Time to show up and stand out
BEFORE he became a skills mentor and founded his venture start-up, Khairul Anwar Kamarudin encountered some bumps along his journey towards success. First, he dropped out of university. Then, he had a failed business.
But he was ever ready to “pick himself up, dust himself off and start all over again”, to quote an old song.
Though reserved by nature, Khairul Anwar always had an independent streak and that’s not easy for one who is the eldest of five children.
After Form Three, he asked to continue his studies in a boarding school. There, over two years, he made many friends in a totally different social environment away from his family.
“It was a whole new world for me, and I embraced my new-found freedom,” he said.
Khairul Anwar said he was always fascinated by the science of physics, which for him represented the mechanics of how the world worked.
After SPM, he underwent matriculation in engineering and then started his degree course in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
He then experienced the culture shock of having to be responsible and committed to his coursework.
“I was used to being playful and enjoying my freedom, and neglected my studies,” he said.
“I was more keen on having a good time, and also my mind was fixed on earning more pocket money than doing well in school.”
Khairul Anwar had all along performed well in school, easily scoring in his exams, until he entered varsity when he suddenly found it a struggle to put the effort in his studies.
To earn money, he worked late nights in a hotel as a banquet waiter.
He stood out in this area and impressed his supervisors, who kept requesting for his services.
“I was a fast learner and very hardworking, and soon I was tasked to serve the dignitaries at VIP tables,” he said.
Due to his poor academic performance at UPM, Khairul Anwar had to drop out and went on to work in F&B outlets in two hotels.
“The money was good, and payment was immediate after each shift,” he said.
Meanwhile, his interest in F&B began to grow and he started learning more about the subject from the Internet during his non-working hours.
The knowledge he acquired was enough to get him hired in a top fine-dining restaurant, where a regular patron became his first mentor.
“This customer would give me tips that were even more than the cost of his meal,” said Khairul Anwar.
“One day, I asked how he became so rich, and also why he was so generous.
“He replied that he was not that rich because he liked giving money to those in need. He then asked me to save the tips I earned for my further studies, and also to report to him my progress.”
Thanks to this advice, Khairul Anwar enrolled as a part-time student with the Open University Malaysia where he made the Dean’s List three times and earned his Business degree in Marketing.
Even before he graduated, however, Khairul Anwar found employment in a training company where his boss became his second mentor.
“From the Internet, I had also learned how to do PowerPoint, and that came in useful for this job which involved presentation skills,” he said.
“My position was meant for someone with a degree and though I had yet to earn mine, I was still offered the job.”
Khairul Anwar said his father, a technician, had always encouraged him and his siblings to read, and bought newspapers and secondhand books for them.
“This boss was very well-read and his office had a library filled with business books and magazines which I could borrow anytime. He even passed me magazines like after he had finished with them.”
In 2007, Khairul Anwar was named the company’s best sales manager, but that did not stop him from leaving his job the following year to open a restaurant together with his brother, a chef.
The venture, however, did not survive in the face of a global economic crisis.
Khairul Anwar then joined the IT firm Skali where he was a strategy consultant working with users and programmers and after that, he worked in CareerXcell where he was a learning development manager engaging overseas talent.
Meanwhile, he also earned his MBA in Islamic finance and banking from Asia e University, where he was awarded merit scholarships three times.
In Oct 2012, Khairul Anwar became the CEO of UKM TEEM where he worked on several talent development projects based in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
During this time, he was introduced to the concept of design thinking at Genovasi as well as a MaGIC-sponsored course on start-up development with Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
This exposure led to the creation in 2014 of courseMY.com, an Internet start-up that Khairul Anwar founded which allows local industries to offer content in digital format to younger students for exposure and experience.
Under Cradle’s Coach and Grow programme, he acquired hands-on techniques of growing a start-up where he met with experienced entrepreneurs and also built his own confidence as an entrepreneur.
An advocate of design thinking, Khairul Anwar is today a certified coach and the founder/ executive director of DT Leadership.
“My mission now is to make youth realise the need to stand out, the earlier the better so as to be competitive sooner than later,” he said.
“They can go to places like MaGIC for tech entrepreneurship opportunities.
“For reading material, I recommend
by Tom Kelley,
Skills training in session.