2023 IOTM ASFA's inTerview VIDEO
Video Edited by: 22B9011, Muhammad Nazirul Aiman bin Khalid (Public Relations Officer, Executive of Media and Public Relation Officer)
Host: 21B0103, Dk Nurafiqah Binti Pg Hj Ramlee
(Public Relations Officer, Executive of Media and Public Relation Officer)
Interviewer: 21B0088, Nur Ajlaa Fahima binti Abdullah Mohamad Asmayuddin
(Public Relations Officer, Executive of Media and Public Relation Officer)
Written by: 21B8013, Saiful Anwar bin Asri (Public Relations Officer, Executive of Media and Public Relation Officer)
Let us introduce Asfa Arifah binti Awang Besar, who has been nominated as our Leadership Inspirasee of August 2023. She is majoring in Business Administration in the School of Business and Economics (SBE). She was the vice-chairperson of the Writers’ Movement (WM) in her second year, as well as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Netspace during her incubation. Asfa is currently taking unpaid leave for four years to focus on her studies. She will go back to the workforce after her examinations in November.
She believes that any leadership role or opportunity is a natural event or based on destiny. Her journey began when she started working for the Royal Customs and Excise Department where she had seen all sorts of leaders and bosses that had helped her become the leader and person that she is today. She had worked in this department for ten years and has accumulated a lot of experience. She was also nominated as the vice-chairperson of WM and decided to do it as a challenge to herself. As part of WM, she says they were a tight-knit group who always tried to support each other and give advice when needed. During her incubation, she led a team of great people whom she had fun with while being innovative and creative. Also, during her internship at Brunei Darussalam Central Bank (BDCB), she was given full autonomy to handle an event for her whole department. She led a group of fellow interns to plan the logistics and budget for an escape room event. Asfa is satisfied when she is given full trust and her whole team is having fun under her leadership.
Three values Asfa emphasises in her leadership style are humility, accountability, and empathy. Without the humility to accept the ideas of people around you, she believes that you cannot go too far as a leader. Being a leader is not just about delegating tasks, you must also be able to handle some work yourself. Whenever a mistake happens, you must be accountable for your actions and be able to audit yourself. She believes that is the most important value.
She also believes that her greatest strength lies in her people skills because she loves meeting new people. Throughout her journey, she gets to meet so many people from all walks of life and gets to hear their stories. This taught her to have more empathy, but she does admit to having to recharge her social battery after meeting people. Asfa says that cultivating proactiveness is all about learning. She wants to do more and contribute to the nation and its people. She wants to create a space for people to talk. Asfa likes learning and she learns a lot from the people around her as well as sharing her knowledge with them.
“We are mere humans,” Asfa admits. She says she is prone to overthinking which causes a chain reaction, because from overthinking she gets anxious and asks her team to work faster, or that the task needs to be completed as soon as possible, which leads to her thinking they might get offended by her actions. However, she is surrounded by very great people who tell her that things do not need to be done quickly and that there is still time. Everything has been planned and it is impossible that the team could not do it, so she should calm down. Asfa wants to do the best she can in everything she does, but there are things that she cannot control. She learns that she should not force other people to work on her schedule. On the other side of the spectrum, she admits that she can be so scatterbrained that she just forgets some things. She gave an example of her being forgetful when counting things, where she just lost count of them halfway through.
Asfa is not the best at communicating, but she is the type of person who wants to understand her counterpart’s story before she communicates her solution. In the event of a disagreement in her team, she admits to not being able to mediate herself due to bias. However, she will get someone else to mediate while supervising the whole process, as to ensure that everyone’s opinions will be heard. If she sees someone not pulling their weight or someone who could do so much more, she would pull them aside via text message or physical meeting, then try to comprehend any problems they might have, and try to offer solutions or help them. She also tries to hype them up (see an example on our website!) and gives a pep talk before all her events.
The hardest part of being in a team is when no one offers an assertive opinion or is neutral. The opposite of this also holds a variety of opinions, making it harder to come to a final decision. It is also hard to make everyone work together. Of course, each leader would have different experiences leading a group when compared to other leaders leading the same group. At the end of the day, everyone should have mutual respect because they are all working together to reach the same goal. Asfa would try to do research beforehand before deciding to recruit someone into her team or to work with someone else’s team. If she cannot find any information, then she will just accept her fate and leave it up to Allah. She admits that working with the same people constantly can get boring and you need some excitement in life, but she does like to work with people she knows she will work well with. Ultimately she lets destiny decide.
“We don’t want leaders that jump ship when it's sinking.” Asfa believes that accountability is the most important value of being a leader. It is important to always do reflections and post-mortem meetings, where the team can discuss what went wrong, where it went wrong, and when it almost failed. Every project she does has a timeline so they can see where a mistake might have occurred. She says that people should not blame others as accidents are bound to happen and we cannot anticipate them. What is important is to fix the problem and control the damage, as a team. If at any point during the project and she feels something might go wrong, Asfa would discuss it with her team.
If her whole team is lacking the motivation to work on the event or project, she gives them a time-out away from work. They might bring food, but the most important thing is to have a get-together and talk. The concept comes from what she would do to relax, but now with her team. When feeling overwhelmed, she recommends praying as it can also serve as a self-reflecting act, as well as staying away from social media.
She also likes to retrace their steps from the beginning and see where they might have gone lost or missed their original intentions. Official organisations would have Visions, Missions, and Objectives (VMOs). These are important because they are the foundation of any work of that organisation. The people need to be constantly reminded of the VMOs of the organisation so that they do not forget the original intentions of the organisation. It is easier to do now as the VMOs can be on a website or used as an email signature. However, it is also important for the leader to be present and remind them at the start of the project.
Asfa admits to being a homebody, but she does like to go out café hopping. She also likes to read any kind of book that catches her eye or just listen to audiobooks. If she has to divide her time between multiple events or tasks, she will set her priorities. As a leader, Asfa believes that you can still have a leader above you. This creates a situation in which she has her event to run as well as being asked to help with a different task. She might not be able to do a task at a lower priority in time, but she will try her best to finish it as soon as possible.
The people who led her to her journey were her parents who raised and supported her. Her inspirations in her leadership journey are her bosses who had guided her. They were not just leaders to her, but they were also her mentors. They embodied the qualities of a good leader and how they carry themselves which motivates her to push herself for improvement. One of them never forgot to give her credit for her help in presentations, in which she sees him as being an accommodating leader and this makes her feel appreciated. He had also given her resources to guide her and asked for her opinions as well as taught her the inner workings of the company. Another mentor would always look out for her and remind her of her tasks in which she sees him as a father figure. They were also protective of her and made sure that she was thorough with her work and paid attention to the details.
Asfa also states that the people from the university have also inspired her as well in showing resilience and strength, especially during tough times like inflation and unemployment where they are constantly working to achieve their goals. She says that to be a leader is to constantly learn.
The people she looks towards no matter in good or bad times, are first, Allah, and second, her parents. They have been supporting her in every endeavour of her life. She also has her best friends who have been with her for eleven years and will be there for her when she needs them despite their own commitments. Her university friends are also there for her and she also constantly bugs them to the point she worries they might get annoyed. Asfa also has one really good friend from SBE who has been like a rock to her for many years and has given her a lot of advice.
“Life will throw a lot of lemons to you, but just believe in things, ask a lot of things, manifest whatever you want, (and) keep moving forward. At the end of the day, things will be done. Keep on doing it. Live life.”
Asfa conveys that if an opportunity comes, just do it. She listens to the song ‘Dream On’ and constantly lives by its lyrics. If you want to know more about Asfa and her leadership roles, you may contact her through her Instagram @almostbaeyonce.