It is not easy to get an appointment with PETRONAS ICT's Head of Business Function–Corporate and Production Norbahiyah Awaludin due to her demanding work schedule. After several failed attempts at setting up an interview date with her, the busy leader suggested that I email my questions to her and she would respond as soon as possible. True to her words, Norbahiyah, fondly known as Puan Norbi, shared her answers with me the next day.
Puan Norbi joined PETRONAS in 1996 and was assigned to the IT Quality Assurance and Security Department. She started as a Senior Executive and climbed her way up to her current post after holding multiple roles including Manager for 7 Flagships Lotus Notes Apps, Support Manager for SAP, Head of Global Solutions, Programme Manager of Projects, Head of SAP Solution & Application Support and Head of Account Management Services.
Before joining PETRONAS, she was with Malaysia National Insurance (MNI) Berhad, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and PNB IT, its IT subsidiary, as well as Scomi.
She picked the 7 Flagships Lotus Note Apps project in 1997, as the most memorable one in her career with PETRONAS.
"This was a project under Group Information Resource Management, the former IT division of PETRONAS. It laid out the application foundation for PETRONAS to take advantage of new portal/website apps and knowledge management. We delivered the first PETRONAS Intranet and Internet-facing website [through this initiative]."
Puan Norbi is proud to be a part of the project, which was then considered "a new frontier". "It set the foundational platform for PETRONAS [to be part of the] World Wide Web. [The success of this project allowed] PETRONAS to advance further into the space of business digitalisation today."
A key lesson from that experience stays with her to this day. "Commitment from the team and unwavering hard work with one goal [in mind] will lead to success," she said.
"Always motivate and inspire the team to achieve remarkable outcomes" - PETRONAS ICT's Head of Business Function– Corporate and Production Norbahiyah Awaludin.
Along the way, she has learned a few strategies for dealing with challenges. "We need to always try and see the big picture so that we have a clear sight of the entire situation. The most important thing is to leverage each other's strengths – your own, your bosses, colleagues, friends and customers. When combined, team strength is the most powerful [weapon] you can have. Above all, always motivate and inspire the team to achieve remarkable outcomes," she added.The Pillar of Strength
This knowledge helped her overcome one of the most challenging assignments in her career to date – managing the "outsourcing" of PETRONAS IT to iPerintis with less than 20 per cent of the workforce crossing over.
"The entire team's capabilities had to be enhanced [quickly] to ensure continued, uninterrupted services for core ICT applications like SAP. On top of that, the team had to [start thinking and operating] like a vendor with sales targets in mind. This was tough with only 20 per cent of the workforce to start with. It felt like [competing] in the Olympics with fractured legs.
Norbahiyah Awaludin, fondly known as Puan Norbi, (fourth from right) enjoying a light moment with PETRONAS ICT staff.
While it was nerve wrecking, Puan Norbi knew she had to be the pillar of strength for her team. "I took things positively, subscribed courageously to the "JUST DO IT" attitude and made sure [this] rubbed off on the others within my team," she said.
That experience taught her that change is the only constant. "Just go with the flow, keep an open mind, and take it as an opportunity to grow and blossom," she added.
When asked whom she considers a role model, Puan Norbi names the former Bank Negara Governor, Tan Sri Dato' Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz as a leader she admires. "She is the first lady to sign our Ringgit notes and she is a calm, admirable and inspiring leader. I am impressed by her wisdom that has transformed the Malaysian banking system and brought it to the world finance arena."The Basic Three
In Puan Norbi's books, aspiring leaders must have these three basic qualities:1) EXPERTISE
You must be knowledgeable in the areas that you choose. Clarity of purpose will help you to stay focused and make work enjoyable as you will learn new things and grow rapidly.2) CREATIVITY
A vision stays as a dream if there is no action to it. A spark of creativity will help light up your energy and excitement to get to the vision. It will encourage leaders like you to find new ways to nurture people's growth and success.3) PERSEVERANCE
There is no success without perseverance. There will always be difficulties, failures, challenges and barriers along the way. Take each experience as joyful learnings that help sharpen your skills and build up your character.
In summary, a good leader is one who "has a vision that can be acted upon with the right purpose, and one who always nurtures and inspires others."