Of being a woman, work, leadership and life

Nor Nadia admits that she enjoys all the roles as they are different and close to her heart in different ways

NOR Nadia Kamaruddin (picture), Proton Holdings Bhd’s deputy head of corporate quality, is an optimist. Throughout her career, Nor Nadia strives to give the best in what she does. She takes challenges head-on, while impeccably balancing her professional and personal life. Here’s her story.

Q: Can you share with us a little bit of your educational background? And how it all started for you in the automotive industry?

I’m a Penangite, had my 11 years of education in an all girls’ school — Convent Green Lane — since Standard 1. Then, I continued my tertiary education in Universiti Sains Malaysia, where I earned a degree in Mineral Resources Engineering. On why I became an engineer has its roots from both my parents. My parents influenced what I wanted to be from young — in a positive way, of course.

I was heavily influenced by my father who taught me that I can be anything I want to be — even if that means being in an industry where it is male-dominated. He also thought that being an engineer would be a good choice for me — it is a noble job where I can do something to make a difference.

Nor Nadia’s job scope includes overviewing end-to-end quality from design to sales and after sales at Proton – pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

My mother, on the other hand, is an adventurous person who travels a lot. So, from there — my ambition since childhood was to be an engineer, and possibly with an international company.

Naturally, after graduation, I looked for a job. I chanced upon an ad where a Swedish car manufacturer based in Malaysia was hiring engineers. I didn’t even think twice, I just applied as I thought it would be a great experience to work with an international company. As fate would have it, I got the job as a process quality engineer.

I learned many things on automotive where the scope includes new car introductions and being a bridge between customer quality issues and the factory, as well as on research and development. In the years working there, I had the opportunity to work in the company’s head office in Sweden. I spent 10 years in a foreign land before returning to Malaysia and found my heart at Proton.

I heard about Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd and how they were helping Malaysians resettle back home. My kids were young enough to adapt to the Malaysian syllabus, and my husband wanted to experience what it would be like to live abroad. It was the perfect timing. The decade long in Sweden gave me a lot of knowledge and experience, plus a husband and two babies!

When I left Malaysia then, I was clear that one day, I would come home and contribute to “tanah airku”. I am glad that I had the opportunity and it came at a right time.

Q: What do you do at Proton?

I’m a deputy head of corporate quality, overviewing end-to-end quality from design to sales and after sales. I love the broad job scope and being in the middle of actions. It suits my character a bit to act as “military police” — as when quality issues surfaced, we address those and push until solutions are in place.

Whatever the issues, it is important to perform analysis to eliminate potential problems and that all concerned stakeholders must take necessary actions to rectify the matter.

Q: So, you are a “lady-boss” at work. Do you think, as a woman in a predominantly male industry, that you have to work doubly hard to prove yourself?

On whether I need to work doubly hard to prove myself — for me, personally, it is about doing things to earn their trust and respect, be it from a male or female colleague. In work, the intention is to deliver the work, so we need to be clear about what the objectives are. I would like to believe that they give due respect where needed, and where it matters.

Q: Does your male staff listen to you, and take your instructions seriously?

Yes, they do. I have really good staff under me, and they do their work diligently. We work as a team, and we respect one another.

I believe that in anything that we do — if we talk facts, figures and data — no one can fault us. I try not to bother their weekends and family time; however, sometimes, we cannot escape the call of duty. In our team, we try to practise worklife balance. We must be happy at work, in order for us to produce our best results.

When I am home, I try not to let work bothers me, so that I can spend that time with my family, says Nor Nadia

Q: Broadly, how do you explain “quality”, and what does it mean to you?

For me, quality is a way of life. It is subjective. Different people attach different meaning to it. However, in everything that we do, we must make sure it is of quality. This means, doing something with proper planning, thought and care, and ensuring that in the middle of doing it, we do not harm others. When we practise quality in our lives, the output will be manifolds. Our lives are more peaceful, we get to contribute to society and we can have a good night’s sleep.

Q: How do you stay “focused” and deliver your best at work?

I love my job very much and I love to help people solve problems. It gives me satisfaction every time I resolve issues and this keeps me going. I would like to be recognised for what I do, not for what I am. When their work and lives improve, it makes me happy, and I become motivated all over again.

The automotive industry today is a fast-changing industry. With the injection of technology comes higher complexity, as well as potential quality risks, and we need to be ready. It’s a huge challenge, and it matches my personality as I am someone who is always hungry for new knowledge, and wanting to share this knowledge with others. I am also a strong believer that continuous improvement, at least for my team and I, is a crucial factor for business success.

Q: As a working person, how do you juggle your time between being a mother and wife?

Work-life balance is my motto since I started working. From my earlier career path, my colleagues from Sweden always emphasised the beauty of work-life balance. When I am at work, I dedicate my time and focus on the tasks I need to deliver. I am a rather structured person — I oversee all the things under my purview, and make sure I respond to each tasks.

I also delegate the tasks to the right personnel for efficiency purposes. This allows me to optimise working hours without bringing my job back home. When I am home, I try not to let work bothers me, so that I can spend that time with my family. I am thankful and grateful for an understanding husband who helps in the house chores, as well as taking care of the children.

Q: In your opinion, as a woman with leadership roles, do you find yourself as a role model for many young girls out there who are still searching for their identities?

When I see young girls out there today, I also see shadows of my younger self — young, energetic and willing to explore the world. I am where I am today due to hard work, and when opportunities came my way, I took it. I did what I wanted to do in life.

Even now, I try to teach my daughters the meaning of working hard for what they want in life, and to have faith in their abilities. Never let anyone second-guess their worth, nor capabilities. On the work front, the one thing I am passionate about is sharing knowledge.

I will try to impart as much knowledge as possible because I know what it means to have a mentor in life to guide, and pave ways for us. There were many instances in my life where I became better because I had the opportunity to learn from these people. For this reason, I would like to fill in the “mentor” shoes to others now; so that, they too, can achieve great things in life.

Women’s roles have shifted over the years. They used to be housewives and mothers taking care of their children. Now, we can see that more and more women have joined the work force and contribute to, not only their household, but, in general — the economy. How empowering is that being a woman of this generation?

Indeed, these are wonderful times. We are living in a generation where women are equally contributing to the economy, and at the same time, taking care of the household, children and many other noble works, in addition to childbearing. This was long overdue. Everyone should have the opportunity to pursue what he or she wants in life. The possibilities are endless. Together, we can only get better.

Q: How do you wind down after a hard day at work?

Eating dinner with my family and then, watch Netflix. I look forward to the part where I can just lay down and just chill at home.

My husband, the kids and myself made sure that we keep our promise to eat dinner together where we utilise this moment to update each other on how the day has been for each of us. This means no phones on the table — so that we can just enjoy being in each other’s company with minimal distractions. The girls always have so many stories to tell about their friends, teachers and the games they played.

Q: On being a working professional, mother, wife: Which gives you the most satisfaction?

Personally, I enjoy all the roles. Each role is different and is close to my heart in different ways. At work, it is the teamwork and job achievements, which give meaning to my life. Being a mother is a totally different experience altogether. I carried them in my body for nine months each. That bond will never disappear. I love to see their progress in life and I will be there whenever they need me. They will always be the most important for me. I hope they grow up to be good individuals who understand the world and would make things better for generations to come.

Meanwhile, being a wife allows me to share my life with the man I love — who is also my confidante. I am less of a person without his love — and I am grateful each day that we found each other. We find completeness in having a family together.

Q: Who do you look up to as a young girl? And who do you look up to now?

I have always been impressed with successful people, especially those successful entrepreneurs. It was the same then — as it still is now. To me, it does not matter if they are men or women as long as they are approachable, charismatic and can tell their success stories without being arrogant or talking down to people. I think that trait is admirable.

Q: If you are down and out now, what do you say to yourself to cheer yourself up?

It could be have been worse.

Q: Heels or flats?

It depends, but mostly flats these days, as I tend to have pains when I wear heels, especially for a long time.

My work requires me to do a lot of walking from one place to another, and being me, as I like to witness issues firsthand, I would walk all day if I have to, just to get to the bottom of things. As it is, I can only do it with comfortable flats! (smile)

Q: Do dreams come true?

Of course…never stop dreaming or believing. Sometimes, dreams do come true, sometimes they do not. But I also believe it is equally a blessing that sometimes we don’t get what we wish for in life — because often, it means that we are bound for something better.