Helping returnees assimilate
VARIOUS issues cited as reasons why top brains and talents from Malaysia choose to work abroad include a transparent bureaucratic system, non-discriminatory policies, meritocracy, opportunities for professional development, intellectually stimulating working environment and affordable quality education for children.
Dr Meera Shah, 30, chief resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital in the United States, feels that attracting talents back to Malaysia takes a lot more than just offering better salary and work opportunities.
“There is one aspect of being globally competitive that involves business opportunities and wages but it goes beyond that for a lot of people, particularly if you’re trying to attract an intellectual class,” she said via e-mail.
Dr Meera, whose husband is a British-born Indian, appreciates the training and working environment she is currently in.
“In terms of academic medicine, the US has a meritocratic system which has been in place for several decades and is very structured. Training is standardised, there’s quality control, and training institutions are in competition to attract the best people. Emphasis and money are put on research, mentors are plentiful, and new ideas are always brought forward. It is this kind of environment that stimulates real thinking.”
Nevertheless, she has contemplated returning to Malaysia to work.
“But I hear true accounts of blatant discrimination regarding opportunities for further training and academic positions. That put me off,” said Dr Meera, who also questions the calibre of some government scholars who are chosen to study medicine abroad.
“Professionally, if I know I would be on an equal platform with everyone else, it would be much more attractive for me to return. Our education system is also in tatters. I would not want my child to be learning history from books which have been rewritten to suit its authors,” said the mother of one.
Landscape architect Augustine Wong, based in North Carolina, the Sabahan Augustine Wong, a landscape architect based in North Carolina, the United States, with his American wife Judith Marie Rohrs, a homemaker. He lauds the Government’s move to bring back talented Malaysians from abroad. United States, said the Talent Corporation is a good idea.
“It is about time the Government looked at bringing back talented Malaysians abroad,” said Wong, 49, via e-mail.
Wong has his own consultancy that provides landscape architecture, urban design and civil engineering services.
He was recently appointed by the US Transportation Research Board in Washington DC to serve on the Landscape and Environmental Design Committee.
A father of four, Wong is keen to contribute his expertise to Malaysia. One of his aims is to create an international committee of sustainability experts involving other Malaysian professionals to protect Malaysia’s and the region’s sensitive environment.
“I think most Malaysians would like to work in both countries – Malaysia and the adopted country. This way, it helps both countries in many areas.”
However, he would like to see a level playing field for all regardless of race and religion, equal funding sources for entrepreneurs, and incentives and opportunities for innovators and inventors.
“To make this happen, the Government should conduct a work session with Malaysians abroad. This will provide a framework for the Government on how the plan should be formulated, developed and implemented. Without input from Malaysians abroad, it will be a one-sided government view which might not be accepted by returning Malaysians.
“Keep in mind that Malaysian professionals abroad are used to working in diverse environments with a different political climate, social interaction and quality of life. As a result, there is a need to ‘assimilate’ them into the Malaysian environment, otherwise there would be conflicting goals, vision or passion,” said Wong, whose American wife, Judith Marie Rohrs, is a homemaker.
If Wong were to return to Malaysia, he intends to set up his own consultancy firm, so a comparable salary will not be an issue for him.
“I think every Malaysian should be given the opportunity to be what they want to be so they can be good, contributing and responsible citizens (to their country), regardless of race or religion.”
A Malaysian who has returned home is engineer Dr Nurul Muiz Murad, who came back from Australia in June last year. Before he returned, he worked as an environmentally sustainable design consultant with a private company in Melbourne, Victoria.
He is currently the principal and technical director of his own consultancy which specialises in green technology.
“Any move by the Government to woo back talents to Malaysia should be applauded. From my point of view, the main problem in Malaysia at the moment is the lack of local expertise to implement government policies through action plans,” said Muiz, 34.
Before returning to Malaysia, he spent two years doing his own research and talking to people to get a clear picture of what to expect.
“That put things in perspective and eased me through the assimilation to Malaysian life. I am lucky that things have been quite easy for me to adapt to ever since I came back.
“I believe that Malaysia is a gold mine. There are a lot of opportunities provided you know what you want and where to look. Like every other country, Malaysia is unique in how things are being run over here, so there is no point in being too idealistic.
“Be street-smart and think outside the box – that’s the key to being successful in Malaysia for those who wish to return home from abroad,” he said.
He feels that Malaysia needs more local talents overseas to return and set up businesses to drive the economy further.
“Those who have come back and set up their own businesses need to employ local Malaysian talent so that the knowledge and expertise is passed down and retained,” said Muiz.
There are three things that he hopes the Government will do for Malaysians who return. The first is to set up more special funds either through grants or soft loans exclusively for Malaysians returning from abroad so that it will be easier for them to start up their own businesses.
“At the moment, start-up loans available are through small-medium enterprise banks in the form of soft loans. I think more is needed.”
He said the Government should Before he returned to Malaysia, Dr Nurul Muiz Murad talked to people to get a clearer picture of what to expect. For him, the assimilation process was smooth. also set up briefing sessions for Malaysians returning from abroad so that they know exactly who to approach and where to look for information.
“Set up a special directory or database for returning Malaysians and make it available online so that anyone who requires a specific skill can look up the database,” he said. –