8th Leadership Talk with YB Hannah Yeoh

The last Women in Rail Leadership Talk 2018 was hosted by the then soon-to-be-dissolved SPAD in November. YB Hannah made the very best of first impressions when she arrived at her session well before anyone else was even there.

From the get-go, she expressed that the time we had scheduled was too short for anyone to learn about leadership. She instead wanted to share about her journey, where and how she found her passion and her purpose. She began by asking a simple question: “why do we do what we do?” Well, of course it’s a means to all our living, but it cannot be JUST about paying bills. There must be a reason why we are where we are.

Growing up, YB Hannah was surrounded by books, always driven to be the first. As the eldest, she identified that she has natural leadership qualities in her. She went on to join the Science stream in upper secondary but in reality hated science. She did well in her studies but her mental health took a toll where she suffered from mild depression. As all who has experienced mental health issue is aware, admitting and reliving that part of your life is hard and in our Asian culture, quite taboo. While navigating through this tremendously hard part of her young adult life, she came to a turning point, which was her faith. In the scriptures she found her comfort. She found her mission which was to serve those around her.

YB Hannah then pursued her law degree in Tasmania and soon passed her Malaysian Bar. She became a junior lawyer, where she spent her hours at the firm checking documents for the better part of three years. She decided to leave her first job after that to help her father in his event managing business. A particular note she highlighted: how you end your employment matters. It was important for her to serve her contract to its full term before up and leaving with no notice. Honour and fairness go a long way in building good relations, and this is not just limited to our professional lives. During her earlier time in politics, instead of looking at what she is lacking, YB Hannah focused on giving back to the community by leveraging on her strength, and one of it is her hospitality. She then went on the unintentionally break the glass ceiling by becoming the youngest female Selangor state assembly speaker, and as a young working mother of two went to win every seat she has contested for since the 2008 General Elections.

YB Hannah reminded everyone that our motives matter and this is especially important because other people can see through our objectives. And armed with the right objectives and will power, one should be able to perform any role well. Still, the question that we all have to ask ourselves is “what are we willing to pay?” No leader or no human can logically achieve 100 percent in everything. There should be prioritization as there are just so many things that we need and we want to do. We do not all have the same speed nor do we have the same capacity. In dealing with team members, YB Hannah noted that we should accept differences and that trust is key. Risk-taking is a huge part of leadership and also very few leaders make it on policies alone. A clear goal is required, other variables are then adjusted based on situation. Compromise can be made on everything else, except the end goal.

YB Hannah went on to say that each one of us is born unique with our very own set of talents and skills. Some people love looking at trains or trucks, some people like make up. It is when we do something that makes us alive and shine that is when we know it is our destiny has aligned with our passion. For YB Hannah, she enjoys learning and loves the potential of our future generation. That is one of the reasons she is where she is now.

Some final pointers from YB Hannah:
  1. Be comfortable in your own skin; work within your abilities, means and your limitations, and do it well;
  2. Do not compare ourselves with others, do not harm them, in fact let them climb higher;
  3. One of her biggest challenges is the danger of having a job that is also her passion. It hurts like crazy and add to that a sense of overwhelming guilt when things take a turn for the worse. It’s just part of the job.