30 Nov 2020 03:31:21 PM

How the Cross Fertilisation Programme Became an Eye-Opening Experience for These 2 Government Officials

How the Cross Fertilisation Programme Became an Eye-Opening Experience for These 2 Government Officials
The Cross Fertilisation Programme is an initiative by the Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) aka the Public Service Department (PSD)’s Special Unit for High Potential and SME Section (SUPREME), where participants are placed into various private companies for the purpose of knowledge sharing. 
This year, two Cross Fertilisation Programme participants were placed at KPMG in Malaysia; Dr Fatimah Kamal and Nik Mohd Fahim bin Muhaimin. Both are currently serving as Associate Directors for the company’s Business Transformation Division. 
Before joining the programme, Dr. Fatimah was attached to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) under the Prime Minister’s Department and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and has had 17 years of experience in the public service. 

Meanwhile, Nik Mohd Fahim has been with the elite Administrative and Diplomatic Service for the last 15 years and was posted at a few ministries related to sectorial economic development, investment promotion, and trade facilitation. 

We had the opportunity to interview them about their placement experience at KPMG: 

1. What were your initial feelings before you signed on to the programme? How did you feel afterwards as you’re going through it? 

Dr. Fatimah: Before I signed on to the programme, I was a bit anxious. At the same time, I was looking forward to new experiences and challenges. Most importantly I was excited to learn good practices and leadership skills that I can bring back and apply in the civil service. 

When I started, I was assigned to be part of the team that was undertaking the National Policy Study. As it’s a new thing for me, I’d to learn everything from scratch. I had very dynamic, resilient and young team members, and surprisingly they welcomed and accepted me as part of the team rather quickly although I’m an outsider. 

Nik Mohd Fahim:
I was excited because I went through a very competitive selection process before being selected for this prestigious programme. I’m truly honoured and my secondment at KPMG has been an eye-opening learning experience.
Photo Credit: Dr. Fatimah Kamal
In the beginning, Dr Fatimah was anxious to step out of her comfort zone, but was welcomed by her new colleagues.

2. Tell us about a challenge that you managed to overcome while undergoing the programme.  

Dr. Fatimah: The main challenge for me was coming out of my comfort zone and trying something different in a competitive environment with new co-workers. I managed to overcome this with good support from KPMG’s human resources department and also my team members. The officers-in-charge in the SUPREME division of JPA have been extremely helpful in terms of providing advice and support whenever I need guidance and help.

Nik Mohd Fahim: I haven’t encountered serious challenges since I joined the firm, as from the first day I’d mentally prepared myself to understand the new working environment and adapt to it by embracing a win-win approach. I believe that you should always be an asset to the company and seek insights as much as possible from subject matter experts spanning a range of industries including those from tax advisory, data analytics and corporate restructuring.

3. What are the 3 new skills that you’ve learned from the Cross Fertilisation programme? 

Dr. Fatimah: 

i) Develop effective presentation materials: Skills to develop effective Microsoft PowerPoint presentations was something I was looking forward to mastering during my time here at KPMG. It’s important to have the creativity to develop good designs, but to put together the best content requires critical thinking, good articulation and an interesting storyline.

ii) Improve interpersonal skills: My current scope of work requires active engagement with clients and constant communication with my teammates. I needed to build trust and a positive relationship with both parties so we can meet the project outcomes. Stress issues and team conflicts do pop-up now and then. Being the most senior in the team, I try to resolve these issues by having open discussions and provide alternative solutions to keep the team intact and moving forward.

iii) Negotiation skills: One of the skills that I’ve admired in successful consultants is their negotiation skills, their ability to diplomatically disagree with the client’s point of view and stand firm by their principles. This is something that I hope to learn more during my programme attachment through observations and participation in meetings and high-level discussions.
Photo Credit: Freepik
Communication proves to be an essential skill gained during the participants’ time in the Cross Fertilisation programme.

Nik Mohd Fahim: 

i) Leadership and management. I learned how the main principles and practices of leadership and management still can be refined despite the difference in organisational model, size, and nature of jobs.

ii) Communication applied throughout work processes internally and with external parties.  Stakeholder management can be vividly observed from several situations such as the humbleness of the engagement partner in articulating insights and solutions objectively. Another communication skill is an improved flair in report writing and presentation to make it potent to the audience.

iii) Time management, where I was taught how and when to prioritise while dealing with pressure and still being able to make the right decision.

4. How do you plan to leverage the skills acquired from the programme for future work? 

Dr. Fatimah: The skills acquired will be useful in my future placements in the civil service in multiple areas such as in policymaking, operational management, human resource management or engagement with stakeholders. During my previous placements in EPU and MITI, I was directly involved in engaging consultants for studies related to government policies. Through this programme, I have a better understanding of a consultant’s nature of work and the challenges they face in delivering outcomes as desired by clients. It also changed my perspective on the active role that the project teams in the Ministry should play in terms of providing strategic directions and substantial content. 
Photo Credit: Nik Mohd Fahim bin Muhaimin
Nik Mohd Fahim will be implementing the knowledge he has gained when he returns to the public sector.
Nik Mohd Fahim: I plan to apply the respective skills I’ve garnered accordingly within my circle of office colleagues and other relevant stakeholders from time to time.

5. In your opinion, how does the Cross Fertilisation programme help strengthen the relationship between the private sector and the government? Where do you see it benefitting Malaysia?

Dr. Fatimah: Participants of this programme have had the opportunity to be exposed to the private sector’s working culture and environment; we enjoyed the privilege to work with transformational leaders and acquire knowledge on good practices in the private sector and some of these good practices have been emulated in the public sector. The programme has also contributed towards the personal development of the participants in terms of soft skills and technical knowledge, and in a larger perspective towards national talent development.

Nik Mohd Fahim: The programme helps to foster understanding of different functions geared towards supporting national development.
The social bonds I have made with colleagues at KPMG will be meaningful in the future. I also learned a handful of solutions that KPMG offers that are relevant to the public sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic." - Nik Fahim 

Photo Credit: Freepik
The Cross Fertilisation programme fosters meaningful and productive co-operation between the public and private sectors.
The Cross Fertilisation programme not only benefits civil servants and the government, but also participating companies. Here’s what Nik Anira Nik Mohd Zain, Head of Strategy & Operations (S&O) and Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory (SSOA) units at the KPMG Management Consulting practice had to say about her experience working with the participants: 

1. How is your experience so far with supervising the Cross Fertilisation programme participants?

Nik Anira: The last eight months have been a memorable experience, particularly in drawing ideas in the perspective of both public and private sector for project delivery. Both Dr. Fatimah and Nik Mohd Fahim have strong leadership skills. I’ve witnessed them leading my young energetic team and adjust themselves to the culture of KPMG. 

2. How does the Cross Fertilisation programme benefit your company? 

Nik Anira: It has benefitted KPMG in the area of knowledge transfer and sharing, understanding different working styles and most importantly, strengthening our networking relationship. In return, we provide both of them an exposure to the challenges in delivering public sector jobs from the consultants’ standpoint.

Keen to know more about the Cross Fertilisation Programme and want to explore potential industry partnerships with us? Drop us an e-mail at industrypartnerships@talentcorp.com.my