Elizabeth Wong : How the Fellowship paved my career pathway

To decide on her future career pathway, Elizabeth asked herself “What am I willing to put my utmost time and effort into, when it comes to building a career?”

After some serious soul-searching, she found her answer : “I want to help make people’s life better, especially those from marginalised communities. I feel strongly that children hold the greatest potential, because they have young minds that are ready for moulding. My choice of tertiary education was law but I actually had no intention of becoming a lawyer,” shared Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s biggest fear at the beginning of the Fellowship was not being able to understand the realities of the government school and rural community that she would be placed in. Coming from a well to do family, receiving education through a private international institution and having studied abroad, this was a real change in environment for her. “I felt like I knew so little about Malaysia despite growing up here,” shared Elizabeth. By immersing herself in a public school, it was as if she was experiencing a mini replica of a different part of society.

3 reasons why Elizabeth joined the Fellowship :

  1. A passion and mission-fit

Having discovered where her passion lies, Elizabeth started looking out for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that contribute towards the wellbeing of children. This was how she stumbled across Teach For Malaysia’s Fellowship Programme. Elizabeth said “What appealed to me most was that it was education-based. I was so taken by it when I learnt about the structure and vision Teach For Malaysia has in place to tackle the issue of education inequity.”

“Through the Fellowship, you’re more likely to meet children from troubled backgrounds. They have a lot going against them. Every little thing that a Fellow does means so much to them and can possibly bring big positive changes in their lives. However, it is important to draw the line and know when you are getting too involved or personal. That is why it is worth the investment of my time and effort. Because to me, these children really need the extra help. And I am one of the only people away from their home who is able to advise them,” said Elizabeth.

  1. The Leadership Development Programme

Learning that the Fellowship is actually a Leadership Development Programme was another win in her book! As a fresh graduate, Elizabeth found it daunting to join the workforce without prior experience or guidance. “I prefer to have guidance rather than just learn through trial and error. Teach For Malaysia has Leadership Development Officers (LDOs) who coach and guide you through the Fellowship,” said Elizabeth.

  1. Support from credible organisations

Given that well known and reputable organisations like PwC, McKinsey and Google support Teach For Malaysia in different ways, Elizabeth felt she would have good career prospects even if she decided not to continue teaching once the Fellowship ended. In fact, she landed her current job with CIMB Foundation through the Teach For Malaysia network!

For her role within the CIMB Foundation, Elizabeth is in charge of executing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for CIMB. She oversees the education pillar of the foundation and runs all education-related projects there.

Benefits of the Fellowship in Elizabeth’s current job :

Discernment. She receives a lot of proposals for educational based programmes. Through her Fellowship experience of being on the ground and understanding teachers as well as students’ mindsets, it is easier for her to sort through the fluff and gauge whether or not a project holds any weight.

Time management. The Fellowship was a jam packed experience. Through it, Elizabeth really had to learn how to manage her time properly. “You’re constantly working, learning and thinking about how to be more impactful. Your students are always at the back of your mind and you find yourself looking for ways to be more effective in the classroom! All of this goes on simultaneously with studying for your Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PDGE). Basically, your time is pretty much taken up by the whole experience!” exclaimed Elizabeth. While teaching full time, Fellows will also be pursuing their Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) during the 2 years.

With CIMB, she also has to manage many projects concurrently and this can get overwhelming. She finds herself to be better at managing her time and the stress which comes with rushed projects, thanks to her Fellowship training.

Network. Since she runs educational based programmes, Elizabeth often works on niche projects such as STEM initiatives or leadership and value-based learning. Through Teach For Malaysia’s extensive network of Alumni (many who are still involved in education-related initiatives) and corporate partners, she has been able to connect and leverage on this for her own work.

Methodology in approaching projects. Goal-setting, planning and strategy are skills Elizabeth learnt as a teacher during the Fellowship. “You have to strategize and plan your lessons in a manner that your students can understand best, while being able to achieve your school’s target,” Elizabeth said. This helps with her approach in the programmes she runs for work, which leads to being able to accurately determine impact. “Very few NGOs are as structured and well planned as Teach For Malaysia in both long-term and short-term goals,” she shared.

 

Words to future Fellows

“Keep an open mind. Be ready to learn and navigate through the existing education system which comes with its own set of challenges. Remember that you have your Fellow cohort mates and LDOs as your constant pillars of support. The Fellowship is a worthwhile experience to go through to mould yourself personally and professionally. It really teaches you how to assess your strengths and helps you gain a greater sense of who you are.

 

Elizabeth Wong, a 2014 Teach For Malaysia Alumna, is a Bachelor of Laws graduate from Cardiff University in United Kingdom. She is currently an Assistant Manager with CIMB Foundation. Elizabeth taught English and Geography at a high-need school in Pandamaran, Klang.

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