Meet The Expats
Say hello to 30 expats from all corners of Malaysia’s diverse expatriate community
01 Serina S. Bajaj (THA)
Serina moved to Kuala Lumpur with her Singaporean husband and has built up her food business to critical acclaim. Not just any food, but delicious, wholesome dishes via Raisin’the Roof – her café serving cool vegetarian cuisine – and her latest endeavour, Kind Kones, which is Malaysia’s first vegan ice-cream bar.
When asked what her proudest achievement was so far as an entrepreneur here, Serina said it was the launch of Kind Kones due to the amazing response. “To a certain extent, I feel that I’ve been able to make a bit of a mark here. It’s always awesome to pioneer a new concept in any industry.”
Being extremely passionate about women in business, she thinks it’s important to set a good example for young girls especially since having her daughter, who’s her biggest inspiration.
Juggling motherhood and a busy work life is something women the world over have to deal with and Serina is no stranger to this. Between product development and promoting her cafés, she finds time to go on playdates and spend as much time as she can with her daughter.
With all this going on, Serina had this to say, “There’s no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise!” and we wholeheartedly agree with her.
02 Geoff Dalziel (AUS)
A little over a year ago, Geoff was offered the opportunity to open Nespresso in Malaysia and he accepted. Having been with the company for ten years and worked all over the world, a move to Malaysia was a chance to experience life in a new country.
With a successful career in marketing, Geoff moved into general management and was tasked with bringing Nespresso to the market much to the delight of local coffee lovers.
Malaysia is one of the most expat-friendly countries in the world and when asked what he liked most about the country, Geoff said, “The diversity and hospitality of the people is a real highlight.the weather is also a big plus – summer all year round! I have joined the quest to find the best nasi lemak, banana leaf rice and chilli pan mee.” Here’s someone who has assimilated perfectly into the Malaysian lifestyle!
During his free time, he makes it a point to keep fit and try out new restaurants and cafés. Discovering the city, and travelling around the country and Asia with his wife and two children is also on the agenda. Plus he’s keen on picking up Bahasa Malaysia so we look forward to hearing him speak the local lingo and tell us where the best nasi lemak is.
03 Aurelia Silva (UK)
Most of Aurelia’s career has been firmly rooted in the corporate world, with 15 years spent in some of the world’s biggest brands across Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly part of the Soviet Union) and Asia.
Starting in brand marketing, she’s worked her way up to strategy and senior management roles in the tobacco and luxury goods industries as well as legal and tax advisory services.
Now, however, Aurelia is the Executive Director of the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (BMCC) and works closely with both the British and Malaysian governments to foster stronger bilateral trade between both nations. She has big plans for the BMCC and the greater role it can play as a channel that not only bridges the private and public sector, but offers its stakeholders news, data and connections.
It’s a busy job, but work-life balance is important to Aurelia and she sets aside time for sports. While it’s hard for her to indulge in her lifelong hobby of skiing here, she hikes, plays golf and recently cycles instead
In her two years here, she’s also become a foodie and travel addict – her list of all the places and things she wants to discover across Malaysia grows longer each day.
04 Dominic Hoffman (GER)
Even though Dominic began with a traditional banking career, the safe path was never for him. His thirst for innovation and challenge led him into the world of startups; he joined venture capital company Rocket Internet SE and helped build up several e-commerce startups in Europe and Asia, including doing stints at Westwing and Zalora.
Since 2014, Dominic has been with the Lazada Group and has spent the last seven months as the Chief Customer Experience Officer of Lazada Malaysia. He’s proudest of being part of the digitalisation of commerce and having a small role in shaping the e-commerce experience in Malaysia. It’s exciting, he says, because Malaysia has all the right ingredients for a booming e-commerce market and it’s just getting started.
Out of the office, Dominic doesn’t stop – if he’s not exploring new running tracks or cycling around Hulu Langat, he’s running in long and ultra-long distance running events like the Tokyo Marathon and Rinjani 100. We think the secret to success is his eight daily cups of espresso – but when life is so exciting, one can’t embrace it with any less than ‘all systems go’!
05 Lucy Walker (UK)
Making jewellery might just be a fun hobby for some people, but for Lucy, it’s part of who she is. At the age of ten, she used to sell her creations to her grandmother and her dad’s friends at the pub for one to two pounds.
However, it wasn’t until she moved to Manila in 2006 and signed up for her Graduate Gemologist diploma that things really got serious. Since then, she’s worked with fine jewellery everywhere from New York to Darwin and has even applied to teach gemology in Botswana!
Instead of Botswana, Lucy came here in 2014 to teach in the jewellery design department at Raffles College of Higher Education Kuala Lumpur. But she’s now taking the next step and setting up her own jewellery academy in Bangsar, where she will offer classes after it officially opens in November.
One exciting collection she’s working on is inspired by many heritage buildings around Kuala Lumpur, such as the old courthouse, which she loves for its combination of colonial, Asian and Malay influences. An exciting tribute to the country that she plans to make home.
06 Heath Kondro (CAN)
Ask Sunway International School’s deputy principal Heath Kondro what first brought him to Malaysia and you’ll be surprised to hear that his story involves a group backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. While his friends left back for Canada, he decided to stay and take a teaching position in Penang.
After some time in and out of Malaysia (including a tenure teaching in Bolivia and Vietnam), Heath found himself back here at Sunway International School, bringing his time in Malaysia to nearly ten years to date. Heath’s administrative duties at school keep him properly busy during the week, so his free time is spent on hiking, road trips or playing in the local ice hockey league each week.
Back in 2002, Heath coached in the Malaysian Ice Hockey Federation, leading a local team to victory at a competitive tournament that year. Heath is currently in charge of the school accreditation for his school’s IB Diploma Programme and hopes one day to continue coaching ice hockey for the younger generation here.
07 Juergen Gallistl (AT)
A nature-lover and traveller at heart, Juergen Gallistl’s first job back home invienna was with Erste Bank, followed by a short time at the Austrian Embassy in Beijing. He arrived in Malaysia eight years ago and has since been instrumental in providing personalised travel services to the underserved Muslim traveller demographic with Tripfez, a Muslim-friendly online travel and hotel platform that he cofounded with local entrepreneur Faeez Fadhlillah.
Juergen is COO at Tripfez, a position that he considers more of his passion than just a job. The successful travel start-up was invited to present at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting, a milestone Juergen recalls as enthusiastically as when Tripfez was featured on the BBC news online.
For Juergen, setting up Tripfez here is an achievement that’s close to his “half-malaysian” heart. When he’s not working or off globetrotting, the soft-spoken Austrian entrepreneur prefers spending time with friends (or a good book, it depends) and exploring what the Malaysian outdoors has to offer.
08 Jim White (AUS)
From sheep and cattle stations in the Australian outback to a large multi-food products corporation in Dubai, Jim has spent 25 years getting to know the food industry inside out. Malaysia is country number eight for this seasoned expat, currently here as the Managing Director of French syrup company Monin Asia.these last nine months have been hectic as he’s been travelling to all markets within Asia-pacific!
Jim’s recently joined the Malaysian Australian Business Council, and since Monin is a French company, he can also be seen at events by the French Embassy and business community. Otherwise, he’s also been exploring the many new mixology bars in KL’S emerging bar scene, and finds himself impressed by the quality and passion of the mixologists.
Having just arrived from the desert sands of the Middle East, Jim loves the green jungles and thunderstorms of Malaysia and is a new nasi lemak convert. Since he and his family plan to stick around for a while, there’ll be plenty of time for them to explore the islands and jungles – and for him, golf courses too!
09 Richard Towle (NZ)
If there’s one person who knows more than most about the conditions surrounding the 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, it’s Richard Towle, Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.
The New Zealander has been with the UNHCR for more than 25 years, assigned to Malaysia from four years ago as UNHCR Representative after being based in Canberra as Regional Representative for Australia, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea and The Pacific.
Richard has been in the thick of human rights reconstruction efforts in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo at the demise of the Balkan Conflict. Now, he says his work with refugees in Malaysia has been a similarly humbling experience and an on-going fight for human dignity in the face of terrible circumstances.
Working with refugees is humbling; you see how ordinary people faced with terrible challenges emerge with courage and dignity” -Richard Towle
Doing what I needed to despite people's negativity around me, going through my studies and other family struggles; those are my proudest moments” -Samar Abdullah Al-montser
10 Samar Abdullah Al-montser (YEM)
When her father was appointed as Ambassador of Yemen to Malaysia, Samar Abdullah’s nine-year journey here thus started. She couldn’t legally work, so she turned her sights to the new community she found herself in. After volunteering, teaching English and Arabic, and a slew of part-time IT jobs, Samar pursued a Master of Arts degree in Education.
While looking for a job, she worked on writing a book and eventually joined the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation’s (WIEF) publications and research department. Samar writes profusely on social issues, politics (occasionally) and poetry. She’s also organised a programme to help Yemeni children in Malaysia integrate into society and cope with the warzone trauma of their home country.
Her first book of poems, When I Danced In My Mind, is available on Amazon. Samar still researches and writes content for WIEF and is increasingly content in what has been a turbulent and busy life so far. Outside of work, you’ll find her staying home to write, paint and plan her next big project.
11 Joseph Ryan (UK)
This UK native began his hospitality journey over a decade ago in London, setting up the popular nightclubs Chinawhite and Aura, before moving into organising luxury events within Formula One. But it was Airasia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, a former partner in Aura, that introduced him to Malaysia.
Joseph moved here in 2015 to help develop TREC, the entertainment hub in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Now, he’s the Director of Special Projects for Zouk Consulting, which owns the renowned ‘Zouk’ club brand – think superclub Zouk Singapore and the Zoukout music festival.
He’s planning to bring both to Genting Highlands soon, along with four Zouk-inspired outlets. Also on his agenda is new lifestyle experience ‘Zouktopia’ for the Genting Dream cruiseliner, which arrives in Southeast Asia by year end.
It’s not all work (or play) though; Joseph is proud of helping set up Trap Neuter Release Manage (TNRM) Malaysia, a not-for-profit which has saved over 3,000 animals in Selangor. He’s also a passionate supporter of Sala Bai Hotel School, a hospitality training school that helps fight poverty and human trafficking. Otherwise, you’ll find him hiking around KL – his favourite escape is trekking to the Chiling Falls and relaxing at The Sticks afterwards.
12 Bruno Col (FRA/AUS)
French-born Bruno has spent most of his professional career in the film and television industry, producing everything from wildlife documentaries and animated television series down to corporate films and advocacy videos.
While Bruno has significant corporate experience, it’s his humanitarian background that really stands out. He’s worked for World Vision as their communications head in Australia and later West Africa; the nature of his job meant he became and continues to be very involved in child protection issues, water and sanitation access as well as gender equality.
At the moment, Bruno’s keeping busy with several communication consultancy jobs in strategy planning, implementing new communication operating models and content curation. He’s offered to produce a film for a Nepal-based women’s rights NGO to help raise awareness and funds. And he’s training to attempt to summit the 6,470m tall Mera Peak in Nepal!
13 Nathalie Seroux (FRA)
The effervescent Nathalie first came to Malaysia 15 years ago and after having her daughter here, she worked in marketing for different parties in the healthcare sector, along with spells with the French Trade Commission and the Malaysian French Chamber of Commerce. Currently, she’s the Marketing Director of Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, thoroughly enjoying the new challenges of a hospital marketing life.
Through her job, Nathalie has met and worked with and helped children with Type 1 diabetes and congenital heart disease.the eyeopening experiences also contribute to her love for working out – she’s now enamoured with martial arts and practices kobudo and karate-do.
Coming from a predominantly Caucasian background made Nathalie embrace Malaysia’s multiculturalism with gusto. She can expound at length on the new religions, languages, food and culture that she’s been exposed to here – Hinduism in particular – and names Malaysians as some of the most welcoming people she’s ever met. While the future is still a blank slate, “I intend to stay in KL for more fun – for sure!”
14 Ed Sanderson (AUS)
Sports has been Ed’s passion since he left school. He’s spent the last 15 years operating sports and entertainment venues and major events throughout Australia, Macau and the London Olympics. He’s met Prince Harry, worked out with Kobe Bryant, hit tennis balls with Andre Agassi…the list goes on.
Ed arrived in January to take on the role of Vice President of local sports marketing agency Total Sports Asia, using his expertise to help improve the operations of sports and entertainment venues and events through the region.
Even outside work, sports are never far from Ed’s mind as he hits the gym, watches sports from all over the world and is permanently on the hunt for a game of basketball in KL. But usually, he’s spending time with his 10-month-old son and preparing for baby number two due in February next year with his wife, an ex-cirque Du Soleil acrobat. We sense a sports-mad family in the making!
15 Paul Baker (UK)
Paul’s musical career began at the Royal Marines School of Music in Kent. He served with various bands in the Royal Marines Band Service, and freelanced as a horn player and conductor.
Paul came to Malaysia on a whim, albeit a smart one that saw him heading the Bentley Music Academy in 2010. He founded the British Academy of Performing Arts (BAPA) this year, a fully integrated performing arts school, with his business partner Karen Donald.
He aspires to make the arts more accessible through his ‘Music for Life’ programme, which aims to help a number of underprivileged students study music for free at BAPA.
The Malaysian premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ is his next ambitious project, featuring a symphony orchestra, four international soloists and a 150-strong choir.
16 Marina Tei (ARG)
Marina’s been in Malaysia for 20 years now, currently the principal of the Hils Learning Centre, an educational centre in Mont Kiara that provides learning support for specialneeds students.
She traded in her job as an English-spanish translator for an educational role 12 years ago when she first discovered that her youngest son seemed incapable of mastering reading, even after visiting several specialists and doctors.
Then someone referred her to the Hils Learning Centre founder Hilary Craig, in whom she found a sympathetic figure who changed the way Marina saw conventional learning. Marina later earned a degree in Learning Difficulties and became a facilitator at Hils Learning. Till today, she maintains her passion for helping kids to reach their full potential against all odds.
17 Chrissy Kha Khrang (MMR)
Chrissy arrived from Myanmar 13 years ago to further her studies and found her true passion – racing in triathlons. She began running in KL in 2004 and has notched up eight Ironman finishes around the world, as well as representing Myanmar at the 2015 South East Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore.
Chrissy once ran a small restaurant catering to the Myanmar community here, but she’d always wanted to work in the fitness industry. So when she and a partner founded HIIT2FIT – Malaysia’s first live heart rate tracking fitness studio – in Publika last year, it was one of her proudest achievements. Reception is good so far and more branches are planned here and in Myanmar.
Closer on the horizon, however, is Chrissy’s 11th Ironman triathlon in Langkawi, the seventh time she’s returned to the island to compete in Ironman Malaysia. Wish her luck!
18 Clive Rogers (UK)
Clive’s 40 years of education experience extends from the UK to Italy, the Caribbean, Oman, parts of Africa, India and now Malaysia.
The lively founding principal of the soon-to-open Peninsular International School Australia in Setia Alam admits that he isn’t very traditional as far as principals go: he started out as a PE teacher and gained a wealth of handson experience in a diverse range of learning environments .
Unsurprisingly, he’s a dedicated advocate for exposure to different cultures and education systems, encouraging kids to develop a global mindset and a greater awareness of their communities.
Clive has his work cut out for him as he prepares for the Peninsular International School Australia’s opening next January. Back home, his ten-year-old son keeps him equally busy.
Erin Sandral (UK/US)
After an illustrious public relations and communications career in London, Erin moved to Singapore, where she became pregnant and developed melasma, a hormonal sensitivity to the sun that results in darkened skin patches. Laser treatment was successful, but the cost was extortionate.
Reasoning that high quality laser treatments can be affordable, Erin and her husband came to Malaysia in 2014 to launch Glo Laser Centres – a pioneer at the time of laser and light-based facials here. It’s been wellreceived; this month, the sixth Glo outlet opens in Suria KLCC.
Erin’s also working on The Bright Bar, a new concept that uses 30 minutes of light therapy to treat skin. But when she has downtime, it’s spent travelling or tackling physical challenges to raise funds for women’s charities with Women on a Mission. She’s hoping to go to Antarctica with them in 2018!