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An Interview with Richard Leetham

by Anis Taufik 31 Dec 2013
An Interview with Richard Leetham
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Having spent half a decade in Malaysia, Richard Leetham, Chief Executive Officer of SapuraAcergy Sdn Bhd, talked about his experiences living in Malaysia, the TalentCorp initiative and what makes Malaysia a great place for expatriates to tap into.
My family and I have been in Malaysia for five years now. Prior to coming to Kuala Lumpur, we had been in Perth, Australia. Although I’d travelled throughout Asia for work before, this is actually my first time living in the region.
My main first impression of Malaysia was that it was something different—very busy and vibrant, with a lot of people. Kuala Lumpur’s got a definite buzz to it; there’s so much energy to the city compared to Perth, which can be very quiet and even sleepy. In the evenings here, things get going at 10pm, but back in Perth, it’s time for bed! We were also really impressed with the choice of restaurants and bars in the city when we first arrived—there’s just constantly a lot to see and do.

TalentCorp’s helped us settle into life in Malaysia by giving us long term stability. We’re recipients of the Residence-Pass Talent (RP-T); it’s wonderful having the 10 year visa and knowing that the country welcomes our presence. It’s always a nice feeling to know that you’re wanted, not to mention being part of—and actively contributing to—the country’s growth.
Through the RP-T, my wife also has the opportunity to seek employment if she wishes too. Yet another benefit linked to having the RP-T is the fact that you don’t have to put yourself through the stress of renewing your visa every two years, which makes life easier and not so complicated. It saves us the hassle of renewing our passports frequently too; a lot of expatriates living in Kuala Lumpur whom I’ve spoken to often comment that they’ve had to get new passports made as they’ve run out of pages due to frequent stamping and travel.
I’d absolutely recommend TalentCorp’s services to other expatriates. We’ve got a lot of friends who’d like to receive the RP-T and stay on in Malaysia; without TalentCorp’s support, it would be a lot more difficult.
At the end of the day, the best thing about TalentCorp is the assurance it gives you that you’ve got somebody to rely on and whom you can call if you need any assistance. I know if I’m in trouble, I can turn to TalentCorp and they’ll do their very best to help out.

Malaysia’s work culture is different compared to Australia’s. There are some similarities, but when you work here, you’ve got to recognise all the diverse local cultures—whether it’s Chinese, Indian or Malay—and be sympathetic and understanding in order to work with them. As opposed to western culture, when you’re dealing with Asian sensibilities, you have to change your tactic and recognise that you’ve got to deal with people in other ways. What I’ve come to realise from my time in Malaysia is that there’s still a drive and passion to do things correctly, work hard and succeed.
Yet another unique aspect of living in Malaysia is its location, which makes it so much easier to travel, especially around Asia. Even travelling back to the United Kingdom is so much more convenient and affordable from here, compared to Perth.
Malaysia offers a lot to see and do for domestic travel, and most of the sites aren’t too far away either. Even within a few hours’ drive, you can go to places like Melaka, Penang and Cameron Highlands, which offer a range of attractions. But if you decide to get on a plane, just within a couple of hours of flight, you’ll find yourself immersed in completely different cultures and environments. We love our lifestyle here and the opportunities to travel that come with it.

Most expatriates want to come to Asia. If they’ve convinced themselves that they want to head to this part of the world, I’d advise them to make Malaysia a destination. In my line of work, Oil and Gas, there are three hot spots: Singapore, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ve spent some time in all three locations and I’d recommend Malaysia as it’s somewhere in the middle. Singapore is like ‘Asia for Beginners’, whereas Jakarta is ‘Advanced’ and Kuala Lumpur is somewhere in the middle or ‘Intermediate’. You tend to convince yourself that wherever you go or wherever you are, it’s the best place—it’s all about outlook and expectations.
Got a question for TalentCorp Malaysia? Send it to for more advice.
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