10 May 2019 12:00:00 PM

Here's what Saffura's mother taught her about work

In the third installment of our special Mother’s Day series, we spoke to Saffura Chinniah, Vice President of Group Communications and Sustainability at Axiata Group Berhad. She shared with us the trials and tribulations of returning to the workforce after a nine-year career break.  

(Read part 1 and part 2 of the series)

 Saffura Chinniah never considered herself particularly maternal. However, after giving birth to her first child, she decided to take a career break.

“I knew without a doubt that it was fundamentally impossible to leave home for the office after 60 days of having a baby. I made this decision to resign from my job and stay home with the newborn,” she said.

But the calling of the workplace was never far away.

“The fear of the ‘real world’ striding ahead and leaving you in the dust is crippling,” she said. “Staying at home and worrying about laundry and diapers, meals and carpools can cut a grown woman at her knees. When she stands in front of a hiring manager with a resume in her hand, she is battling her sense of worth and readiness.”

 Saffura traced her grit as a career woman to her upbringing as a child in a single-parent home.

“I saw for myself how my mother, who was a teacher, take on the role of provider and only parent when my father died unexpectedly when we were young. My three brothers and I could only depend on her and she did not drop the baton. With her teacher’s salary she shouldered on, moonlighting for extra money by selling Pyrex, Tupperware and Cosway,” she said.

That determination and sheer force of will rubbed off on young Saffura, and when she was pregnant with her third child, she could see herself walking in the footsteps of her mother.

 “It dawned on me, that as a woman, I have no other choice but to hold myself to greater accountability. In the end, when the dust settles, my children are solely dependent on me, just like how my brothers and I could only turn to my mother.”


But coming back into the workforce after almost a decade away is not without its challenges. 

“The first few months of returning to the workforce as an ‘Associate Manager’ of an international PR agency were probably the most heart-wrenching, soul-searing and confidence-killing experience to last a lifetime,” she said, adding that the main challenge she faced with the organisation was the lack of patience and compassion to allow for a bit of time to those returning to figure out the new normal.

“A little kindness could have gone a long way for this young mother to gather her bearings and rise to the challenge.”

However, just like her mother before her, Saffura persevered. “Women are incredible creations of fortitude and tenacity,” she said. “They should leverage on their inherent, God-given strengths of intuition, willpower and grit.”

Motherhood should not stop women from raising their capacity, honing their skills and reimagining themselves as a warrior battling for their place in the world.  “You raise families, you nurture, you solve problems, you bring people together, you multitask and make things work. Bring that to the fore!”, she advised. 

She is also very encouraged and, in some ways, envious as to how Talent Corp’s Career Comeback programme is helping the new generation of women.
“Women are incredible creations of fortitude and tenacity. They should leverage on their inherent, God-given strengths of intuition, willpower and grit.”
“They actually have a professional and committed organisation looking out for their interests and sensitive to the issues of getting women back into the workforce. How refreshing and thoughtful!”

We asked Saffura, now a VP of a multinational company, mother of four and enjoying her days at work, what advice she would give her 15-year old self.

“Realise and cherish the importance of independence in how it can shape your life and take you places. Learn the art. Embrace its challenges. Conquer your fears around standing bare and naked in your independence. It is what will make you fearless, a warrior, a fighter and person where others, meek and mild, may find solace and comfort.”

We wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day! 

If you are looking for opportunities to return to work, do register with our Career Comeback programme for updates on workshops and job openings: www.talentcorp.com.my/careercomeback 

For employers who are looking to attract, nurture and retain their talent, come speak to us about how to implement Work-Life Practices and Flexible Work Arrangements at your workplace. Drop us an e-mail at worklifepractices@talentcorp.com.my.