BEING a leader isn’t easy at all. Being a young leader, even harder. Young leaders’ work ethic, skills and authority are often questioned and challenged purely due to the lack of white hairs and wrinkles that come with age.
Paired with unwelcome pressure from watchful eyes that are ever ready to criticise, it is no surprise that youngsters might buckle under pressure.
However, they can excel with flying colours when the right support and empowerment are shown by employers.
At just 36 years, electrical engineer Mohd Taufik Ab Rahman is already the head of Cenergi SEA Berhad’s Sri Jelutung biogas plant in Pekan, Pahang.
Since joining the company in 2019, he has led the plant to generate revenue year-on-year, eventually becoming Cenergi’s top revenue-making plant in 2022. His plant won the Global Energy Award 2020 – the only biogas plant in Malaysia with this feat to date.
“Cenergi does not shun young minds and our voices. The company trusts our abilities and respects us as professionals.
“The upper management doesn’t micromanage, but allows me to run the plant... lets me shine and show my capabilities.
“By allowing us to be independent, it empowers us to be innovative in improving processes and operations.
“Also, it’s all about teamwork at Cenergi. We don’t work in silos here. Various departments will be involved in one project,” says Mohd Taufik whose daily responsibilities include ensuring all the plant operations run smoothly, liaising with authorities and contractors, handling training, amongst others.
Noting that strong support from the company in the form of training helped him grow professionally, he says that Cenergi invests a great deal into training to keep its workforce relevant and competitive.
“Besides welcoming young and new engineers, Cenergi keeps up with occupational safety and is keen on sending us for training in accordance with our needs.
“For me, it is on new technologies, plant and machinery maintenance and crisis management. This proves helpful as a biogas plant is actually pretty hazardous.
“Yet, we have not had any major crisis occurring – only minor hiccups,” shares Mohd Taufik, a graduate from University Malaysia Pahang.
Valued at the workplace
Suffice to say, employees who feel valued at the workplace are often motivated, more productive, happier and less likely to look for other employment opportunities.
Four of Mohd Taufik’s engineering colleagues share his sentiments.
Nurul Farah Addina Farizuddin, 30, an assistant manager in Cenergi’s contract and commercial management department, shares that she is being groomed to handle an ever-expanding portfolio.
“Since joining Cenergi in 2018 as a management trainee, subsequently becoming a full time staff, I was given opportunities and support to carry out my role and responsibilities.
“I’m in relationship management, dealing with contractors and vendors, ironing out terms and conditions and more in biogas and solar. Soon, I’ll be adding hydro to my portfolio as well,” says the Pahang girl who holds an Environmental Science degree from the University of Nottingham.
She adds that flat reporting is practised in this company, which makes day-to-day operations and work processes that much easier.
“With this method, there is less red tape and hierarchy involved that requires a lot of time. When we have ideas, we can easily present and execute them – we are not confined to a box.
“We are also free to request for training that we feel can benefit us and the company readily sends us there,” says Nurul Farah who was involved in a 45 megawatt plant project – one of the biggest in Peninsular Malaysia.
Cenergi’s solar and energy efficiency (business development) head Ahmad Syihan Abdullah concurs, noting that the practice of horizontal communication fosters continuous learning and improvement among employees as on-the-ground feedback from asset management and operation teams will be used for improvement in design and engineering for future projects.
Ahmad Syihan, 34, also from Pahang, adds that the young engineers in the company are trained to identify the skills gap in the industry and are exposed to a lot of key players through membership in industrial associations that helps them build social networks.
“We collaborate with MPIA, MAESCO and more for policy advisory to regulators and authority, share knowledge on the latest technology and practices, for a collaborative effort to push for policy change that will benefit the industry and country as a whole,” says the biotechnology engineer who obtained his degree from Washington State University, and Masters from the University College London.
He adds that he is proud to be part of Cenergi which is working to reduce methane emissions and contribute to increasing the renewable energy portion in the national energy mix.
Nur Alyaa Zahida Azizan, 35, an environmental engineer and expert in wastewater treatment who joined Cenergi in 2023, shares that Cenergi is a company that walks the talk.
“Internally, the company is constantly seeking and trying ways to improve its sustainability culture through a host of activities including Sustainability Day and more,” she says.
Highlighting that the company has a healthy work culture and open mindset, the senior executive in Cenergi’s business development division says: “Managers and superiors here are willing to spend time teaching, and learning alongside new hires. Regardless of hierarchy, they make us feel heard when fresh ideas are voiced out.
“Higher management is accessible here, and it helps when we can observe how they work and manage people because it greatly helps us gain knowledge and confidence faster – increasing work productivity and effectiveness,” says the PhD holder in wastewater management.
Since joining Cenergi in 2018 as a senior engineer, Mohd Nazul Abdul Kadir, 36, maintains his enthusiasm for his field of work and has risen up the ranks to become assistant manager of the project management division.
Mohd Nazul, who holds a degree in mechanical system engineering from Hiroshima University, Japan, is passionate about his work in the renewable energy sector and is further motivated by Cenergi because the company actively promotes innovativeness among young engineers to combat climate crisis and address ecological concerns.
“There is a lack of young professionals in this field, which is up and coming. The company welcomes dynamic talents and sends us to a lot of certification programmes which enhance the team’s performance and understanding.
“We (at Cenergi) focus on reducing carbon footprint, electricity costs and energy intensity by exploring various business models, collaborating with partners and implementing new technology to address different needs of businesses across sectors,” he says.
Growing green champions
In the quest to drive Malaysia’s energy transition agenda and usher the country towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, engineering-based infrastructure and services company UEM Group Berhad had recently secured the majority shares of Cenergi as part of green assets rationalisation exercise by Khazanah Nasional Berhad – effectively making the sustainable energy solutions company a subsidiary of UEM Group.
According to UEM Group managing director Datuk Mohd Izani Ghani, Cenergi’s commendable track record with projects and presence across the country led the group to notice its immense potential.
“UEM Group is committed to nurture as well as provide the necessary expertise, operational and financial support that will enhance Cenergi’s operational capabilities, secure more projects and usher in a new era of growth.
“Cenergi is a key asset of UEM Group and the firm’s goal is to ultimately position Cenergi as a green domestic champion to contribute significantly to Malaysia’s sustainable future.”
Mohd Izani highlights that UEM Group took note of Cenergi due to its commitment to foster the expertise and capabilities of young engineers from diverse backgrounds in this industry – providing them with pathways to delve into opportunities afforded by the green industry.
“Supporting young engineers in the green industry is essential for building our nation’s future, especially as Malaysia is aiming to derive 70% of our energy supply from renewables by 2050.
“Young engineers have an important role to play in the energy transition. At UEM Group and through our subsidiaries such as UEM Lestra Berhad and Cenergi, we are focused on equipping young Malaysians with the skills, experience and knowledge necessary to sustain the growth of Malaysia’s green sector.
“We will continue to nurture our young engineers, equip and expand their competencies, and pave the way for them to climb the corporate ladder in the green sector while at the same time play a role in realising Malaysia’s energy transition.”
Mohd Izani adds that the engineers gain experience in the engineering, technical design facets of the sector and are immersed in diverse commercial operations encompassing project management, financial planning, compliance, regulation, and risk management.
Cenergi’s integrative approach ensures that the engineers gain the comprehensive skills necessary to navigate the complexities of the green industry successfully.
These combined efforts with Cenergi demonstrates UEM Group’s unwavering dedication towards empowering Malaysia’s young engineers. The goal is to cultivate a talent pool proficient in the nuances of the green industry, thereby inspiring sustainable growth and contributing valuably to Malaysia’s energy transition objectives.