Skills can be taught but not attitude: Razif Aziz

15 May 2017 / 23:27 H.

THIS week we get thoughts and views from government agency Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd COO and Malaysian Business Angels Network executive director Razif Aziz.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Over the last 22 years I have had the privilege of being involved in a wide variety of different roles ranging from business development, corporate, legal and regulatory affairs, communications and sales, and marketing in various industry sectors such as defence, construction, FMCG, telecoms and broadcast, government and biotechnology. It is this diversity of knowledge and experience that I bring to the job that has allowed me to lead and solve issues effectively.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
At the risk of being unoriginal – attitude – skills you can teach but not attitude. A positive attitude towards work and learning are probably the most important things I would look for in a job candidate.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
I have many thoughts here but what I would really like to say is that I hope to see the government gradually exiting this space and the space it leaves behind being filled by the private sector. We are already seeing this now but I think it will take some time still. One prediction I would like to make though is the importance of the Asean market. I think this story still has legs. While some Malaysian startup starts with a global dream, I think an Asean dream is more viable ultimately.
What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business – startups?
For careers – I would say patience. In this day and age of instant gratification, new candidates are too impatient expecting to move up barely a year into the job. I say pay your dues and do all the inane menial stuff first … the strategic high value stuff will come. Just be diligent and stay focused.
For startups – validate your idea as rigorously and objectively as possible.
We all know about industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts.
I think it is happening as we speak and it is being enabled by technological advancements in a number of different areas. The people who will come out on top are those who are able to bring seemingly disparate technologies and skill sets to bear to solve big problems. If you are living under a rock somewhere and not willing to collaborate to innovate you may get left behind.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?
That it is not a one-way process. It is actually a process where you are able to learn as well. Being able to be a part of a startup's development process can be very rewarding. Being able to contribute in that manner in some way is more satisfying than bringing home that cheque at the end of the month. It is difficult to describe.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
More responsibility. Perhaps command of my own ship. But only when I am ready.
Best piece of advice you ever got on your career
From my ex-boss Pushpa Nair who headed legal at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission some years back. She said that at the end of the day, all you have is your credibility. Look after it well.
Most admired business leader? Why?
I don't have one actually but I guess it would be someone with substance and gravitas.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
You need to continually read around your area/sector. I don't read books generally as they need time to consume. I focus more on magazines and papers like The Edge and Focus Malaysia. Also online sources of which there are many. These formats give me information in amounts I can digest easily which I can apply to my work if necessary. Most times its just information you store somewhere in the periphery of your mind. You need a broad perspective to make sense of things most times so reading as widely as possible helps.
If you could have an hour with any leader in the world, who would it be and why?
Barrack Obama because he has substance and gravitas. He's also a cool guy.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? And what did you learn from it?
In the early stages of your career you will not have to manage other people. Life is simpler that way. Then one day, you get a taste of a leadership role and you begin to manage people. Then things get complicated. They don't teach you these things in school. This is something you learn as you go. Some of us are blessed with leadership skills – you were born with it. I was not so I had to learn on the job. I am still learning now so I don't really have any wisdom to give here. You need to ask someone else for this one.
What was the most outlandish business proposal you have ever heard of?
When you are in the tech startup development space you always hear outlandish business proposals. What is more important is you approach it like any other proposal. Test the assumptions and key business propositions. You need to give every proposal its due.
What man-made innovation confounds you? Why?
A recent one that I am still grappling with is blockchain. Having sat in on a number of talks on this I still haven't really figured it out (yet). It's only a matter of time though. There are a lot of smart people in this space.
A must-read for every business owner/leader is …
Wired magazine … hardcopy or online version. Good mix of everything. Tech and all.
How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses in the future?
It will certainly affect our competitiveness going forward. A lot of what we do today, what we produce etc have been built around policies and regulations which have been kept deliberately at a low impact level to ensure their competitiveness. As climate change is a global issue, there will be forums where Malaysia will find itself increasingly being forced to adopt more stringent policies and regulations to ensure climate change goals are met. Whole industries need to change and play ball otherwise they risk being shut out. RSPO etc is just the tip of the iceberg. As public opinion changes around the world the rate at which this change happens may even accelerate. Malaysia needs to be able to meet this challenge through innovation.
What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?
Diversity of experience/skills, age and my legal background.

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