PANTHERS OF ISKL #29 - IKA MUZAMAL - THE PEOPLE’S CATALYST
This week, we are pleased to sit down with the Class of 2007 alumna and IB scholar recipient, Ika Azwa Muzamal. After reading law at the University of Leeds, followed by a career in corporate finance and as legal counsel for a company in the construction sector, Ika joined ISKL in the new role of Talent and Culture Development Lead in July 2019.
We find out more about her memories as an ISKL student, her love for tennis, her job role, and her hopes and dreams for ISKL.
Here is her story.
"When I was three years old, my family was expatriated overseas to Australia. After that, we spent time in Australia, Switzerland, other parts of Europe, and Indonesia; my whole educational life has been at an international school.
'I joined iSKL in 7th grade, graduated from ISKL in 2007, and was an IB scholarship recipient. My brother was also a student here in the year above me. My best memory as a student at ISKL was being a part of the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia Schools (IASAS) tournaments - it was a massive part of my school life. I was involved mostly in sports, being a three-season IASAS athlete.
'After ISKL, I went on to read law at the University of Leeds. I got my license, and practiced for about nine and a half years here in Malaysia, working for the Securities Commission. There, we focused on corporate finance, debt structuring, take-overs and mergers. I specialized in structuring deals and corporate negotiations. After that, I moved on to become a legal counsel for a public listed company, working on big infrastructure projects.
'Last July 2019, I joined ISKL in the brand new role of Talent and Culture Development Lead. It was a special opportunity that came along where I would be given the chance to build people up and enrich them, by developing their talents, changing mindsets, and helping them work towards their dreams. I wanted to move onto a profession more fulfilling and more aligned to my values as a person, and that is why I took on this role.
‘When Mr. Rami Madani came on board as Head of School at ISKL, the new position was a significant part of his vision to create more equity in terms of growth opportunities for staff, as they play an equally important role in supporting student learning from all aspects at ISKL.
'My role now is a big jump from what I used to do. Law in itself is very structured, and you are always talking about the past. My job at ISKL, on the other hand, is talking about the future - I am continually developing and moving forward in hopes of making a difference.
'The job role itself focuses a lot on talent management and the growth and development of the staff. Questions arise, such as how do you attract the right talent and how you retain them? How do you grow the talent you already have?
‘Recently, we can see a significant shift in many corporate organizational cultures in the world where there is now a major focus on managing talent in a strategic way. Organizations are realizing that people are their biggest assets, and therefore, must prioritize in providing each employee a strong sense of value and purpose, and at the same time, support them in their learning and growth so that everyone can be performing up to their full potential.
'The millennials and Gen Z's will also be a massive focus as we move forward. Millennials are taking on leadership and managerial roles, while the ‘Zoomers’ are currently entering the workforce. The big questions that have plagued many generations in the past have always been ‘how do we attract them?’, followed by ‘now how do we retain these talents and keep them ‘loyal’?’ Speaking as a millennial myself, I know that we are loyal to our principles and values. This means that our future talent pool will be looking to be a part of an organization that not only speaks to their values but also demonstrates them. All of that plays a major part in talent management.
'For my role at ISKL, 2019-2020 was about gathering data and building the right structures and frameworks to ensure that the changes we are making now will be sustainable for the future. For example, we developed the ISKL Essentials Framework, which includes 8 Core Essentials and 5 Leadership Essentials, and serves as the foundation for learning and professional development for all staff at ISKL. We also worked towards building a staff database that is inclusive and complete. This helped us in determining divisional teams across the school which will promote further collaboration between staff of similar responsibilities in the future. We always learn best when we are learning from each other.
'This second-year is planned to be more exciting. With the foundations in place, now we get to roll out more programs and initiatives, as well as build a stronger sense of community. Some of these programs include the first-ever New Staff Onboarding Program that equipped our new staff with the working knowledge of the tools at ISKL, and where we reinforced ISKL’s value statements, and guiding principles. We are also looking forward to all the events and initiatives that the newly elected Staff Association has planned for us this year to bring the community together. We are definitely stronger together!
'My day-to-day activities in my role do not have a firm structure as there are many interactions and engagements involved. When we plan to roll out new initiatives such as the ISKL essentials, there are numerous stakeholders involved.
‘This is because it affects all staff across divisions and we need to engage each of the staff at the working level by gathering their input and feedback into the framework. It is not me telling them what to do or what to expect - the framework is developed for the staff, by the staff, which is what makes it so special.
‘I also attend to the staff's concerns - many of them want to speak about training and professional development opportunities, their plans for the future, or even want to highlight some concerns - my door is always open, and I look forward to having these chats with our staff members as it provides me with a richer perspective of our community as a whole.
'I would say the toughest part of my job is that this role is unprecedented and there hasn't been someone before who has laid the groundwork for me. Many times I’m figuring things out along the way or solving problems as I travel down the road, and I’m just so lucky to receive immense support from my colleagues all around me, such as Rami, Praxia Apostle, the Leadership Teams, the staff, and the whole community.
‘With this work being unprecedented, I look forward to all that we can achieve together as a school to build our talents and reinforce our culture and sense of community, and I’m sure we will have plenty to learn and share with other schools or organizations seeking to do the same.”
“Going back to my love of tennis - it has been such a big part of my life ever since schooling days. I even met my fiance playing tennis (we are both avid tennis players). Last year, I helped coach the Varsity Girls team and planned to go to Singapore with them, and I do intend to keep training with them this academic year.
‘I remember going to Wimbledon with my brother the year I graduated from university. For Wimbledon, you can't buy a ticket to watch Center Court matches in advance, so there’s no choice but to queue up for it. We ended up spending about 30 hours in the queue!
‘The fun thing was that while lining up, I ended up bumping into some friends from IASAS (from the Jakarta Intercultural School), who were five spots down the queue. Nothing is better than bumping into old friends halfway across the world who still share the same interests and passion for sport as before. We shared a tent and spent the whole day together catching up on old times and anticipating the possible next steps in all our lives.
‘What inspires me is being around people who are taking the small steps to change the world, or even watching inspiring TED Talks on YouTube. Some people leave a great legacy behind, a legacy that makes the world they live in, and the environment they are in better than they were before.
‘Take the activist, Greta Thunberg, for example - she is leaving behind a legacy that makes the world a better place. I get inspired by people who live through those same principles.
‘I hope to transform lives because when people are allowed to learn, grow, and develop, you don’t only change one person’s life, you change all the lives that link to that one person. And it is my hope that I can create more opportunities to help change people’s lives for the better.”
What does 'Be All You Are' mean to you?
"It is all about being your genuine self so that you can live up to your fullest potential. You do not have to feel that you need to fill someone else's shoes or be someone that you are not. We can all genuinely live through our own principles, and we can develop valuable and rich relationships with anyone by being truthful to who we are. This takes plenty of courage.
'It is such a simple thing to say yes, I can be who I am - but to achieve that level of acceptance of living your truth, that takes decades of learning, self-love, and practice."