An Ode to The Good 9 Years

With the stroke of a pen, I officially ended a chapter in my life today.

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I signed my voluntary separation package with PETRONAS into effect today. The terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement are private & confidential, so I won’t tread further upon this matter, but I am receiving a generous amount of severance payment that can sustain me for quite some time as I figure out the next step to take in my life.

My last day in the company will be on April 30th; by which point I will have served the organisation for 3 years 10 months. My attachment with PETRONAS goes a long way back before I started working with the company, though. I received their education sponsorship (more like a convertible loan, actually) when I was 17, straight after taking my SPM examination, a few months before the result for the said exam was even released (I applied using my trial result). From that point onwards, I always had, at the back of my head, the thought that someday along the line I would serve the company- what other options were there for me anyway, since I was bonded to their scholarship contract. While the certainty was somewhat comforting, it also shut me out of other opportunities elsewhere.

While there were times when I felt that having a company decide on my life’s trajectory (Which subject to take for IB? Which university should I enroll to? Which job within the organisation should I take?) from such an early age was stifling, my sense of gratitude for the opportunities that PETRONAS provided me with remains. Being born into a middle class family (we’ve always been fairly comfortable, but no, we’re not wealthy), an overseas education would have surely put a large dent into my parents’ finances; PETRONAS’  sponsorship allowed me to bypass this hurdle & enabled me to focus on realising my academic potential in Melbourne.

Quitting the company effectively puts an end to my 9-year ties with PETRONAS, and I am leaving with no bitterness indeed. I feel thankful that they have done a lot to ensure my academic & career growth, and it’s high time for me to start exploring for other opportunities out there. I am a believer in the very concept of rezeki, there must be something out there for me, I just need to have the drive & savvy to find & retrieve it. As for now, I have started sending out some CVs to several companies, most of them to apply for jobs that I feel will better reflect my passion. I’m looking into some opportunities in the advisory/consultancy field too. I’ve also been busy preparing some important documents to support my master application; I have always thought of furthering my studies anyway, and this is probably a good time for me to do that.

I’m also starting to be active on LinkedIn too.

My priority right now is to work on something that will give me personal satisfaction; I understand that no job is perfect, but it feels more rewarding staying late in the office & going through all the troubles & stress when you know that you are doing something that you really love & can closely relate with.

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I look forward to the future with my mind positive and my soul filled with gratitude. I know eventually, somewhere along the line, I’ll find something that grooves better with my soul. Wish me luck on this.

It’s also time for me to start planning for my backpacking adventure; I’ll have plenty of time at hand to do that now!

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Speak soon,

Faizal Hamssin

Hello, World

Hello, World.

It’s been close to four years since I last posted anything on this website. So much has happened over the past four years; the 20s is recognised by many as the period of growth, the formative years during which we learn better about ourselves, our life aspirations, our inherent nature and inclinations, and our passions, among other things. It’s a transformative period to some, but to me, I believe that the 20s is the period of self-discovery. I haven’t changed, I simply know myself better everyday, and my changing outlook on life may reflect this. I am myself, and myself values transiency.

Just me, exploring the scorching Sinai desert, Sept 2015.
Just me, exploring the scorching Sinai desert, Sept 2015.

Over the past four years I have been working for the same organisation, doing something that I neither dread nor passionately love, but this is coming to an end end of this month as I have decided to take that leap of faith to step out of my current industry to explore something that I hope will groove better with my soul (I’ll talk more about this in a future post). I have met some amazing people who have become part of my support system (as much as I have become theirs), fallen in and out of love, travelled to many places across four different continents, tasted food I never tasted prior (reindeer sauce, anyone?), read books on topics I would rather shun or not think about back in 2012, recalibrated my expectations on issues from politics to romance, and more. I also decided to utilise social media, namely Twitter, as a means of expressing myself via @faizalhamssin.

I have also grown to accept who I am, fully. In that regard, I am at peace. After all, acceptance is within.

Speak soon.

Faizal Hamssin

My Personal Regret

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to vilify any party, Petronas included. This is based on my own personal experience. I still have Petronas to thank for whatever contributions they have made for me, especially for the past five years.

 

I would be lying if I told any of you that I didn’t have any regrets about the very decision that I made five years ago. It was the end of 2006. I was in the fifth form, scoring good grades and all. I was excited; with good grades came good scholarship offers et cetera. I applied for a Petronas scholarship and went to the interview. It was called ‘Educamp’, and I had mine at MRSM Kuching. It was fun; we were exposed to Petronas as a corporation, and we were told of the good prospect that we would get once we received a Petronas scholarship. Basically it registered with me that I would be treated very well if I got to be one of their sponsored students. I did my best in the interview, and I think I aced it. I remember that I had to present about the traffic woes in KL and I came up with some ways to tackle the issue. My experience in high school debate helped me a great deal, and I ended up passing the interview.

When I received the offer, I was ecstatic. I thought that that very letter was the very ‘grant’ of my dream. To be honest, studying overseas was, then, my ultimate goal for the next 5 years of my life; I really couldn’t imagine myself studying at one of the local higher education institutions. Not that I doubted the academic standard of those institutions, it’s just that I preferred studying at a place where I would be able to broaden my worldview and be moulded into a person that I wanted to be; free. Even back then I was comparatively a very liberal thinker living in a society marked with a growing sense of social conservatism. Maybe I will write more about this later.

The offer letter did come with a thick booklet containing many clauses placed in lengthy paragraphs, explaining the terms and conditions attached to my scholarship. I did not really bother to read them all, to me, it was exciting enough that I would get to do Geology (my first choice) at a university of my choice.

I accepted the offer. Little did I care about one of the obligations attached to the scholarship, that I would be required to serve Petronas two years for each year that they sponsored my education. I knew about that, I just didn’t care. After all, the idea of getting a job straight after graduation appealed to me back then.

I was to be placed at Sri KDU to do IB; in fact, I spent two great years there. The IB experience was fulfilling, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, so I’ve no complaints there. My dissatisfaction with Petronas, however, started there, as I, and my other scholarship-holding classmates (we, Petronas scholars, made up roughly half of the total intake for the 2007 IB batch) were told during one of the Petronas engagement sessions in 2008 that they would send us to any one of these three Southern hemisphere countries for our degree; Australia, NZ or South Africa. This put me to shock. I can still recall perfectly today that we were informed by one of the Petronas education officers during our first-year induction session back in early 2007 that we would be sent to the US, UK or Canada for our first degree. I also accepted the scholarship with the knowledge that it would pay for my studies in the States. I always wanted to study in the US; that was indeed one of my dreams growing up. I felt cheated, and of course, furious at their inability to stick to their words.

Whatever happened after that aren’t worth much mention here. Well, maybe I should say that I did okay in IB and went to Melbourne for my degree. I enjoyed the years there profusely, so whatever of my personal dissatisfaction that was documented on the previous paragraph I already moved on from by the end of 2009. Sometimes I thought that it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t have to endure the long and bitter cold prevalent in the States or the UK. Melbourne was also a relatively short hop’s away from home (8 hours’ flight) so I flew back to Malaysia most of the long holidays. Life was pretty good there, and Petronas, albeit the struggle that we had trying to get them to increase our monthly allowance, treated us well. I lived in a very decent studio apartment, for example. Never did I have to cram in a house with, say, five housemates, which was, and still is, the reality for many other international students who have to grapple with the ever-increasing rent in Melbourne. For this, I thank Petronas.

The nasty part started last year, with my honors application. I was informed by many, including Petronas’ officers themselves, that we would be allowed to extend our period of study for one year to accommodate our honors studies. It is a common practice for the Australian universities to split their degree into three years of basic degree and a year of honors. A degree with honors is considered more superior than a degree without which, but not every student is entitled to do the former. Most universities, Melbourne included, put a set of stringent requirements for students who wish to further their studies to honors. I managed to get a spot, and it gladdened me that Petronas would, by principle, sponsor me for another year to let me finish my honors. JPA and MARA were (and still are) known to do this to their students, so it made sense that Petronas would do the same.

Knowing that there would be no more obstacles in my honors plan, I started putting a great deal of efforts to find a supervisor and a suitable project for my honors year. I managed to find a project very relevant to my future job in Petronas, and my lecturer also wrote a letter to Petronas to inform them of the benefits that they, as my future employer, would get if I were to do the particular honors project under his supervision. As usual, I received some oral confirmation that I would get my sponsorship extended, and duped by my optimism of Petronas being at last true to their words, I was confident that things would turn out the way I wanted them to.

I graduated last December. For this, I have my family, friends, lecturers, teachers, and of course, Petronas, to thank. It was a proud moment for my whole family, and I felt a sense of accomplishment. I still felt very upbeat in December because in my head, I had an honors year to look forward to in 2012. I told myself that the graduation wasn’t the end of my university life; I would have another year to go.

When my optimism was at its peak, I got an email from Petronas informing me that they rejected my application to do honors. To make it sound more dramatic, they snubbed my application two days prior to the honors enrolment due date. Two days. Just imagine the frustration that I had at that time. I had to pack up and leave Melbourne for good on a short notice. Whatever efforts that I put to secure a place to do honors turned out to be futile. In vain.

I wanted to apply for another scholarship, but the very offer letter that I received back in 2007 stipulated that I would not be allowed to get another scholarship without Petronas’ permission. I wanted to report to Petronas (ie start working for them) in 2013, not 2012, so I could have a year allocated to honors. Again, this was against one of the terms of the scholarship as I was required to report to them within 3 months after my graduation (read: February).

These are the terms that I didn’t think about five years back. These are the important terms that came to haunt me in January 2012 yet I couldn’t even be arsed to read about them back then. Failing to adhere to the terms will lead to my parents having to pay Petronas the total sum spent on my education, within 14 working days. There’s no way I will ever burden my parents that way. Petronas knows this. They know that we will not have the guts (or rather, capacity) to breach the contract.

We are bonded. Or, in a more apt yet less savory way to say things, we are chained. We are their assets, their commodities. To try to get out of this is to breach the contract, the consequences of which are as aforementioned.

Now I’m at home, waiting for Petronas to call me up to put me to work. I was told that it would take them up to six months to come up with a job offer for me. In the meantime, I am not allowed to apply for another permanent job. Breach of contract, again. After all, no company will want to recruit a bonded student. The irony of all these is that I could actually use the time spent waiting for Petronas so far to do honors.

We’re theirs for 10 years. Leave the company by then and you’ll be considered to have breached the contract. Consequences as said prior. I’m 22, and I really wish that I could actually be free to chart my own future. I’m honestly not over studying yet. I’m personally very envious at the freedom that my JPA and MARA friends have after they graduate. I also want to do masters, just like them; I’m a passionate learner, and masters is one of my goals for now. I will keenly work after masters, especially since I know I’ll enjoy working as a professional geologist in the future, be it with Petronas, or any other companies. However, looking at the way it is, it’s clear that for the next 10 years of my life, chances are that I will not have much control with my life. I will work for the same company with no option to quit.

My future was already written back then, when I naively accepted an offer that came in the form of a fancy official letter with a small F1 icon on the bottom left. “Cool”, I thought at that. Maybe I have myself to blame, it was after all, my choice. But what do you expect of a 17-year-old teenage boy? How do you think that I, with my lack of experience in life and my naivety in thinking that any corporation kind enough to offer a scholarship would have nothing but good, philanthropic intentions, would foresee the high price I had to pay to get my tertiary education sponsored? I didn’t even know what I wanted to do in my life then. What’s the point of knowing it now when it’s already too late?

Hello, New Home!

After minutes of deliberation, I decided to acquire my first ever dotcom real estate. I used to write on ransterism.blogspot.com and faibulous.blogspot.com, and I realized that I enjoy writing very much, so having an eponymous website of my own is a no-brainer.

I will try to put an effort on this; there should be regular (if not frequent) updates from time to time. Posts predating this one are all archived posts taken from my previous blogs.

Special thanks to a friend, Khairul, who helped me do the daunting technical tasks of starting and designing a website. Thank you for making this happen.

Faizal H.