The newly appointed director of Yayasan TM on her plans to achieve greater social impact for the charitable trust, as well as her challenges and wins — big and small — of the past year and a half.
Options: Tahniah on your new role. What are your immediate plans for Yayasan TM?
Izlyn Ramli: Thank you. I just assumed the position on Aug 1, in fact, and I am excited. Yayasan TM has been doing a lot of good work, but this is an opportunity to take it further. It is now consolidating its corporate responsibility initiatives across the TM Group to give more weight to the three main pillars we’ve identified, which are Education, Community and Nation Building, and Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Going forward, I aim to do a lot of bridge-building — metaphorical and literal!
You joined the group over two decades ago. What have been the best business lessons you’ve learnt while at TM and which will help you in your new role?
It’s more an overall learning from and making the most of the opportunities given to me along the way: fellow leaders, mentors and colleagues. The best lesson they taught me, and which I appreciate greatly, is simply the freedom to be myself. They let me bring my strengths to the table and have given me the freedom to explore. I would not be where I am now without that trust.
What has the pandemic taught you, though?
It sounds corny but it’s truly the little things in life that are the most important, more so now that everything is stripped to the fundamentals. I have always been the girl who sees the glass as half-full, anyway, so that helps.
The past year and a half have been far from easy. How did you cope and indeed thrive amid it all?
Honestly, sanity came from having a stable work environment despite all the changes TM went through, including changes in chairman (twice) and CEO. TM offers a great environment; it has soul and is populated with tight-knit, caring people. I say that because I wouldn’t have lasted for over 20 years had it not been so. Since 1998, for the record! You need to make the best of what you have and you can’t wait for things to be perfect to live your best life.
What advice would you give leaders who are finding the going tough right now?
I speak from my own experience, but it helps to draw strength and support from your fellow leaders, mentors and family. Also, to anyone who feels alone, know that you are not. There is always someone to reach out to and if you are a good leader, you would already have a support system in place.
What tech tools have proved to be the most helpful during this disruptive time?
TM runs on MS Teams and Webex but, when dealing with external parties, it tends to be Zoom. WhatsApp chats are also important when it comes to rapid-fire responses. Telegram is good for more security but we also have Flow, our internal platform, that’s so handy for digital approval of documents.
What are you reading right now?
I laugh when answering this because, apart from The Lockdown Chronicles: 19 Malaysian Voices edited by my friends Shireen Zainudin and Viji Krishnamoorthy, I have not picked up a physical book in ages. I am more a knowledge-seeker and tend to like picking out and reading articles online, particularly human stories and quick reads.
Describe your WFH space for us.
I moved in with my parents at the start of MCO 3.O and my workspace is one end of the dining room table. It’s a proper set-up, with microphone, headphones and laptop. Naturally, I have upgraded all my fibre and even had my office chair brought home as I was starting to get sciatica.
Where would you most like to visit once travel is allowed and the world seems safe again?
South Korea, China and Japan — in that order. It’s all about Look East Policy now! Korea — mainly because I have never been there and I feel it is a must after watching all those K-dramas. I have visited only Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. So, for China, I now want to explore other locations, particularly Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, whose quartz sandstone pillars inspired the movie Avatar, and the Rainbow Mountains within the Zhangye Danxia National Park in Gansu province. After the pandemic, you will understand my desire for sweeping landscapes, big spaces and vast expanses. I also just want to be by the sea, so Langkawi is definitely on the cards.
Describe a perfect KL weekend for you.
A lie-in, not too late though. Brunch with friends and exploring the heritage parts of town … to makan and just look around. Then, balik rumah and lepak! It’s the weekend, after all. Alternatively, I am happy to just stay in, listen to music and make sure everything I do revolves around YouTube or Netflix. And more often than not, I invariably end up singing to myself.
This article first appeared on Aug 16, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.