A big factor of why I decided to stay in Malaysia was because of the job at ISKL. I think I have been privileged to work at ISKL. I have a vested interest in this place, as a student and as a staff member. I love the community feel and the culture at ISKL and was happy to get the job when I first moved here. It has been exciting, full of new challenges, with a great community and good friends every step of the way.
We caught up with Brian Candler, the Director of Shared Services, who is an ISKL alumni and has served the school for over ten years! Filled with stories about his life journey and how the different paths he took led to who he is today, we invite you to meet Brian.
Here is his story.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
My parents lived in a tiny place called Navajo, Arizona, where the closest hospital was over the border in New Mexico at Gallup, and I was born there. I grew up on West Coast, California, and moved to North Carolina for three years, where I did my Grade 4 – 6. Then we moved to Northern Virginia for two years before moving back to California. I did my Grade 9 and 10 at Sam Ramon Valley High School in California, where I started swimming. I was on summer swim teams on the East Coast, and when I got to High School, I played water polo and was on the swim team.
When I got to The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), I went for the swim team and had an excellent coach during my two years at ISKL, Lynn Kelly. We won gold for the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia Schools (IASAS) both of our years. I made great friends with the swim team, and as always, we were a tight group. In my Senior year, I did a little bit of Dance with Karen Palko. It was interesting as that’s something I had never done before and it was a great experience. Another memorable moment was when I went to Jakarta, Singapore, and Bangkok for IASAS. All those traveling for sports — soccer, swimming, softball, and bonding with the team were memorable times.
After I graduated from ISKL in 1997, I went to Virginia Tech to pursue Chemical Engineering, then I moved over to Chemistry and decided that it was not for me. I then started a Diploma in IT at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I was looking for a job to help me get through the last bits of college, and I found a job running a pizza shop in the Central Business District.
When I first moved to KL, I helped the Malaysian Nature Society with a library system organizing their nature books. Then, I started to sail with the Royal Selangor Club in Klang and helped work in a boat for a couple of months. Before moving to Malaysia, I had a great opportunity to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. We sailed from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia on a 65-foot single-mast sailboat. That was a wonderful memory.
In 2007, ISKL sought a long-term substitute for Grade 9 Physical Education (PE), and I got the job. While doing that, the then Tech Director discovered that I had a tech diploma and asked me if I was interested in being the Webmaster. I agreed and moved up to the Tech Office and stayed there before becoming the Director of Shared Services. KL is a great place to live and travel to, with many great things to do around this part of the world. I enjoy hiking here, going to the waterfalls, or every once in a while traveling to an island or destinations like Angkor Wat.
Can you tell us more about your role and your daily activities?
On a day-to-day basis, my team helps to manage the business systems from a technological point of view. The finance system, the HR system, the Admissions system, the facilities request system, and the cashless payment system – we look after the support, customization, integration, and some of those systems we actively run. We look at how we can get better at some of our processes and be more efficient; we do training for new people coming in or those moving to new roles, and we also look after Food Services. We manage the food services vendor, liaise with them on any issues, or try to find creative ways to improve the menu options and processes, which improves food services. We also look after the access control, making sure people’s accounts are in the thermal system and that people have access control at the right places when they tap their cards.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I would say that the most challenging part of my job is also the most interesting. Part of my role is to find ways to improve, find efficiencies, and make systems better. You need to ask people involved in those systems for their input and perspectives, which you must consider. It’s great to be able to ask them how this change will benefit them. You realize there’s a lot more to this than one originally thought. It’s about the challenge of change but also the embracing of that process of change to connect with people and find a common path together.
Over the years, we have implemented a Chart of Accounts that covers the entire school; it forms the basis of many things. When you ask people to change something they’ve been doing for many, many years, it’s tough. Even if that change can make sense, it can be scary in the levels of what it might affect and the different pieces that need to be adjusted. It may be scary for people, too, as we transition people to the new system. Change is difficult, but if many people are involved, and if the idea of the change can take root in their heads, you can then find people thinking it to be not so difficult but being excited about it instead.
We discovered that we need to get new HR software, so we are undergoing a software implementation project for the new software. Over the past five years, the HR software has advanced quite a bit, so we’re looking to see how we can leverage it. It touches many people, not just HR and Shared Services, but also Talent and Culture Development, Technology, Finance, Learning Development Department, and more. It’s good to work with a lot of people with different points of view and collect everyone’s expertise and knowledge to shape the direction and requirements that we look for together.
Can you share some memorable moments at ISKL?
Some memorable moment I had as a staff member here was during the first role out of Google Apps. It was a big project in 2010 where the Bulletin Board System was phased out. There was a huge team working on it back then. It was the camaraderie, the sense of common purpose, and the size of the project. It was a big deal in helping to be in the conversations where you are figuring out the details and how to set everything up. Will everyone get an email address, including parents? What is the format? All the things you had to think about and decide; it was fun and interesting stuff. By no means was I any leader, I was merely in the team, but it was good to be part of that larger team.
Other great memories I have is that I’ve been to a few Malaysia Week trips and 8 Global Action Program (GAP) trips. I’ve been fortunate to have gone to some amazing places with wonderful young people. I remember my first GAP trip was to Beijing, China, with the HS counselor Kirsten at the time, and it was fun to see the Forbidden City, travel out to the rural areas, and walk along the Great Wall.
Also, it’s been so far from my mind lately because I haven’t been thinking about it, but some of my best memories working at ISKL was coaching the ISKL Swim Team. I coached the swim team for about eight years, and every IASAS – just the emotions, the sense of accomplishments, the ups and downs of it, being with such a tight-knit group of amazing kids, those are the best memories I’ve had.
Can you tell us more about your hobbies and interests?
I started playing frisbee back in Virginia Tech, and it’s great to be able to pick it up again here in KL. I used to play ultimate frisbee over at the old campus before my knee started giving out. It was great to play with the faculty and staff every Tuesday. Nowadays, we play disc golf. There’s a place in Cheras that has developed a disc golf field, and we plan to head there. I started with six or seven discs in college, and now I have 30 discs.
Over the past three years, I have also gotten into Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). I think it’s a worldwide phenomenon where guys and girls my age have found it a fun little hobby. I am a game master for some of my friends, and I get to use my creative side to write interesting stories and quests that they play through. It’s the geeky side of and allowed me to explore my creative side. I didn’t have a strong creative outlet before, but now that I’m writing quests, stories, and coming up with characters, it’s fun.
Another hobby I have is road biking. Here in Malaysia, I have done mountain biking at Bukit Kiara and Melawati behind the zoo. I kinda got out of it for a little while, but I have been back into road biking on my old 1990s vintage Trek road bike.
Who or what inspires you?
I don’t have a person, a figure, or a group that I subscribe to for inspiration, but I find inspiration in people I see doing courageous things. I find courage inspiring; it’s pretty banal, I know, but there are so many people doing amazing things, trying to change the world for the better in their eyes, or doing small little things. I started to volunteer at the Free Tree Society at Bangsar, and they were doing a lot of work to help protect a trail on a federal hill in Bangsar under threat of being developed; one of the last trails that’s undeveloped. The Society’s organizers put in the effort to get people, resources, and funding together to get trees to be planted and repopulate the habitat with different species of birds and insects and grow the diversity of that ecosystem of that trail/hill to hopefully protect it and encourage people to hike it and enjoy it. I find that inspiring. People doing something good and getting others to follow along and get involved.
What does our vision and mission statement mean to you?
I think that phrase speaks of potential. It allows potential. The concept of one of existence, of being, valuing your existence, and looking for what the potential is—finding and exploring the boundaries of oneself. It’s an encouraging phrase but allows the freedom to choose your path. Everyone is on a path of change throughout their lives, and finding ways to adjust to that change and enjoy what you want to do, despite the changes. Graduating college and having potential is one thing, but keeping that idea of possible potential as you get older in life where there are health changes, family changes, career changes, but still finding the things to make you and others happy.