07 Mar 2016 11:00:49 AM

These 3 Malaysians returned to Malaysia at the peak of their international careers

Many Malaysians working abroad wonder if there is a place for them back home, especially when it comes to their career growth.
In 2010, there are more than 300,000* Malaysians living and working abroad in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

Most left home in their early twenties to study abroad and ultimately, chose to stay on in the countries where their careers began. As years go by, their résumés speak volumes of the breadth of experience and skill garnered. These individuals, established specialists in their own right, make up a formidable pool of talent with global experience and skillset.

TalentCorp spoke to three of these individuals who shared their stories and told us why they chose to return home.
The Experience Abroad

Consultant respiratory physician, Dr Sundari Ampikaipakan, left Malaysia as a teenager to read medicine. After graduating from the National University of Ireland, she went on to serve in hospitals in the UK, including the notable Papworth Hospital, host of the United Kingdom’s largest cardiothoracic unit. At the time of her return, she had spent two decades abroad, pursuing various sub-specialties in respiratory medicine.

“In Malaysia, there aren’t that many specialists in the country,” she reflects, "We don’t have the higher-end tertiary care that you get in Europe or the US.”

For the CEO of insurance giant AIG Malaysia, Antony Lee, living in foreign places was an enrichment exercise that allowed him to fast-track his learning and broaden his perspectives. Coming home after 12 years abroad, he claimed to have benefited the most from the many countries, cultures and societies which he lived in over the years.

Datuk Iain Lo, Chairman of Shell Malaysia, left Malaysia for London at a young age. It was the start of his international journey which later saw him going the United States first as a student, then as an earthquake engineer. For him, being abroad exposes a person to multiple cultures and experiences. “It enriches one’s life and one’s perspective and helps you make more balanced decisions in your life and in your work.”
The Call Of Family & Home
Like many Malaysians before them, both Dr Sundari and Antony concur that family is a big pull factor in the decision to return home.

"I left home as a teenager, and spent all my developmental years in the UK,” said Sundari, "It was time to come home."
Antony echoed Dr Sundari's sentiment. "When you’re working abroad, you’re obviously very much alone. You don’t have that family connectedness."

Antony is a strong believer in creating opportunities. “This is a global economy, countries compete with each other,” said Antony.
“The more that we as Malaysians have connections in the other countries, the more we are able to leverage on our connections for the benefit of our country.”
For Datuk Iain whose dream was to leave a mark in the world, his journey home was an exercise in giving back to both his country and the company he works for. "Shell Malaysia has been extremely good to me," he said, "Returning home was a way to give back to place that has given me so much experience and opportunities."
What Coming Home Means
The popular belief is that, the best and brightest Malaysians would leave the country and never return, contributing to an irreversible brain drain situation that will cripple our nation’s talent pipeline.

The conversations with Antony, Dr Sundari and Datuk Iain suggest otherwise. "It's important that people who want to come back, think about why they want to come back. If they can find it in their heart and spirit, they will see that there is still a lot of opportunities in Malaysia,” Antony stressed.

He added, "The grass is always greener. But having been overseas and seen so many things, Malaysia is probably one of the best countries to live in.”

Referring to the desire of subspecialty skillsets in the medical profession, Dr Sundari said that “people need to look and see where their skills are needed, they’d be surprised to see just how much their skills are needed.”

Ultimately, for these three individuals, returning home has also given them the opportunity to make a difference to this place called home.

 “We all do our own little bit to make our difference, we’re all proud to be Malaysians, and that’s why we’re home,” said Sundari.
"I have no regrets. It’s home and I’m glad to be home."

Watch the full video below and discover their journey home.

* Data sourced from World Bank (2015) Improving the Effectiveness of TalentCorp’s Initiatives. World Bank Group.


Malaysia’s economic progress is creating new dynamic career pathways in key growth areas, drawing back Malaysians attracted to their professional development opportunities.

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