10 things about: Chan May Wah, director at a recruitment firm

Chan May Wah is a director at Michael Page ― a multinational recruitment firm ― and oversees diverse portfolios. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 ― From cleaning toilets in a fast food restaurant to selling make-up kits from door to door, Chan May Wah has done them all.

Today, she is a director at Michael Page ― a multinational recruitment firm ― and oversees diverse portfolios.

Not only that, the bubbly 33-year-old is also the mother of a nine-month-old baby boy.

Here, Chan talks to Malay Mail Online about work ethics, the importance of a good support system and how one can never do it all.

In her own words:

I left Malaysia in the early 2000 for Birmingham to do my tertiary studies. My mum who was a manager in the hospitality line had my eight siblings to care for... I didn't want to burden her so I took up a part-time job at McDonalds. I was scrubbing toilets, cooking burgers and over the weekend I worked at a local pub. I managed to save up enough money to help roll the following year.

After completing my studies, I landed a job in sales in London. I had to physically knock on at least 100 doors to pitch make-up products. I was rejected so many times. But I continued to work on for another four years or so and led a team.

However, I could not be in London for long because I had issues with my visa and so I returned to Malaysia six years ago with my then boyfriend, now husband...  the recruitment agency Michael Page called me about a job opportunity. At the interview, the interviewer asked if I would be interested in working with them instead. The interviewer then became my boss.

I started off as a consultant and worked my way up to become a director. I would say the opportunities given to me were amazing and today I handle four portfolios, namely Human Resources, Marketing, Digital and Sales.

In Michael Page here, more than half of the leaders are women. I am not saying women are better but what I would like to highlight is the bosses here give emphasis to women to excel in their careers. Like me for example, when I became pregnant last year, my boss told me that he had plans for me when I got back to work. That showed that instead of thinking of replacing me with someone else, he chose me... when I was six months pregnant and about to go on maternity leave.

I have my mum again to thank for helping me with my baby and my understanding bosses. My mum lives in the same condo as us, so it is easier to drop off my boy with her on work days. I try to clock out of work on time and spend at least one hour before he sleeps each day. My husband is also very supportive... he cooks our meals.

I always saw myself becoming a leader some day. I always had that passion to manage people and to nurture them. I became a team leader when selling make-up products in London and today I am a director to my managers.

One of my biggest success stories would be promoting one of managers who came from the public relations but was quite reserved. In this line or in most roles, you need to show an “aggressive” attitude but today, she is one of the best achievers.

There are many discriminations when employing new people. Employers ― not all of them though ― want employees from a specific age group, gender and even size. These are already a form of discrimination.

My advice to women out there is not to be afraid. You cannot find the best time for everything. You won't be able to give your 100 per cent to everything. You might feel that you are not giving your best at work and at home, but don't worry. Do your best. There will always be haters and so what if you fail, you are still one step forward.