It's a little annoying sometimes when people think that I am where I am today because of luck. I am not a high-ranking official in any organisation or some big shot but I am successful in my own right.
How exactly did I get to be where I am today? Let me share part of my journey.
When I left school after finishing my "O" levels, I was undecided about what to do. In my family, education was not a priority. If you wanted to go to school, you could and if you didn't, it wasn't a sin. The fact that I even completed my secondary education is an achievement, of sorts.
I didn't know, then, what I wanted to do. I gave tuition and earned some pocket money. A neighbour told me to learn shorthand and typewriting because she said the skills would help me, no matter what I chose to do. Thanks to her, I can touch type today.
This prompted me to check some colleges and I found out that the best was Goon Institution. It would mean taking a bus to PJ from KL, four days a week to attend evening classes. I was excited but tinged with some sadness that I couldn't be chauffeur-driven when I saw how packed the mini buses were.
My first class of typewriting was uneventful. I joined a class of about 50 other students. No one looked up when I walked in. Everybody seemed to know what to do. I sat down and had my first lesson. It would be the only time I would have someone watching over me. My progress depended on me and on how much I wanted to do to get ahead. It is a skill that is the most useful in today's cyberworld, I think.
For shorthand, the class was smaller. There were about 30 of us. I sat next to a girl, Assunta Menon. She was the first baby born in Assunta hospital. It was nice to be her shorthand buddy.
The teacher was running late. Suddenly an old man, in the mould of George Burns, just about five feet in height, walks in and says he was going to teach us shorthand. Oh my goodness! An old man was going to teach us!!!!!!!! My initial reaction was shock and disappointment. I couldn't believe that they would designate a dinosaur, a tiny one at that, instead of some young and dynamic teacher.
*Knock my head here*. The dinosaur turned out to be Mr Goon Koon Leong, the founder of Goon Institution.
Come on, don't tell me the resemblance isn't uncanny!
After one lesson on Pitman's New Era Shorthand with the famous Mr K L Goon, I found that I loved it. There was something in the way he taught the subject. He passed on that love of shorthand and teaching to me. Often in class, I sat mesmerised at how he made such a difficult subject seem so interesting. He motivated us and unreservedly gave us all the years of knowledge and experience he had. I wasn't to know then that my class would be the last class that he would teach. It was an honour to have been his student.
As I continued with my evening classes, I began to have a dream of teaching. I didn't know what to do about it, or where I should go to or how to go about it. I hatched a plan. A simple plan and the first step towards the door of opportunity is all it took to get me going.
One evening, I went in earlier than usual and poked my head into the office of Mr K L Goon. He was alone and I knocked on his door to get his attention. He looked up and motioned for me to enter.
Our conversation went something like this
Me: Good evening, Sir.
KLG: Good evening. What can I do for you?
Me: I have some questions and hope you can give me some answers.
KLG: Sit down. What do you want to know?
Me: I just wanted to tell you that I love shorthand and I can see myself teaching it one day. Please could you let me know what I should do to start the ball rolling?
He smiled. Looked at his fingernails and without looking at me, he carried on
KLG: First, you have to pass your shorthand exams.
Me: I know. I will.
KLG: What are you doing now?
Me: I'm giving tuition on a part-time basis.
KLG: Why aren't you working full-time?
Me: I have no skills, no experience, no nothing. No one will want to employ me.
KLG: How old are you?
Me: Almost 19. I'm 18 now.
KLG: Okay, Come work here.
KLG: Yes, You can start next week.
And just like that, I got my first real job as a clerk earning RM170.00 a month. Three months later, I had a RM20.00 increment and I felt like I was on top of the world. This was in 1978 and it was enough for me to survive.
Several months after that, I was told that the son of K. L. Goon needed a clerk cum secretary. Apparently, they had decided that I would fill that position. It was going to be in another branch and he had a tough reputation: he was a taskmaster and I was really worried that I would not measure up to his standards.
In some way, I saw it as another door of opportunity and I walked into it, hesitantly but confidently. My motto was "Give your best and do your best". Goon Kok Chee or K. C. Goon turned out to be a great mentor for me. He taught me many skills and gave me a platform from which to develop all the potential he saw in me.
I had not yet any formal certificates but I was happy and contented. I had a great boss and learning so much every day with a salary that was enough for all my expenses.
One day, K L Goon visited the office where I was working and he asked me if everything was doing okay. I said I was happy that he had confidence in my abilities. He urged me to take up the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Private Secretary's Certificate (PSC) examinations. I laughed and said that the classes were ongoing and there was no way I could join them. He insisted that I had to join in the next intake. He assured me that I could take the entire course without paying for anything except the exam fees. There was no way I could turn down the offer. The entire cost would be about RM1500.00 without the examination fees. On my own, I would never have been able to afford it. It was the third door of opportunity that I walked through.
In January of 1980, I enrolled for 18 months of night school while working full-time to chase after what was a much-coveted piece of paper.
In the midst of the one and a half years, K L Goon also 'forced' me to attend one of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) programs called "The Effective Secretary". This was an absolute drop-from- heaven kind of gift for me. The syllabus covered aspects of secretarial work that the LCCI PSC didn't cover. Of the six of us who attended, only two passed with a distinction. I was one of them. I was the youngest in the group and I felt a strong sense of gratitude and pride. I have, in turn, paid it forward and helped others to better themselves when I had the opportunity, exactly as K L Goon and K C Goon had done for me.
My greatest achievement was passing the LCCI single subject Shorthand 100 words per minute examination in 1981 and getting the First place in Malaysia. It is, for me, the most important milestone in my life. It sealed my place in my own personal history as the highest recognition of my hard work. I received a Silver Medal from LCCI. Often when I am spring-cleaning, I chance upon this medal and it always stops me in my tracks to see how far I am come since then.
In 1981, I sat for the final examinations and while I was relatively confident of passing, I harboured a tiny fear that I would disappoint, not only myself, but also K L Goon and K C Goon who had faith in me and opened up doors that allowed me to grow professionally.
In the end, I got through in the first attempt and I am a qualified Private Secretary with a certificate from the famous and renowned London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
To my benefactors, lecturers and supporters who helped me along that path, I thank you for a debt I cannot repay.
I hope that emulating kindness and generosity to others, will in some small way, be a tribute to them.