Thursday, June 9, 2016

Of work travel, working from home and being a boss

Salam Ramadhan to all.....

It's been ages since I blog. Apart from time, I also have nothing much to share. But of late, I have been doing a lot of thinking, at least more than usual. And this contributed to the sudden growth of my white hair so I am translating that thinking mode to this entry

Work Travel 

When I was offered this job, one condition I gave was no overseas travel. Maybe I spoke to soon, or maybe I was under assumption I can manage local travel. Little did I know I will be flying from one state to another and spending every other day at the airport. 

Be it whether it's overseas or local travel, take it from me, it's equally exhausting. Yes, overseas travel gives you opportunity to see other countries, and in my experience, that's exactly what it is, see and nothing else. With back to back meetings and engagement sessions, by the time I'm back at the hotel, either I am too exhausted or all the interesting places are closed. Also the fact I'm away from my family is something I can't do anymore. No more!

And local travel is equally, if not more exhausting. I always opt for day trip, i.e. first flight out and last flight in. And my tight schedule is not helping so there are times I travel almost every day. My record thus far from Perlis to Kuching to Pahang on the same week. And the final week before Ramadhan when I went to Kedah in the morning and then back to office for a meeting at 5pm on the same day and the next day travel to Kuantan and to return at 3pm for meeting in Taman Tun before rushing back to Putrajaya for a 6.30pm meeting. That's how crazy it can get. However, looking on the positive side, at least I get to return home to my babies every day. So far, after giving birth to Isyraf, I have only spent 2 nights away from him and I can speak on behalf of my better half, those were the longest nights in his life....

While some may feel work travel is glamorous, I beg to differ. Or may be I am getting old and don't enjoy it as much as the young ones.

Working From Home

One benefit given to me after I gave birth to Isyraf over a year ago is I am allowed to work from home 2 days a week. I am fortunate to be working for a company that promotes flexible working arrangements. However, if given a choice, I prefer to either work or stay at home cause doing both is a challenge and requires strong discipline. 

My normal routine when I work from home, I still wake up at 5am as I would when I need to go to office. I will cook lunch at 5am, like always so that I can start my office work sharp at 9am. Isyraf wakes up around 8am so I have less than an hour to give him a bath, feed and play with him. He will take his nap again around 11am so I can only arrange any conference call or video conferencing between 11am to 2pm, that's the time he usually wakes up.

And yes, I have 2 bigger kids (Mira is already in college). However, when they know I am at home, they have expectations too. They expect me to eat lunch with them while they tell me how's their day. When I work from home I know I am expected to work so I need to juggle even more. I am paid to work and I have already been given the privilege to take care of son without having to send him to day care. So, I know I should not abuse this arrangements.

For those who think work from home is easy, I can tell you with or without children, it's hard. And if you can't manage your time while you are in the office, forget working from home. It is just not for everyone.

Being a Boss

This 2 years have been a super emotional roller coaster for me. I still remember when I was offered this position i.e promotion, unlike many people who jump at such opportunity, I hesitated. I requested for more time to think about it. It comes with huge responsibility. From managing team of 4, now I have team of 20 just like that. And multiple tracks that I need to manage. I must confess, I second guess myself (at times, I still do). 

I am so used to being the "belakang tabir" person. I do the strategic work, developing framework, the research to support the framework and then track and monitor. Being an introvert (yes, I am) presenting in front of others is not my cup of tea. Let alone handling media. And the current position I am holding is the opposite of my work preference. However, when we accept an opportunity, it comes in a package. While I enjoy being involved in policy advocacy, influencing the industry academia collaboration and working hand in hand with various stakeholders, I must also accept the other part of my work, being the front line. 

If given a choice, I would want to go back to the "belakang tabir" work. Well, everything comes with a price. And for now, this is the price I have to pay....

And all I can say to those who think how easy life of others are and how you wish to get what others have, careful what you wish for, it may come true.....

Nevertheless, these challenges make life interesting. And I am glutton for punishment :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

So You Want To Travel ~ Top 5 Memorable Umrah Journey Experience

I must confess, until this day, more than a month after our Umrah journey, I still feel like Mekah and Madinah are not that far away. I still have this dream I will be back there very soon. Need to work harder and also not spend our money unnecessarily. May Allah grant us with His blessing to perform Umrah again.

Apart from this shocking experience, we had many good great memories in the Holy land. Too many to mention, so I keep it short to the best 5.

1. Nothing can ever beat the feeling of seeing Kaabah for the first time. Technically, this is my second time, but I feel the first time doesn't count. I was only 16 and may not have a good sense of appreciation of Kaabah. For this round, both my better half and I automatically cried the moment we saw Kaabah. It's indescribable feeling, not right words can even describe that moment. I felt so blessed and thanking Allah for allowing me to be His guest. As I am typing this, I miss Kaabah so much and still holding on to doa and hopes I will return and able to perform my prayers right in front of Kaabah

2. Another indescribable feeling is when I visited Masjid Nabawi, specifically at Raudhah or an area which Nabi Muhammad s.a.w said is a garden from paradise. How do we know we are in Raudhah? The area is covered with green carpet whereas the rest of the mosque in red. I was blessed to be allowed to perform solat sunat there. The moment I did my final sujud, automatically I cried. I know I have not been a good muslim, I pray for Allah to continue giving me the hidayah and, guide me to be a better muslim Insyallah. Though female jemaah can't go near the makam Rasulullah saw, being under the same roof with his makam is already a huge blessing. Same wish as Mekah, for Allah to grant us with the blessing to come again.

3. There's this famous food joint called Al-Baik. We get to enjoy that couple of times in Mekah. In Madinah, Baby wanted that again, however we just couldn't locate the nearest restaurant. So, this one time after Asar prayers, we were walking around areas near Masjid Nabawi and found a family enjoying Al-Baik. I wanted to ask them where is the restaurant, however, Alhamdulilah, rezeki Baby, the father gave Baby a pack of chicken from Al-Baik. He just gave that away. We were shocked, however very happy Baby got to enjoy her favourite fried chicken. Moga Allah murahkan rezekimu dan keluargamu, wahai saudara. Thanks so much for the chicken.

4. My main worry of this whole Umrah trip is Isyraf. Will he behave and let us perform our umrah and prayers. Will he throw tantrum when we perform our tawaf and saei. What if he wants feeding and wants to sleep in the middle of prayers. How do I pray with him wanting me to carry him all the time. Alhamdulilah, Isyraf made the whole journey easy. When performing tawaf, I was carrying him with the carrier attached to my body. He slept throughout the 7 rounds. When performing saie, he was carried by my better half. Despite being awake, he kept quiet and just observed. Many of the jemaah was impressed on how well behave he was, many put their hands on his head and pray for his well being. Alhamdulilah....

5. My better half got to celebrate his birthday in Madinah, coincidentally same day as the Prophet's birthday. Though there's no usual makan2 or outings, he said it was the best birthday gift ever, nothing can come close to this. Alhamdulilah....

I pray and pray and pray for Allah to allow me to go again. Somehow, rasa tak puas. I want to perform prayers at the 2 mosques, I want to recite Al Quran there. I know this can only happen if Allah allow it to happen.

Insyallah, I will get the opportunity again....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

So You Want To Travel ~ Umrah Journey, What to expect

It's no secret one of my greatest passion is traveling. I find there's no better education than going places and learning culture and life of others. It makes you appreciate many things, like your own country and what it feels like to be minority.

Some may say "duit banyak, pegi sana sini, tapi tak nak pegi umrah". Well, it has always been a dream of mine to go. And I want to be really ready when I finally go. However, I told myself, one can't be ready, sometimes we just need to do it and then we will force ourselves to be ready. That's exactly what we did.

It started with making this nazar. I promised I will take my family for umrah should Mira gets straight A for her PMR. Deep down, I know she will get that results. And Alhamdulilah, she did. Since we have rezeki lebih, we decided to bring our parents as well. So, that will make 10 of us to be on this journey. I jokingly told many people this is the real Rombongan Che Kiah, simply because my mom in law's name is Rukiah :).

There are so many things to share about this trip. Yes, so many things, I don't know how to begin and I don't know how to end. So, I will choose top 5 most useful info(at least in my definition). For the top 5 most memorable memories from this trip, I will share that in another entry which I hope will be published soon, subject to my tahap kerajinan :)

Top 5 most useful info

- Choose the travel agency for this trip wisely. We some what made that mistake. Apart from the price, we chose the travel agent mainly because their office is near to our house, we assume that will make things easier. Many things which were promised not delivered though some may say, "Nak beribadah, tak payah nak berkira sangat". I have different views. I don't think any travel agents should take advantage of people who want to go to perform ibadah. They should make it easy on them so the jemaah can really focus with the ibadah. So, ya, this is very crucial

- Know the current weather both in Mekah and Madinah. When we arrived at Mekah, the weather was quite ok. It can get cold later in the evening. Other than that, it was not too bad. However, I can't say the same about Madinah. It was really cold and Alhamdulilah, we came prepared. I can see some of the jemaah was not and they ended up not having jackets to protect them from the cold. Something I feel the agents should be advising their clients. (Yes, back to point number 1)

- Bring sufficient clothes cause laundry in Mekah and Madinah is super expensive. I would recommend to buy jubah there, it's cheaper than laundry. I only brought 2 jubah and the rest I bought it there. Between Mekah and Madinah, shopping in Madinah is cheaper and the jubahs are much nicer.

- Another expensive item in Mekah and Madinah is medicine so bring your own Panadol, cough mixture or what ever basic medication needed. Unfortunately, Isyraf was down with fever in Madinah mainly due to the cold weather and he was teething. We forgot to bring his fever medication and ended up paying about 36 Riyal (which is close to RM40). In Malaysia, the same medicine would cost us about RM15 the most

- If you get lost, don't panic! Masjidil Haram and Masjid Nabawi are huge and full of thousands of people. If you are going in groups, it is advisable to make ground rule. In our case, we made it a point should anyone of us get lost, to wait at Door 88 in Mekah or gate 17 in Madinah. If we have waited for more than 15 minutes and still no one showed up, go straight to the hotel and wait at the lobby. The reason why we chose this 2 doors mainly because our hotel is about 100 meters from the door.

Yes, there are many other tips, like bring the small water spray in case your wudhu' batal since the nearest ablution place is very far but I feel the above is the most important ones.

I still dream of going to Mekah and Madinah again soon Insyallah. May Allah choose us to be His guests soon....

Next stop, top 5 memories for the umrah trip....