Monday, 29 August 2016


Recently #firstsevenjobs was trending on Facebook and Twitter, but I never got around to participating. Then I started wondering, what were my first seven jobs? I'm only in my 20s but it still feels like a lifetime ago.

1) Florist's assistant
My mom used to take me to the neighborhood mall behind our house in Malaysia all the time, so the mall employees watched me grow up. When I was around 10 years old I loved playing with the handheld price tag machine and help tag the products in stores while the adults chatted. My first job would probably be working Valentine's Day weekend for the florist. I was 12, and I pushed the cart full of roses around the mall asking patrons if they wanted to buy a rose for their loved ones. I worked with another 12-year-old girl, and we became total BFFs that weekend. Too bad I don't remember her name anymore... That was probably the first time I learned what "my feet are killing me" meant at the end of each work day!

2) Marketing intern
I was 19 by the time I got my second job. Malaysian teens don't typically work after-school or summer jobs like most American kids. So it was my first year of college and I wanted to work with a nonprofit. I met a rep from ARROW at a career fair, and got a marketing internship with them. That was my first experience with empowerment and equality for women, specifically in developing countries. I remember taking the train with my coworker to go to the office, and walking for another half a mile to headquarters.

3) Research assistant
My third job was my first academic job, and it gave me the foundation of my other university jobs that I would later have. I'd been working with ARROW for about a month when one of my journalism professors emailed the class saying that he was hiring four research assistants for a media coding project about the Malaysian General Elections. He was hiring one RA for each major language used in the media coverage: Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil. I applied immediately, offering to take up the Malay position if other candidates didn't speak the language. Given that it was an Australian university, everyone spoke English but only a minority were fluent in Malay. After a skill eval, I was hired for the three-month project. My professor trained me in research skills and how to apply critical thinking to news articles.

4) Entrepreneur
My fourth job - and one that would last for the next six years - was running my own business. It was in February 2009 when I decided to start a blog about online shops (blog-shops) that had sprung up. And Your Shopping Kaki was born. It was my first foray into marketing, public relations, advertising, economics, and applied journalism. Today, it has more than 8,000 Facebook fans and my business development manager runs it independently.

5) Receptionist
Summer break for Australian students is at the end of the year until the beginning of the new year, so the next summer break I got my fifth part-time job (while running my own business part-time). It was January 2010, and one of my friends from the YSK world was helping her fiance start his own physiotherapy clinic. She needed a part-time receptionist while they were ramping up, and she asked me if I would do it for 60 bucks a day. I thought it would be a good experience and something I hadn't done before, so I agreed. That was my first taste of human-facing customer service and developing professional phone skills, including dealing with unhappy customers. I also did cold-calling, which is good experience for anyone to have - gives you a newfound respect for people who have to do cold-calling as their full-time jobs!

6) Newspaper columnist
Because of YSK, I became one of the more popular bloggers in Malaysia, so a new online newspaper called The Malaysian Mirror hired me in April 2010 to write a weekly column in their website for a few months. The goal was to introduce my readers to their newspaper. It was a heap of fun and I learned what it was like working with legit journalists as well as three other popular bloggers who also had weekly columns.

7) Teaching associate
In 2013 I was doing an additional fourth year of college called Honors so that I could apply to grad schools in USA. While I was an Honors students, I taught Media Studies and Journalism tutorials to undergraduate students. That was when I discovered how much I love teaching and mentoring others! I enjoyed the job so much and was always excited to create new lesson plans and group exercises. 

There you have it, my first seven jobs! Since then I've had another eight jobs, including the one I have now. I will say this, though: every single job/gig I've had leading up to this point has helped prepared me for the job I have now at IBM. And this is a job I consider my dream job!

My dad always told me that I should never be afraid of hard work, and I think that having so many different jobs throughout the years - sometimes multiple jobs at the same time, while I was in college and grad school - has prepared me to be a very hard worker. You just cannot be lazy if you want to get everything done. But the hashtag isn't #myfirst15jobs so I'll say bye for now. :)