Meet Michelle | The Principal

If you have paid a visit to the VBest centre in Menjalara, you're more than likely to have encountered Michelle, the branch manager. Her presence is one that is hard to miss; as she usually flutters into the centre in a perpetual state of comical fluster, and is often the first line of contact when you ring up the centre's number.

One wouldn't expect that the superwoman juggling all the tasks you'd normally associate with trained professionals to be within her twenties and earning a steady paycheck (and a decent one too!) but that's exactly what Michelle is doing.

When I first approached her regarding the interview, she had responded with a confused, "What for?" but eventually agreed to it after a little coaxing. And so, a few weeks ago, I had an impromptu, significantly overdue sit-down chat with her, and learned about the inner workings of running a centre, and how she got to where she is today.

A few lucky stars

As a high schooler at SMK Kepong Baru, Michelle wasn't much of an active participant.

"I was a prefect in high school, but I didn't do much other than that," she explained. But she was about to get very busy soon.

Her tuition classes with VIP, namely Chemistry and Add Maths, taught by Mr Sai Mun himself, was the catalyst that led to her accidental involvement with the company. When one of his assistants urgently needed a replacement due to a sudden change in scheduling, Michelle stepped in to offer her help. That chance encounter led to an offer at VIP as an assistant manager.

"My job scope involved mostly simple tasks like locking and unlocking the centre, printing notes for classes and conducting certain home tuition classes under VPremium," Michelle clarifies, now a graduate of Segi College.

Michelle's role as assistant manager also included customer service and student case transfers. As her role in the company continued to grow, she started to get involved with the company's expansion plans, particularly the setting up of VIP's branch of IGCSE centres, now known as VBest.

By 2014, Michelle was juggling numerous responsibilities. Other than being VBest Menjalara's centre manager, she started taking in students when one case desperately needed a teacher.

"I had a lot of flexibility in time, so it allowed me to take up one or two cases."

A few successes...and losses

Of course, nothing ever comes easy. And this is something Michelle continuously reiterates throughout our conversation. When asked what pushes her to continue, her answer comes quick:

"Quite frankly, I didn't want to burden my parents. I have an older sister, who is now working, but I'm still in college and I didn't want to burden my parents with my tuition fees."

As of now, Michelle is fully sustaining herself with the salary she earns, and is fully independent financially. Michelle actively contributes to her household expenses, and even paid a partial amount of her tuition fees on her own!

"Financial management is very important. When you earn your own paycheck, you realize that you can't spend as much as you think you can."

"One thing I do regret though, is spending way too much money on food," she laughs. "Food is always the one weakness. But for the most part, I credit it to passion. I feel like the results of my labor are worth it, plus I'm blessed with a very supportive team, and of course, Mr Sai Mun himself."

It takes quite a balancing act to get it right though, Michelle admits that there have been a few sacrifices to make.

"It really requires a lot of commitment. My college work took quite a hit, and I had to sacrifice time which I could have spent going out with my friends, but this is my responsibility now. "

Michelle tells me that she spends less time with her family, as a result of her hectic schedule, but says that she makes the effort to have a proper dinner with her family, even when she's busy. But these sacrifices have not come without rewards either. Michelle tells me that the aspect of her job that she enjoys most is dealing with parents. She was once given a Coach pouch by a pair of grateful parents, but stresses that the rewards are the ones that aren't material.

"If you're committed, you have to stay committed. It's all worth it in the end."

Her secret to success?

"Time management is essential. But the most important thing is to do what you love. I'm emotionally obligated to do these things, and I do it willingly because of the passion I have for this job."

These days, Michelle keeps herself busy. At VBest, she doing anything and everything, ranging from design work, to answering calls and centre maintenance, she does it all. When asked about what she has planned for the future, she tells me she plans to embark on a working holiday for six months in the United States.

"What advice do you have for people who want to step out and get involved?" I asked.

She pauses to think, before saying,

"Do what you love, and love what you do. And never give up."

Written by: Peh Xin Ying
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