able to contribute to household expenses as well.

What challenges did you face when returning to the workplace?

The biggest challenge for me was being able to trust others to care for my youngest child. My other 2 children were already 10 and 8 years old at the time, and were independent school-going kids. Having spent a year caring for my youngest girl, it was extremely difficult to leave her and to return to work.
I recall spending most of my first day back at work, constantly checking my mobile CCTV (an application that allows me to view my home CCTV footage from my phone), just to make sure she was ok. It was an extremely nerve-racking day for me, but it improved over time, now I hardly check at all (not sure if that’s a good thing!)
For potential returnees, I believe a good starting point would be with previous colleagues both in previous organisations as well as those that have moved on to other organisations.
Jasmin Amirul
How did you balance between family and work when you first returned to the workplace?

Balance is never an easy thing and it’s still a struggle till today. I do make a point to see my youngest daughter in the morning before leaving for work. I also make a point of working straight through lunch as often as possible, to enable me to leave the office by 7, so that I can have some family time with the kids before they go to bed. We practice early bed times for the kids, the older kids go to bed by 8.30 and my youngest girl goes to bed at 7.30pm. Hence leaving office late would mean I completely miss out on spending time with the kids.

Were your supervisors supportive of your requests for flexible work arrangement?

Prior to joining, I had asked regarding flexible working arrangements and I was told it depended on individual Supervisors discretion. From what I understand the organisation does not have official flexible arrangements.

In the case of my Supervisor, he mentioned that he was alright with providing the flexibility when required so long as deliverables were met. He was also very understanding when I needed to work from home on a number of occasions when I was in between maids or had family issues to deal with. I find this very valuable in a working environment and I believe if companies have clear deliverables and targets for their employees, they do not need to be fixated on physical location of employees.

What changes would you like to see in Corporate Malaysia that would make it easier for more women to re-enter the workforce after being away for some time

Flexible working arrangements would definitely be a key driver to encourage more women to re-enter the workforce. A change in local employers mindset, away from requiring physical presence to prove that an employee is “doing work” towards a measurement-based approach that measures employees on what they deliver instead of time spent in office.

Do you have any advice for other women who would like to take a career break as well as for other potential women returnees?

For those looking to take a career break, look for an option to return to the same employer if possible, I do know of many employers who are willing to allow employees to take a year off with the option to return to the same position.

For potential returnees, I believe a good starting point would be with previous colleagues both in previous organisations as well as those that have moved on to other organisations. Sometimes a simple SMS enquiry could lead to something! Headhunters would be another option as are the online job sites. Keeping options open would also be key – if a contract job is all they can offer, no harm taking it and see where it leads.