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Tuesday November 5, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday November 5, 2013 MYT 9:36:24 AM
by kevin tan
Solving Malaysia’s brain drain, one internship at a time.
BACK in 2006, while Joyce Tagal was studying at Yale University, she founded Otak-Otak, an internship programme to match students seeking internships with companies looking for interns.
Focusing on helping Malaysian students who are studying abroad, Otak-Otak has helped thousands of students overseas to get internships with companies in Malaysia.
As a student studying overseas, she realised that it was difficult for students like herself to get an internship back home. So she, along with three other friends, came up with Otak-Otak, to act as the “middle man” between companies and interns and help both parties.
“It is difficult for students overseas to get internships here because companies often want face-to-face interviews, but why would a student come back all the way to Malaysia just to do an interview, and then go back?” asks Joyce.
To solve this issue, the Otak-Otak programme would conduct internal interviews with intern candidates, shortlist them, and propose them to companies. Among the companies that have worked with Otak-Otak are Petronas, CIMB, McKinsey & Company, Maxis, and Gartner.
“Great companies are always on the lookout for young people, and students out there are always on the look out for great companies. So Otak-Otak helps fill the gaps between companies and interns,” explained the 27-year-old Sarawakian, who hails from Kuching.
Today, thousands of students have had internship opportunities because of the Otak-Otak programme, and many of them have actually followed in the footsteps of Joyce.
After graduating from Yale University as a political science major student in 2009, Joyce came back to Malaysia and joined the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu) in the Government Transformation Programme, where she worked closely with the Education Ministry to focus on education policy.
Joyce is very much about bringing different groups of people together; for instance, during her university days, Joyce and some of her Malaysian friends also studying in the United States created the North-East Malaysia Forum (NMF) with the aim of connecting Malaysians in the US with each other to discuss issues and happenings in Malaysia.
“When you’re away from your homeland, it’s easy to lose the relationship with your country. But instead, I truly discovered my identity as a Malaysian when I was overseas. And the good thing was that NMF really brought like-minded people together. It really made us know more about ourselves as Malaysians,” she said.
Joyce is now the associate director of alumni at Teach For Malaysia, where she trains individuals to make an impact in schools, and in their own respective industries. “In Teach For Malaysia we believe that everyone can make an impact anywhere, in any industry,” she stated.
It isn’t surprising that since a very young age, Joyce already had a clear picture of the path she wanted to take in life. Inspired by her parents’ stories, especially those of her late father, Datuk Dr Judson Tagal, who was an assistant state minister in Sarawak, she naturally took an interest in politics and education early in life.
Her parents were the very first generation of their families to receive a tertiary education. And it didn’t come easy.
“I will always remember the story of how my dad went to school when he was young. My dad and his peers from a tribe of only 200 people from a rural background would have to walk through the forest for one week, just to go to school.
“So just imagine, a group of young children walking through the forest, huddling under trees to sleep, eating berries and stuff like that, for one week just to go to school for a whole semester before they come back,” she illustrated.
If there is one lesson she has learnt from her father, it would be to “give back”.
“My parents always reminded us that we (Joyce and her siblings) have a lot of privileges because we grew up in a relatively upper class background, but both our parents came from very poor families. And they wanted us to know that we got to where we are through a lot of luck, coincidence and hard work,” she said.
>Joyce Tagal will be speaking at TEDxYouth@KL on Nov 16. For more information, go to tedxyouthkl.com. R.AGE is the official print partner of TEDxYouth@KL. Follow us on Twitter (@thestar_rage) to win passes!
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Youth, joyce tagal, get personal, teach for malaysia
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