PETRONAS’ Business Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Upstream Information Management & Information Technology (IM & IT) Peter Chia had a humble beginning. Born and raised in a small village, where water and electricity were a luxury and being an orphan at a young age taught Peter to be strong and self-reliant.
Despite having a decent first career at Telekom Malaysia after finishing secondary school, Peter pursued higher education as a part-time student. While still working, he completed the Higher National Certificate from the United Kingdom (UK). He then flew to the UK on a one-way ticket and just enough money to pay for the first year of his university education.
Peter lived on a shoe-string budget in the UK and was determined to return home with a degree. To make ends meet, Peter juggled several part-time jobs in between classes to earn enough money to pay for his education, food and lodging. Although life was extremely challenging for Peter, he did overcome the various hurdles and returned to Malaysia with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Electrical Engineering. He likened this experience as a turning point in his life.
Since then, Peter carries with him a quiet confidence and tenacity in managing a busy schedule involving work and his passion for charity work. He is an active member of several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and is responsible for the establishment of some of these institutions.
Peter shared anecdotes of his life-inspiring journey at a recent leadership engagement session with the participants from the Group ICT Future Leaders Programme. Below are the key takeaways from that session:-
1. You must be willing to work hard.
Peter’s struggles during his younger years made him the man he is today – one who is stronger and better able to overcome any challenge that gets thrown his way.
“In the early years of your career, you will learn a lot of things the hard way. You may have to juggle many responsibilities at one time… [you will] need to demonstrate capabilities beyond the given roles. To achieve success, you must be willing to work hard. There’s no shortcut to it,” he advised.
2. Recognise your weakness(es) and improve it.
Peter believed that the good thing about working in a corporation with a multi-national workforce is that it provides exposure to positive cultural values practiced by others. One of the lessons Peter learnt from his European colleagues is to speak up and express opinions in an objective and confident manner.
Peter realised back then that he lacked the confidence and was not articulate in his communication. However, he did not let his shy nature hinder him from his career goals. Determined to improve his public speaking skills and boost his confidence, he formed the Toastmasters Club together with several colleagues in at his former place of work, the Shell office in Miri. He ensured that he picked up additional skills and knowledge in other areas of expertise.
“We [Humans] are not born to be good at everything, but we are born with the ability to learn new skills,” said Peter. He believed that continuous learning is key to a successful life.
You must identify and recognise your strengths and weaknesses; play on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Often times, you will be surprised with your own capability; by doing things that you thought you can’t do, you will realize how far you actually can go when you stretch your potential.
3. Stay true to your intentions.
Relating to his experience and passion towards helping the underprivileged community, Peter finds satisfaction in improving the lives of the underprivileged. His path to materialise his plans in this area became clear when he remained true to his intentions; the ideas easily came to him.
Peter founded the Miri branch of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) and the Miri division of Vui Neng Association in order to realize his ideas for charity work via a structured committee. The Vui Neng Association served as a platform to roll out the community development plan, one of which was for the squatters in Senadin, Miri. Through the associations’ effort, the occupants of squatter houses in Senadin were given a 10-year Temporary Occupation License that gave them the right to own the land on which they built their houses.
The local government in Miri valued Peter’s contributions to the community and saw the potential he would bring to city planning. As a result, Peter was offered a position as a Councillor of the Miri City Council. True to form, Peter viewed the appointment as an opportunity to further help the needy and extended the outreach of his community development plans.
4. Practise, practise, practise.
With regards to developing leadership traits, Peter attributed his leadership development to his participation in NGOs and charitable activities that allowed him to deal with people from different backgrounds and ranks within the community. Through such opportunities, Peter was able to refine his communication and people management skills.
Peter emphasised that a key trait to being a successful leader is good communication and interpersonal skills. “While many recognize this, few practice it,” he said.
It is important to practise good communication and interpersonal relations at every occasion. And when you do, be honest in your communication. Always tell it as it is, he said.
5. Deliver results through others.
Often times, you will be given more tasks than you can handle. This is when collaborating with others helps you achieve your goals. Working in silos has been proven to do more harm than good to an organisation’s productivity. Practising good communication and interpersonal relations help you align your different priorities and collaborate with your colleagues to achieve a common goal.
During the Q&A session, Peter revealed the reason he changed lanes from Engineering to IT was because he saw a better opportunity to realize his potential and climb the corporate ladder. He also shared that he was able to keep a good balance between his career and his passion in doing charity work because of the support provided by his family, in particular his wife, who has always been there to help him juggle family, work and his passion for doing charity work.
Peter Chia joined PETRONAS in July 2012, as Chief Information Officer (CIO) of PETRONAS Exploration & Production. He brought with him more than 20 years of experience in the oil & gas industry. He started his career as an engineer at offshore platforms, rigs and barges, including four years assignment in The Hague, Netherlands. After spending 10 years in the Engineering field, Peter switched to IT. He has held several key positions, including Country IT Manager, Regional Chief Information Officer (Asia Pacific) and Global General Manager for Upstream IT. He is a chartered member of the Electrical Engineer Board (UK). He graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Electrical Engineering.
Peter is the founder of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia Miri Branch, Miri’s first Toastmasters Club and the Vui Neng (Local Community Clan) Association in Miri. He is also the Chairman of Business Stakeholders Group for Miri Wi-Fi City project and a Councillor of Miri City Council. Peter is also a Board member of Engineer Malaysia (Ir.) and a Fellow member of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia. He was conferred an Honorary Award of “Ahli Bintang Sarawak” (ABS) for his contributions in Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO).