ValuableDiversity (Interview Series) – Ep. 14 – A Brilliant Mind (Joy Abdullah)
Introducing you to interesting people around the world
Meet Joy Abdullah
– Marketing Director & Strategist (Putra Jaya, Malaysia) –
Life is a roller-coaster and we barely find ourselves out, at times. We’re trapped in a choice, yet we wish we could do more for the loved ones.
My guest for today is a strong man, willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. His energetic nature and background as marketing leader are 2 assets that will make him succeed.
However, he’s facing a tough situation – despite being open-minded – due to ageism. Yet, he’s got so much more to say… Let’s find out more from the below interview…
1. Good day, Joy. Please introduce yourself, for the people that never had a chance to get in touch with you.
I was born in UK, raised in India and I am now settled in Malaysia. Ethnically I am Indian. Since the very beginning of my life, environmental diversity has always been there. Over the course of my life I have lived across 3 countries, in 7 cities and 18 houses. I adapted, learned and assimilated different environments and their facilities and culture.
“Every action has an opposite and equal reaction“
Lots of people ask me about my name – Joy Abdullah. That’s my brand. It comes from my birth name, aligns with my purpose and states who I am. It sends a message. A message of being different.
I’m grateful to my parents for providing this in-built diversity in me.
2. Our first off-line interaction was delightful. And, ever since, I noticed that you have a real passion for helping the others. Myself included. Please tell us: how did you come to this attitude?
Many moons ago, when the word “diversity” was not in the business lexicon and I was but a mere pup, I had the privilege of interacting with a very learned man. This man used to tutor my father on Arabic and Persian languages, as my father used to do translations as a hobby. My father – by profession – was a Chartered Accountant, by the way!
In my interactions with this learned gentleman, I was introduced to the concept (that I call) ‘check & balance’. It’s actually a simple concept of doing good and adding to your asset section of your life’s balance sheet; by doing bad you add to the liability section. At the end of our physical life, we’ll tend to see that our life has been based on the choices we have made in doing good or bad.
This made imminent sense to me! I absorbed it. Yet, I did not do anything with it for over a decade! But then later, a couple of incidents occurred, that made me realize that I wasn’t using the learning I had been exposed to…
That is when I began to reach out and help others, if I may say, selflessly. As a logic, it’s very simple: by helping others in any way that you can you add good wishes to your life’s asset section. By virtue of doing good time is not available to do bad and, thus, your liability section is very less. In the end, with a higher asset value, perhaps one just may be able to get the necessary pass to go to heaven.
3. I would love if everyone learned about your view on diversity, on a personal level, for several reasons. One of them is your multicultural way of living. Born in India, raised in UK and living in Malaysia, for more than a decade (17 years) . How did all this experience influence the man you are today?
I do beg your pardon if what I am going to say sounds like pontificating. Without this example, however, I cannot explain my view on diversity.
See the different colours of sand in the picture below. These are various types of sands, from all over the world. What do you see?
” To me, THAT is diversity!“
All are sand and yet they look different! At our core we are all HUMAN BEINGS. We are created to be together (i.e. ‘it takes a village to raise a child’); we are created to help each other up through communication and supporting each other; we are created to live in the moment—“being”.
Just like the sands, at our core we are one and the same. We simply look different, act different, have different rituals and communication habits. Yet we are the same.
You asked me about my multi-cultural way of living and how it has influenced me… I am ethnically an Indian and technically British and yet a lot of British culture influences my outlook, personality and behavior. The stiff upper-lip, for example, “men are not given to displaying emotions”. On top of that layer, the fact that I was not born a Muslim. I accepted Islam, because it gave me answers to some really important life questions, much later in life. In fact ,as a Muslim, I am only 21 years old! And my family is a mixed-culture family!
In my view, DIVERSITY is an asset that God created for man to use and respect. It gives a different perspective of an issue to those who are open and willing to learn. This is what shapes me and my personality when I interact with anyone today. There are three things I say to myself – before I speak or interact – in person or on-line, with anyone:
- Give the person a chance to share what is bothering him or her and see if it is within your given capabilities to help today;
- If you are able to help, say that and help, without any expectation;
- When someone is aggressive or vitriolic, let the person speak on and run out of steam. Do not react, respond or reply until you have had the chance to ponder over the details and separated the facts from the emotions.
4. I understand that it had a lot of advantages for you. However, do you see any disadvantage, when it comes to diversity?
Diversity had gotten a bad name today. The perception of diversity is now covered in “isms’—Racialism; Ageism; Communalism, etc. These have come about due to various social practices, over the decades, and normalization of doing wrong. We all know various examples that we can refer or state. Today we are trying to right the wrongs done 20 or 30 years ago. And society will take the similar amount of time to change. After all, every action has an opposite and equal reaction.
The one hope I have is with the increasing focus on technology and huge changes in business lifestyles will change. Perhaps, humans will have more time to do what we would call ‘non-work stuff’, in the coming years. That is when, perhaps, there will be increased tolerance arising from more intellectual debates and engagement for the betterment of human.
5. On the other hand, on a professional level, what were the benefits you discovered? What about the downsides. Are there any?
On a professional level having a diverse cultural background helped me to get job roles that required understanding different communities and groups and managing diverse teams effectively. But I have to say that this particular advantage seems to have lost its edge, in terms of being valuable in companies, in the past 7-8 years. Perhaps it has to do with the insularity that has increased in countries, in the same time.
I haven’t found any downside to diversity as yet.
6. The call we had covered a wide range of topics. And a very important one was ageism, which actually took us to the off-line connection, thanks to one of Norma Kraft’s posts. Please tell us how would you define ageism.
Ageism, as I had mentioned earlier, is part of the “isms’ syndrome”, as I call it. This has come about in the past decade. Specifically after 2008-09 global financial crisis. I’m not a cultural anthropologist, though I wish I was; but I believe that, if we look at the socio-economic scenario of the past 10 years, we will see some parallels with the period of the Great Depression prior to WWII. With economic scarcity come attached a lot of other scarcities! And in 2008-09, with financial markets tanking and unemployment increasing, this economic scarcity came into play and to some extent is still there.
” DIVERSITY is an asset that God created for man to use and respect”
Where it impacts and creates ageism is in businesses which only knew to shore up their profitability, through cost-saving measures and, thus, laying off people! And the people… They started laying off, retrenching or even terminating were those who were a high salary cost (i.e. high basic salary and high medical insurance – those above 50)!
Any form of discrimination, in any benefit to anyone of a certain age, is ageism to me. And by discrimination, I mean injustice.
7. From what I see, some people are still afraid of speaking up, though more and more team-up to make a change. Do you foresee any change, in regards to the above mentioned discrimination aspect, in the following 5 years?
The short answer is yes.
The speed at which technology is making business change is simply amazing. There’s enough stuff out there that will tell you that our innovation progress cycle has come down to something like weeks now! It used to be 50 years when I was a management trainee, 30 years ago. So that’s point one.
The second point is that people are extremely adaptive. After all, ‘survival of the fittest’ is – in a way – also hardwired in us and we’re at the top of the food chain. So, we are adapting technology to suit our consumption lifestyle and this is having a major impact on businesses.
Some businesses are able to view these two incoming major life changes. Others are running scared from their own shadows and are basically afraid to own up transparently and say they haven’t the foggiest idea of what to do.
But to answer your question… In another 3-5 years, we will see the emergence of jobs that would require a huge amount of soft skill expertise (i.e. direct verbal and written communication; one-on-one interaction for deals; managing team emotions; intellect content development in education etc). This requirement will not be fulfilled by the 25-35 age workforce and companies all over would be forced to bring back the 50+ or current baby boomers and Gen Y to cross-function, groom and prepare the workforce. Succession planning and a talent management would probably become two of the hottest jobs, next to tech coding and marketing. This will, then, put to rest the issue of ageism.
8. You are in a very sensitive situation now and I know how hard it is to find your place. Is there any message you would like to send to the readers? I think we’re all hanging onto hope…
I’m sure you have heard the quote: ‘Life gives the experience first and the lesson after’…
Well… I learned that, probably, a bit too late in life… But I learned it!
Everything that happens to us, in every moment of our lives, is an experience that has been given with one purpose and that purpose is learning. It is up to us, since we are blessed with the ability to choose, to read that situation or scenario as a ‘glass half-full or glass half empty’ and behave accordingly.
” Cherish every moment as a valued gift and always lend a hand, in any way, to a fellow man“
What I mean is that life is not a straight line. There are ups and downs and, in those times, we have to remember that the up or down is a moment which will pass. If it’s happy times, we have to remember it will also go. If it’s hard times, we have to remember that too shall pass.
We need to hold onto two beliefs in our mind:
- One there is a learning, in that moment, for us to be a better self and
- Secondly, the moment is not a man-defined moment of time, but a heavenly one.
After working for 7 years at a stretch in a role, I finished my previous corporate role this January and – like everyone else – started looking for a new role. At the same time, I wanted to use my knowledge in developing business sustainability, through developing robust brand experiences with business who are interested in a dual function: managing to keep daily profitability going, whilst investing in activities that will bring financial growth.
So, during the job-search, I went about establishing my advisory business and getting it going. In both the areas it has been a tough going thus far, but I am confident that by persevering, speaking on brand experience value, providing content and value, and being patient, I will reap the rewards in time. Two motivators have kept me going: one is my belief that life experiences are meant to improve oneself; the second is the desire to give back to society, through the experience I have, in a way that I can add value.
9. If you could change 1 thing in this very moment, what would that be?
No scarcity of anything that people need to be comfortable. That is the one thing that I would change.
Instead of wealth being consolidated in the hands of few, all would be comfortable and have enough to meet their needs. Not rich, but comfortable.
This world has too much pain, created by man’s immature behavior in all ways; and the only way to set it right is to do the right thing, always. One person at a time.
10. And, if you were to have just 1 day left, what would be the craziest thing you would do? And what would be your message to the world?
I would spend that day, the entire 24 hours, with my family to create some memories of those 24 hours that will stay with them through their lives. At the end of the day, we actually live in our heads and our brain holds all our memories; and these provide us impetus.
My message to the world would be:
“Live today, for today. Be present. Be engaged fully with the people that really matter: your spouse, partner, children, near and dear ones. Cherish every moment as a valued gift and always lend a hand, in any way, to a fellow man.”
It’s a pity that such a brilliant mind has to face adversity, don’t you think?
Reach out to my guest. You may be surprised by the discussions you can have with him. 🙂
*The photos used in this article were provided by the rightful owner, with clear consent. Using them without prior agreement may become object of the copyright law. All rights reserved to Joy Abdullah*
Joy Abdullah can be reached via the following channels: