A Partner in Learning

By Mel Sim

When Shaun Koo wanted a career that would be impactful, he decided a role in learning and development would be the answer. Now an Executive in the Learning and Leadership in Berjaya Corporation Berhad, he’s found his calling. He shares with us his passion in sharing knowledge with others.

Tell us about your career path leading up to your role in Berjaya.
I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management from Berjaya University College. Through this, I did my internship across three countries. While these experiences were meaningful, I discovered that being a hotelier wasn’t what I wanted as a career. Instead, I was passionate about teaching and witnessing the growth in others to become successful. That’s how I decided I wanted to be a trainer in the Learning and Development (L&D) field.

Getting into the L&D field wasn’t easy as a fresh graduate, especially when you come from a disparate academic background with no relevant working experience. When I first started my career in 2019, I was in HR doing recruitment and engagement. After a year, the opportunity came knocking with an opening in the L&D team. I expressed my interest to be in L&D to my superior, and I have been with the team ever since.

I started my role as a Learning & Development Executive. I was given ample opportunities to assist in conducting training sessions for the employees, and eventually creating and conducting my own mini sessions. Two years later, I finally completed my Train-the-Trainer Certification Program, and today, I’m a certified competent trainer by HRD Corp.

What are some principles you live by and how do they help you at work?
I am a strong believer in practising a growth mindset, where I’m open to learn new things and welcome challenges that can help me grow. It helps me be more receptive to constructive feedback, allowing me to improve myself.

While work is work, never forget to have some fun. Being in the corporate world, it can be hectic sometimes. Through the peak periods, I find ways to enjoy the ride and have fun in the nitty gritty of work. It can be as simple as finding innovative ways to simplify processes, brainstorming for intuitive yet meaningful ideas that can make our training sessions more engaging, and even enjoying the times I spend with the participants. That is how I always manage to pull myself together and stay composed despite setbacks, because at the end of the day, what’s the point of work if you don’t enjoy doing it?

Talk us through a pivotal moment in your career.
When the multiple waves of MCO and lockdowns hit us, my work was greatly affected and I had to pivot my way of working and ensuring that virtual trainings were as effective and impactful as physical sessions. It was all fun doing things differently, but it was also getting a bit repetitive as we went through multiple permutations of the national MCO.

I reminded myself that I can’t just sit down and wait for miracles to happen. I can’t control the situation out there but what I can control is what I am going to do next. That was when I came across Neuro Linguistic Programme ("NLP") and it was a life-changing moment for me.

Through the NLP certification course, I was given the opportunity to coach people from all walks of life on their mental health. Since then, I’ve conducted several mini workshops about mental health for our employees, and even free weekend sessions for the public, just to spread the awareness of the importance of having good mental health during these trying times. I’m now a certified Master Practitioner in NLP, Time Line Therapy, Hypnotherapy, and NLP Coaching, and a certified trainer. Inspiring and changing people’s lives are no longer a dream for me anymore.

Who inspires you?
My mentor plays multiple roles. In the hierarchy, she is my superior. At work, she is a colleague. During trainings, she is a mentor. Off work, she is a very good friend. I remember the first time I attended a two-day training she conducted on self-leadership and teamwork when I first joined the company. I was amazed and intrigued by her level of engagement and passion. It was at the end of that training that I said to myself, I want to be a trainer like her. The opportunity came when I transferred to the L&D department and was assigned to be a part of her team. I was so excited and immediately asked her to become my mentor, to which she happily agreed. Today, she remains the mentor who has groomed me to become who I am now, and also my source of inspiration to never stop caring about your learners because every little difference you make counts.

Advice for young graduates?
Patience is a virtue. There will be times when challenges will stand in your way and you will lose sight of which way to go. Frustration and feeling overwhelmed are unavoidable when you just start your career. However, hardships don’t last forever. Be patient, stay calm, and keep on believing in your own capabilities and strengths to pull things through.

What are some hobbies you pursue outside of work?
I spend most of my free time playing video games, especially the role-playing and strategy type because I learn a lot from them! It teaches me to always have a plan in mind, but be flexible enough to change and improvise according to the circumstantial changes.

I’m also a member of Toastmasters International. I’m currently attached to two local clubs, Berjaya Toastmasters Club and Liquid Gold Advanced Toastmasters Club, where I’ve been a member for seven and six years respectively. This is the place I go to, to practice my presentation and public speaking skills, which in return, builds my confidence to speak in front of people.

I also have a huge interest in languages. For me, language is the gateway to learning about other people’s cultures. Currently, I’m studying Japanese, where I’ve been attending classes close to three years now. I’ll probably pick up another new language once I’ve mastered Japanese.

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