The Accidental Mentor


A moored boat @ Pulau Ketam, Selangor (Malaysia)
I always feel stagnated & restless after a while; no matter where I am.

You don’t have to be really smart to be successful. You just have to hire the right people to work for you — that’s how leaders should lead… No need for all that ego.

— My awesome ex-boss

You will meet a lot of people in your lifetime. Some people make such a meaningful impact that you can never quite forget them. You remember the pearls of wisdom they’ve dispensed or the feeling they give you when they motivate you. Short of putting them on a pedestal, you sorta want to be like them when you grow up. That, was my ex-boss.

I was a diploma holder with a mass communication background. I was really happy doing administration and project management under his leadership when during a performance appraisal review, he told me, “I think you’re really bored with what you’re doing now. That was why I wanted you to join our weekly cluster meetings so that you can be part of what we do. But now, I think you need to do more. For yourself.”

I was a little uncomfortable. What does he mean? For myself? I am happy. I get great bonuses. I travel almost every other month for leisure. What more do I want?

My awesome ex-boss (AEB) then said, “You need to improve yourself. Go get a degree. If you’re no money, I will find you the money. Do you need any help?”

Me: “Are you kidding? You want to get rid of me?”

AEB: “NO! I don’t want you to be doing what you’re doing 10 years later. I may be gone by then. If someone else takes over my role, you may not be this happy.”

Me: “Wait, you’re leaving?”

AEB: “I don’t want you to be happy just because you’re working for me. You need to do more for yourself. Go find out more about that overseas degree programme you’ve wanted to do. I will write you u a testimonial.”

Me: “Okkaaay.”

That conversation took place in Nov 2009.

In Feb 2010, I tendered my resignation to pursue a higher education in Melbourne, Australia.
AEB called me into this office. I took my seat and he placed a plastic bag from Apple in front of me.

AEB: “This is for you to write your papers when you’re in Australia. Study hard.”

I looked down and it was a macbook, a macbook cover, a mouse and some software stuff. And i broke down. It was gratitude, shock, surprise and happiness all rolled into one. I did pretty well for someone who didn’t have the money to pay for her own school fees or rental; someone who had to work any jobs she could find. I guess the strength to not want to let my AEB down was stronger than anything. The faith he had in me when I was happy to be cruising along was my motivation to keep going despite the financial challenges.

August 2013: I have been accepted in the Master of Science programme at a local university. Now, all I have to do is to find the money to finance myself through this one year programme.

Why did I share all this? I don’t want to forget what it was like to be hungry. To want to continuously improve myself. Even if I don’t see my own strengths and potential sometimes, this will serve as a reminder to myself.

I was fortunate to have met with a man who taught me what it is like to be a good leader.   Great leaders like the AEB are rare in Asia. Having had one AEB has taught me so much in this lifetime.

Do you have an AEB or existing boss who inspires you?


2 thoughts on “The Accidental Mentor

  1. That’s a really great story, and I’m glad you shared it. It’s easy to find stories about bosses who had a negative impact on people’s lives, and very rare to find one about someone who so completely seems to embody the very heart and soul of good leadership. I’m glad you posted this.

    • Thank you for stopping by.;) You’re absolutely right abt the negative part…it is always part of human nature to remember the bad and not celebrate the good. There is so much goodness that needs to be shared and perpetuated.

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