02 Apr 2020 05:20:09 PM

Catherine Lian's turning point to return back to Malaysia

Catherine Lian, a TalentCorp Returning Expert Programme returnee.

Catherine Lian’s journey abroad began over a decade ago when she was given the challenge to manage the South Asia countries. The stint shaped her worldview to be culturally cognizant; a habit she continues to practice to this day.

The economics graduate from Universiti Utara Malaysia began her career in the IT industry as an account manager for a multinational that took her across South Asian countries from Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Korea, Singapore and more recently, Indonesia before returning to lead IBM as its Managing Director in Malaysia.
Reflecting on her journey living abroad and working across Asia, Catherine reveals that resilience is an imperative for success. 
[Working abroad] really built up my resilience to the next level. It’s all about adapting and embracing the cultures of countries that I've worked and lived in.
She cites Pakistan’s business market as the most enriching work experience she has had to date. “Pakistan is a very dynamic and cultured country, with a lot of opportunities especially in the IT market.”
Catherine credits her family’s support and understanding as one of the main reasons for achieving success in her career.

“In a world where women are at the front line in executive roles, there is always a need to balance between work and life. It is not easy to have someone like me who moved around different countries for more than 10 years to finally decide to return to Malaysia. The family unit system is very important, especially for a woman who is also a daughter, wife and a mother.”
Although Catherine always envisioned herself returning to her homeland eventually, there were still many things to consider before making the final move back home.

“I gave myself a timeline of a decade. Of course, there are many considerations: where do you draw the line of coming back to Malaysia after such a dynamic stint overseas? For me it was a mix of reasons but mostly because I have this calling in me that that I’m doing so well abroad and  wasn’t contributing to my home country."
I started thinking, if I could do so much for other countries in my multiple regional roles, why can’t I do the same for my home country? That was the really the deciding factor for me.
Catherine Lian speaking to TalentCorp on her decision to return to Malaysia.

TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme (REP) role in Catherine’s decision to return was timely. And she has high praise for the programme.

“It is a great platform to bring back the talents of today and of the future. The incentives really push through to the Malaysian diaspora like myself, because you always have to consider the remuneration when you return."
TalentCorp plays an important role in bringing together Malaysian experts and providing us with the opportunity to contribute back to our country.
Since her return, Catherine has thoroughly enjoyed working with the local talents and is enthusiastic about her interactions with her colleagues. She has only positive things to say about Malaysia’s working culture, and Malaysians' readiness to embrace the digital changes impacting the world.
“I think Malaysia professionals are generally hardworking and dedicated to their roles. There is also mutual respect in our work and social ethics. At IBM Malaysia, we have a strong culture of diversity, working ethics and integrity, which I greatly admire.”
From this, Catherine sees a lot of potential in Malaysia. She shares her passion about developing the Malaysian market, especially through Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) agenda.
“Women leaders are scarce in both the Malaysian and international markets. I want to be a part of the D&I agenda to share that we have good female leaders here. I hope to lead a pathway for future generations, that the opportunity is here if they want it.”
"I want to be a part of the Diversity and Inclusion agenda to share that we have good female leaders here." - Catherine Lian. Photo credit: IBM Malaysia.

When asked to share a personal note for Malaysian talents abroad, Catherine was hopeful.
“We need to contribute together as a united executive, and we can make a difference to the economy of Malaysia. We can play a part in morphing the talents in Malaysia to the next level."
It all depends on us to share what we have experienced and learned, and to transfer our skills and knowledge back to our home country.

Many Malaysians have returned from abroad under TalentCorp's Returning Expert Programme (REP). To learn more about the REP, visit our website at www.rep.talentcorp.com.my.