After discovering his passion for teaching as a young adult, Phang Jai Juet – or better known as JJ – has never stopped doing what he loves. For the full-time lawyer and PhD candidate in Business Management at Open University Malaysia, Melaka, teaching is his way of contributing to society.
“If we are more open to sharing knowledge and experience, I believe that society will become more harmonious and prosperous,” he said.
“As an example, not every young graduate is going to walk into their first job, knowing a lot about the industry. They will eventually learn on the job, but if people around them are more generous with knowledge, they will pick up faster.”
JJ, who runs his law firm with two partners, one of whom is his wife, in Ayer Keroh, said that this is especially true in entrepreneurship. He himself, who started his entrepreneurship journey teaching music to university friends at the Multimedia University, said that he lives by the principle of ‘Jangan Kedekut Ilmu’ – an age-old Malay saying that cautions people to not skimp on knowledge.
“The people that we teach today might become the leaders of tomorrow. We never know if the person who benefits from our gesture might one day benefit more people at a grander scale,” he added. It was also this philosophy that spurred JJ to offer work-from-home internship opportunities at his firm in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On top of managing his business and studies, JJ is an active member of Business Network International (BNI) in the Melaka region. The BNI, said JJ is a supportive coalition that provides entrepreneurs with networking opportunities. He aims to be the state's BNI executive director in the near future and to use his position to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the country.
According to the 30-year-old, his penchant for hard work and dreaming big resulted from an upbringing that pushed him to be independent and resilient. The eldest in the family, JJ, had to mature quickly at the prospect of supporting his two younger sisters when their parents, who were both factory managers, retire as he entered the second year of his bachelor's degree.
JJ was enrolled in Multimedia University’s Melaka campus to pursue a law degree. In his first year, he managed his fees by working part-time as a music teacher.
Not long after, he stumbled upon an advertisement on the faculty's bulletin board.
“It was an ad to apply for a scholarship from Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM). It was the first time that I heard of it but I quickly applied.”
JJ was ecstatic when PIDM chose him as one of the five inaugural recipients of the scholarship.
With the scholarship, he could pay the full amount of his tuition fee and support himself and his family with the monthly allowance. He did not stop doing his part-time job though.
“I feel blessed because, unlike others, this scholarship is completely non-binding,” he said.
JJ added that some of his fondest memories of his student years involved getting on a bus to visit PIDM’s office in Kuala Lumpur to attend training and workshops for scholars.
“From the support given in the form of mentors to the programmes organised for scholars, the organisation made me realise that scholarship is not just about supporting the student financially but guiding them to find their potential and become the best version of themselves,” he said.
Learnings from his journey
JJ regards the individuals he met in his student years to be his inspiration in his continuing professional and academic journey. He made it a point to keep in touch with them and has regarded them as his mentors.
The experience also taught him about gratitude and recognising those who had helped him along the way. He felt inspired to write thank you notes to his former lecturers after his graduation.
And certainly, JJ had much more to be thankful for when one of the lecturers offered to help JJ apply for a research grant provided by the Ministry of Higher Education for a master’s degree. He clinched it, and was able to pursue his masters on industrial relations, with waived tuition fees.
Then a challenge presented itself. The qualitative research required that he interview important figures in the country's legal fraternity, and he struggled to finish the research on time.
On the verge of resigning and as those around him advised JJ to give up on his master's degree, his father's words gave him the strength to pull through and succeed.
“My father said people would not remember how you start a journey, but they will remember how you complete it. All of us will have our challenges in life, and we will not start at the same place, but how we choose to live and work for our success makes all the difference,” he said.
“In our journey, we will have setbacks and opportunities that will change our direction and make us better navigators. I am thankful that my journey has led me to PIDM, which in turn has deepened my resilience and inspiration to complete my journey with a life of giving, harmony and happiness.”