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A New Chance!

Volume 9 Issue 1 News & Resources | January 2016

A New Chance!

article jan

   1. Action with thinking

The final goal is to be useful to others and creating meaningful solutions to life’s problems. This noble aim is applicable to individual pursuits, and more so for leaders of societies and nations. The benefits are  sometimes a direct consequences of proper planning and executions, but also may be the results of collateral output from actual implemented actions. Either way, all actions should be considered not just for its direct impact. The indirect effects must be anticipated as much as possible. As much as as we cannot live on our own, all the repercussion of our actions would also not be mutually exclusive to us. The real human impact must be factored into our strategic plans for goals attainment. A concious and sincere considerations of the overall impact of our endeavours will not go to waste. We must approach thing holistically, i.e. taking account all possible matters. A true measure of an action is the output. The output will then be measured whether it has attained the outcome that we desire initially. We plan, implement and assess in a continous looping manner. The list of outcome were the results of our strategic planning in order to attain the set vision and mission. The big task (read: vision) was broken down into smaller and more managable targets. These targets were translated into real operational actions. Hence the logical mapping of the output the outcome. We measure whether each outcome has been attained in order to know what corrective actions to be done. This looping is perpetual since human is not perfect in his actions. 

   2. Middle managers

Most of us will be in the middle manager position some time in our life, i.e. if we ever work for someone else. A middle manager is a position where one is stuck between the real decision makers and the real people directly affected by the decision. The vision and mission created by others must now be translated into operational activities by the middle manager. Any confusion by the lower ranks workers will need to be sorted out by the middle managers. Any reductions on the productivity index will be blamed onto the shoulders of the middle manager. Any blurry directives by the top management must also be converted into lucid and clear directions by the middle managers. It is a very important yet very volatile position. Middle managers sometimes do the most difficult coordination and monitoring tasks and yet not having the full authority to make critical decisions. The mistakes by the top management sometimes are shifted to this cohort of managers. They are always in the firing range. One should pity the middle managers. They may be the management face to the other employees, but they are not the real decision makers, though it is clear understandable that without middle managers many things may not move at all. Being a middle manager needs patience and persistent. One must be clear and firm, yet be understandable and pragmatic in decision making and its follow-through. Thank you – dear middle managers.

   3. Deanship

Why would anyone aim for deanship? i.e. Why would anyone wants to be a Dean? I guess the answers would vary depending on the people whom we asked. The response will reflect the advantage and probably disadvantage of holding such an office. Deanship means power and control over a Department or School. With power and control I meant the authority to determine the utilisation of resources, such as finance and manpower, and the direction of the said department or school. All the grouses and comments which we have of the previous management can now be “corrected” under our leadership. Of course giving comments and feedback as a outsider is very straightforward and non-committal. We certainly have many ideas on how things should be done. But, as usual, things (read: problems) look very simple because we have not grasped the whole story or the overall picture. It is normal to be simplistic until we have been given the deanship and “see” the real issues. “Seek to understand, to be understood” seems to be an appropriate reminder to all of us. Before we judged, better we learn the “real” story first. The haste in judging will lead to unwanted regrets later. Deanship is not a status to be aim for. It may be interesting to be a Dean. But the not-so-interesting part will surface very soon. Nevertheless, the experiences accumulated will be an added strength to our leadership. We will empathise more and not so fast to accuse. We will be more understanding. Hopefully we will survive our Deanship.

   4. A New Year

2016 is a new opportunity for us to mend our mistakes from previous actions. We should plan and take real actions which will bring impact to our lives and others. 2016 has certainly arrived with new challenges at so many levels. Economically, the country is facing a struggle to maintain a positive growth. The cuts in education budgets have affected all education sectors. At the tertiary levels, operational budgets have been significantly cut. The departments and schools have to make do with what was given and start to plan for money-making (read: income generation) activities in order to fill the university’s coffers. At the research domain, grants are getting difficult to acquire and number of post-graduates students are dwindling. The labs are trying to save in the face of urgent needs for equipment replacement and new training modules. Our graduates are facing stiff competition to get employment and employers are even retrenching current staffs. Out of all these problems, we should always have a positive mental attitude (PMA) and positive outlook for the future. Yes, the challenges are getting stronger and more varied, but we must not resigned to these obstacles. As they say, in times of conflicts, there are opportunities. We must seek the opportunities and always believe that we will survive. Life is good and we will make it.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger--but recognize the opportunity

― John F. Kennedy

drrizal 2014 2

Written by : 
Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
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To be a Professor – part II

Volume 8 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2015


To be a Professor - Part II

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     1. The time to be…

If one is patience enough and execute all the necessary tasks as expected in an academic set-up, one will gradually climb the career ladder, of course, via persistent application for promotion and the readiness to tolerate failures. Time may not be on our side, but we will get the promotion sooner or later as we grow older and occupy the senior staff’s position, barring the guaranteed end of mortal beings. One may not qualify to fill-in the so-called fast promotion track, but one will certainly arrive to that same end-point in the career promotion milestones, albeit having to take the longer route. The time to become a full professor will arrive sooner or later. One has to hold to this belief no matter how bleak and discouraging are the situations we may be in. The post of a professor has always been linked to much better pay and also being deserving for the envy among peers in the academic circles. Nevertheless, one must know there are always different sides to a story. To me, becoming a professor is just a start of a whole journey to new academic experiences and new responsibilities. As the expectations from our surrounding grew in somewhat exponential fashion, the newly minted professor must bucked-up and move forward the soonest. There is no time to waste. As time is the main commodity which we seriously are lacking.

     2.The Utopian’s Journey

To me, a professor should be an inspiring beacon to his academic circles, i.e. becoming the beacon of knowledge, and her most trusted protector. The main motivation should no longer be about getting more promotion, i.e. strictly, but to ensure the specific body of knowledge in which he or she professed will shine as bright as the sun. The task of guarding the sanctity of knowledge and ensuring its acculturisation in the community at large must be embraced, wholeheartedly. A true and genuine professor should embody the noble purpose of knowledge in his attitude and behaviour. A sincere appreciation of the roles which are entrusted on the shoulders of professors must be transfomed into real actions of asistance to others. This is an utopian dream which translate into an utopian journey to many. In real life, a professor will just compete with other younger academics. The spirit of cooperation and collaboration has been super seeded by plain competition such as greed and self-centredness, and the urge to grab any opportunities which come into the scene. There is nothing wrong in wanting an ideal situation to happen. The mistake is to hope too much and opening ourselves to be frustrated.

     3. What type of Professor?

Given the options, what kind of professor would you like to be? I would certainly prefer to be a professor who is known for his generousity in sharing his knowledge, and being humble enough in admitting that he knows much less that what people assumed. The act of admitting to be less knowlegable has its elegant merit. As Socrates once wrote to the effect that he was better than the others because he knew what he did not know. For example, the statement - “La Adri”, which is in arabic, means “I do not know” is very common among the learned in Islamic intellectual traditions for hundred of years. There is no shame in not knowing. But, it became an embarassment when we allow ourselves to be stuck in the same situation without any effort otherwise. A professor should not be hesitantin his journey to really understand/appreciate the world around him via observation and experimentation. Learning will never stop. As much as we will stop living when we stop breathing, similar tragedy will occur if we stop learning. A profesor must be the trend-setter with regards to knowledge development and enhancement. If this is not the case, better stop calling themselves professor, as one must gain respect and not expect them. Knowledge is a livind and keep moving.

     4. How to play leader?

A professor is one who professes in a specific knowledge domain/discipline. His or her expertise in those specific domain of knowledge would have been recognised via internal and third party endorsements. Hence, the award of professorship was granted. This was no small feat. Not many will get the honour and privilege to be promoted to become a full professor. This is the time to play “leader of knowledge”. A professor who is too laid-back and always prefers to become a follower should not have be promoted in the first place. At least this is my take on the matter. Who else would have the proper credentials to lead the younger academics others than a professor? And yet we see many professors around on campus, and we also see many young academics having to struggle on their own without any mentors. It seems as though nobody is willing to do something to change the current conditions. The unhealthy eco-system in career progression in the University needs a thorough scrub. All professors must now take charge in leading the pack. Professors are supposed to bear the academic leadership. The bad experiences which one has been forced to endure before the promotion should motivate the professors to be more sympathetic to the other budding researchers. Someone needs to break this unhealthy cycle.

     5. A self-reminder

I felt very honoured to be promoted to a full professor position. It was a very nice “icing on the cake” after many years working in my university, i.e. USM. The promotion to the post of professor, after more than 16 years, was certainly welcome and has been a great boost to the efforts in promoting the Underwater System Technology R&D themes, including underwater robotics and sensors. I also realised the need to carry the title as best as possible. I truly believe a profesor should provide assistance to others and not to add more competition to the younger staffs. The role of a professor is certainly very challenging and ever-encompassing. One should not forget the importance to be useful to others and always strive to leave a lasting and beneficial legacies.

“You don't say to a university professor who is immersed in a particular subject that they should get a life. They are encouraged to enjoy their subject and to pass it on.” - Magnus Magnusson


drrizal 2014 2

Written by :
Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
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Date:                                18th November 2015 (One-day workshop) *will be postponed to next year*



Further details or any inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us:

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