In the September 2020 edition of Global Spotlights by Manvi Pant, Annie Yahaya of Begin From Where You Are is featured.
Annie comes with an illustrious career journey that spans across two decades. In this period, she has worked with some leading brands in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. She has exhibited her knowledge in domains like corporate sales, marketing & business development, strategy, corporate identity & positioning, conference & event planning and management. Ms Yahaya’s first major break as the youngest Director of Marketing & Business Development at a leading global hotel management brand gave her the wings to fly higher, and she then landed a senior frontline role at a leading Malaysian conglomerate before setting up her own training & coaching organization.
A multi-lingual certified professional learning facilitator, speaker, writer, and whole-being coach, Ms Yahaya introduced her signature ‘Brand YOU for Success’ program in 2014, a sought-after personal excellence workshop that focuses on core drivers for personal and career advancement. She partners with experts globally to deliver unparalleled learning experiences to her suite of clients.
At the moment, she lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family.
Tell us about your childhood. What made you the woman you are today.
My parents taught me discipline, respect and hard work from the very beginning. My mother was a school teacher, and I have vivid memories of how meticulous and creative she was. She gamified learning for us way before digitalization. My father was a grand figure of dedication too. So for me, childhood was a movie of boundless learning, family gatherings, fun in the dirt and short skirts! It taught me that education begins at home and that life is the best teacher.
What is at the core of your professional drive?
I enjoy chasing stars and scoring points, climbing up the corporate ladder swiftly and passionately. Since I have a deep admiration for people who have a voice and hold opinions confidently, I love to see myself in the same space too. And so, consciously I keep myself abreast with what’s happening in the world. Another thing that is at the core of my professional drive is my family. They help me stay grounded and balanced. They bring me home. Being a woman, balancing a successful career and raising a family takes a lot of skills, and an immense amount of support – emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
What is your mantra in times of stress to help you through a situation?
As a Muslim, I cite the remembrance of my Creator repeatedly. We call this dzikr. They keep me calm in any situation. When it gets intense, I perform ablution and look for a corner for a short prayer to quietly contemplate. The rest of the time, I practice self-coaching. This helps me explore reasons in my mind by asking questions such as “What is this (event) trying to teach me?”, “What miracle is showing up in my life?”, or “Is this (event) making me happy?”. If the answer is no, then move on! With time, and experience, I have learnt to let go of anything that does not serve me and my mind, and I welcome anything that warms my heart and expands my life, like the act of giving and sharing.
What is the first step toward healing?
I practice a three-step process – gratitude, repentance and submission.
Not only can this cure sorrows invisible to the naked eye, they also are acts of worship which mean for each time Muslims practice these acts, we come closer to our Creator. Allah has said in the Holy Qur’an, “Why should God make you suffer, torment if you are thankful, and believe in Him? God always rewards gratitude and He knows everything” (Qur’an 4:147), and “…And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (Qur’an 24:31). To heal is to be on the path of success, and success comes upon a grateful heart, a humble soul and a complete submission to the will of Allah.
Who is someone who believes in you that has helped build your confidence?
My father has been my role model in many spheres of my life. He was humble, lovable and he came wrapped with a huge presence. He had the kind of confidence that was filled with humility, and he taught me how to say more with fewer words. Sometimes a hug is all we need, and I am strong in the memory of his countless hugs.
Where do you go for inspiration?
To the beach! I am a creative person, and I realized years ago that just standing and watching the sea triggers my senses and stimulates my creativity, even excitement. I built a company inspired by Bali, wrote a book inspired by Krabi, designed an entire women empowerment program inspired by Phuket. For some reason, the beaches closer to home only trigger my appetite!
Why do women struggle to find their voice? How can things get better for them?
There are many reasons why women struggle with finding their voice, and if I could only point to one, it would be cultural. Even powerful women struggle to speak up in some cultures because despite having great competence in their trade, their mind is unable to erase all those years of conditioning. Generations after generations, there are rules to be followed. Those women who dare to break them, they become a cause of shame to the family. All this while, the other gender is considered to be more assertive with more power and bigger rights.
How can things get better for us? Continuous cycle of education is the key for both men and women. Now is a good time to remove all misinformation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation concerning women.
What gift do you most cherish about yourself?
My ability to visualize things and then work on their materialization, either for myself, or for my family, or my businesses.