Wilson Lee Gain Loon
Full name: Wilson Lee Gain Loon
Master of Arts (Cultural Studies) (2011)
Bachelor of Communication (2006)
Tell us briefly about your work or role in your current organisation?
I have assumed different portfolios throughout my career journey with PETRONAS Group over the decade, from Media Relations Executive with the then Legal and Corporate Affairs Division, and later Group Corporate Affairs Division; Head of Planning and Change Management with Sabah and Labuan Regional Office; Community Liaison Officer with Pengerang Integrated Complex; to my current position as the Head of Media Relations, Digital and Internal Communications with PETRONAS Refinery and Petrochemical Corporation.
For this current position, I have just taken office for about six months. As my designation suggests, I look after the communication for media, digital and internal for a subsidiary company, PETRONAS Refinery and Petrochemical Corporation, under the PETRONAS Group. Among the things I have done, one of which is the achievement in half a year of bringing in a revenue of RM1.5 million worth of PR Value through media exposure for the company’s refinery and petrochemical integrated development project, or commonly known as the Project RAPID. This achievement has granted me a recognition from my Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, for a result that is five times more than that of 2014 and 2015 combined.
However, what was more challenging was my previous portfolio as the Community Liaison Officer for PETRONAS’ Pengerang Integrated Complex. I alone developed and implemented structured grievances receiving, investigating, processing and resolving system for the complex, called the Grievance Mechanism, which is the first of its kind to be rolled out within PETRONAS Group and now an exemplary shared across different businesses and subsidiaries groupwide. And, along with the different efforts from engagements, CSR programs to the setup of a community committee, I am the company’s frontiersman who had successfully tied the bond among PETRONAS, the Pengerang community and local authorities in the district, giving PETRONAS the social license to build and operate the Pengerang Integrated Complex in Southern Johor.
The adventures I had with PETRONAS all these years can certainly fill up a whole novel volume. However, I must say, I still fondly reminisce on my good old days as a journalist with The Borneo Post, and later New Straits Times, before joining the corporate world.
How has your study in Monash Malaysia helped to prepare you for the working world?
I have to be honest, what I learned from the textbooks certainly do not relate much to my current practice. Coming from the school of social sciences, we studied various sets of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols, of a social movement, institution, class or large group, that explains how society works or behaves in a particular order. None of these actually applies to a corporate world’s day-to-day job, for instance, coming up with an integrated communication strategy or developing a social media policy and guideline.
But, this does not mean that I gained nothing. If you watched the recent Marvel film Doctor Strange, the school of social sciences is like the Kamar-Taj, and the professor and lecturers are the Ancient One and Sorcerers Supreme, who widen the keyhole through which we look at the world. What I have learned during my days in Monash are a whole lot of cultures and ideologies, and they are like a multiverse, where there is no right or wrong answers, but merely different sets of social beliefs and practices. Let me take a common subject, homosexuality, as an example: homosexuals during the medieval age were seen as being possessed by demons, and would be burnt to death if caught; they were later regarded as individuals suffering from mental illness, and were put in the asylum; while, homosexuals today have legal rights in many corners of the world. However, this does not mean that I have to accept or go against homosexuality, instead it gives me more perspectives when communicating with different audiences.
Monash does not prepare us for the working world through spoon-feeding, but instead deepens our thinking and conception on how we relate to things around us.
While at Monash what type of opportunities did you participate in?
The largest difference between the studying and working world is in the former, you have the freedom to do what you want and what you dream of. One could never have the luxury to simply go with your guts when you are in a working context, because at work, you are supposed to prioritise your company’s interest, but not your own. This applies not only to the corporate world, but also for NGOs, and even arts streams. But in a university, one has nothing to lose, except for your grades, of course. And, my university life in Monash was indeed colourful.
In our fraternity, we often research on films grappling with tough social issues as our case studies, for instance, Psycho, Casablanca, Battleship Potemkin, Blue Velvet, among others. One day, I thought maybe we could produce our own independent films among Monash-mates, with an ambition that our films would become valuable research materials for others. So, I took up the role as the producer, editor and sound engineer, and grabbed my course buddies Fikri Jermadi as the director and Edwin Goh as music director, together we crafted the screenplay and started rolling the video camera. Along the way, we got the support and participation of our peers and juniors, assuming different roles in the crew, and we made our signature film Goldfish.
We took part in several competitions and film festivals, though we did not bag any award for Goldfish, the experience was wonderful. A group of young people, making a film for the first time, with no professional guidance and support, but made it to a number of public screenings. With the right timing, right place and right people, that was an opportunity that does not come twice in a lifetime. Most importantly, we spurred the interest in film-making among our peers and juniors, turning the multimedia classroom into our Cheesy Studio, and produced quite a number of study-trip documentaries and crazy comedy shorts, such as Police Story Man and Takau. Well, those were the days.
I was also the founder of the Monash East Malaysians Society (MEMS). You would probably ask, what prompted me to set up this student club. Well, one day, I was having a chit-chat over lunch with a hometown friend who was also studying in the same campus, and we grew nostalgic for our hometown and felt homesick. So I thought, let’s form a club to bring all East Malaysians together. We get to celebrate each other’s birthday, head out for steamboat gathering, and explore the wonderful Peninsula Malaysia together. Not just that, we even organised trips for all Monash-ians to climb Mount Kinabalu, and shared with them the beautiful cultures and stories of East Malaysia. We actually won the Monash Best Improved Society in 2006. Those were the warm memories. It is a pity that MEMS only lasted a decade, and I heard it was discontinued recently, but on the positive side, I guess we had helped those who needed it during those lonely days in a new environment.
When you were choosing a course and a university did you have a clear picture of your future (and if so what was it)?
I was a pure science stream student back in my secondary school, and I took all three core subjects, i.e. biology, chemistry and physics. I even continued so in the MUFY program. I was actually one of the top students in class. So, when I submitted my application to Monash, almost everyone expected that I would be going for Biotechnology, Medical Bioscience or Engineering. But, I chose the field of Social Science.
No doubt, it was a big change for me. I felt like Neo in the Matrix film - everything suddenly sounded so alien to me. And truly, it is always a challenge when there is a change, and that change was somewhat to re-learn the world from the theories of Isaac Newton to Sigmund Freud’s. But, it was my greater interest in social studies that fuelled me with the urge to make this leap of my life. I must say, I never regretted, but in fact, glad that I made the decision.
In my humble opinion, one should not be limited by some general perceptions that, for instance, you must study engineering just because you think you will earn more for your pocket in future. There is a Chinese saying, “one may distinguish himself in any trade”, and it is your enthusiasm that pushes you to excel in your field. I may not have had an absolute clear picture at that point of what I would become today, but I knew I was on the right platform boarding the right train heading towards the direction I wanted, besides I can get off at any station I wish as long as I am on my preferred train.
How did that change (or reconfirmed) during your experience at Monash?
Experience with Monash was wonderful. That was why I continued in my Master of Arts in Cultural Studies, a year after I graduated from my Bachelor degree, on a part-time basis while I was already working.
To me, studying is about knowledge and interest. A lot of people may opt for MBA for their part-time to add to the CV as a plus-point. Instead, I have chosen something more academic; my dissertation talks about Chinese Masculinity, defining it through the lenses of Nationalism, Confucianism and Martial Arts, and how it relates to the Chinese diaspora across the world. Bruce Lee’s kung fu films were among my case studies, doesn’t that sound interesting to you? My dissertation, in fact, earned me a High Distinction. It was achieved through a true Monash spirit, to go boldly without limits.
If you didn’t have a clear picture of your future, was there a moment at Monash that made you change the direction you would like to take in life?
Well, I used to believe that one pen can change the world during studying life, and dreamt of becoming a film director or journalist. I actually did achieve my ambition. I made films during my Monash days, and my first job after graduation was journalism. :)
Whilst at Monash, did you have any industry exposure/placements? How has it made a difference to your own life or the life of others around you? Did it consolidate what you have learned from your undergraduate course?
I did not take part in any industry placement program. But, I made films and documentaries over summer and winter breaks for Monash. Of course, I had experimented those films with implantation of different ideals, principles, doctrines, myths and symbols from the course studies. One thing that Monash aspired me greatly, is to do things differently and make a difference, in a good way, of course.
What was it about Monash that made you select this university in the first place?
The selection criteria was none other than the university’s reputation and ranking in the world, it was as simple as that for my Bachelor degree. But, there was something more, when I decided to return to Monash for my Master degree; I enjoyed the learning experience in Monash.
What do you love most about your student life at Monash?
To keep this short and sweet, I got to discover the answers to my questions through the freedom in learning, researching and experimenting. Monash deconstructed me and reconstructed me to who I am today.