Taiwan, known for their hospitality. I arrived Taiwan on 14 Dec 2013 not on a holiday, but to commence my secondment to KPMG Taiwan for 18 months. As I set foot on Taiwan soil, the first impression I had was that I felt lost. Mandarin is everywhere as it is their official national language. With my mediocre command of Mandarin, how, I wonder, will I fare in my line of duty as a financial auditor who not only does financial audits, but annual tax filing for big corporations as well.
As the days went on, I slowly broke the language barrier and accustomed to the way of life in Taiwan. Having met another fellow secondee, Lilee, was a blessing in disguise. We did many things together and I really appreciated her company.
As I recall, 18 months was actually a very short time when we are enjoying ourselves, working and gaining experiences at the same time. It was truly an experience to treasure and I really cherished my secondment in Taiwan.
As I informed my PM that I would like to go for GO Mobility. ACE programme came into picture for the mobility in Asia Pacific. I selected Taiwan in order to expose myself to Taiwanese culture and also stood a chance to work in the United States for a week. No doubt, in Taiwan, I was in an engagement selected by US PCAOB for review of audit work papers. That was the most challenging part for me throughout my secondment experience and also made my KPMG experience much more meaningful. None the less, travelling to nearby countries such as Macau, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea also made my work-life balance target colourful.
Being selected for this secondment was certainly a milestone in my KPMG career. One of the attractions that got me starting a career in KPMG was the global working opportunities that the firm offers its employee. Reaching Melbourne on 8th December 2013, I was put up in a five-star service apartment for two weeks while a relocation consultant was assigned to me to assist me relocating to a permanent place. This certainly got me feeling like an expat!. After settling down, I decided to take my bicycle for a spin and being new to the roads and its traffic rules, I mistakenly ended up cycling in the Burnley Tunnel. Mind you unlike Malaysia, bicycles are not allowed to go through tunnels and the equivalent of my act was probably akin to cycling on the German Autobahn. The feeling of rushing adrenaline as 18 wheeler trucks sped by me within half a foot still tingles me. Not to mention that this act landed me an infamous privilege of appearing on national news.
First day of work I was greeted by my teammates of my first mining job, which had excited me as I was informed that we would be visiting one of Australia’s largest copper-gold mine in Adelaide. I noticed that office dressing in Melbourne is pretty casual, with guys rocking up in matching brown shoes and belt, minus the need to wear a tie. The equivalent of a head nod greeting in Malaysia would be “Hey how its going?!!”. It also should be noted that half of the audit workforce is actually non-Australians; with the likes of Europeans (UK and Paris) , Asians (mainly Japan and Singapore), Americans and even South Africa.
Being assigned as the junior manager on my mining client, I faced my first work-related challenge due to a different working culture. Being very accustomed to reviewing audit work by physically viewing the deliverables, review of work here in Australia is primarily done by discussions with the end product generally being a result of those discussions. I was not comfortable at first with this method but overtime I did get used to it as with clear discussions, the end-product (deliverables) is usually of sound quality. Hence communication skills and EQ here is of utter importance, which is something that I did improve on throughout my stint. With regards to working hours here, apart from a handful of 70-80 hour week during the busy January-February periods, there is an abundance of work life balance here as we normally hit the exit doors at 5.15pm!
Using the overtime leave that I accumulated from busy seasons, I enjoyed my time travelling around Melbourne (Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island) Adelaide (cycling through Surrey Hills and the Barossa Valley), Sydney (Blue Mountain) and Tasmania. The most memorable trip was the week long hiking excursions at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair which spans 65 kilometres in Tasmania. The abundance of wildlife amidst snow-capped mountains and breathtaking views of waterfalls, craters and lakes was blissful to say the least.
I would also certainly recommend Australia for cycling fanatics like me, in which the spring and summer is filled with weekly criterium races (short sprint distance) that span for 1 hour. Shift into daylight savings during autumn and winter are that start of longer 2-4 hour endurance road races. I had the chance of racing in the Mount Baw Baw (rated 2nd steepest climb in the world of professional cycling after Alto D’ Angliru in Spain) road race which involved 10,000 feet of elevation over 109 kilometres and the Bupa Around the Bay ride which spans 220 kilometres.
All in all, I thought the secondment was a good platform to experience a difference working culture and lifestyle. It is certainly more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. I am certainly grateful to my home office for giving me this chance as I gained a new paradigm and expanded my outlook on business, people and life. I believe this new experiences will certainly continue to benefit my personal and professional development once I return to KPMG Malaysia.