To help our readers know us better, we will be writing some posts about our backgrounds. This is Part 4 of 6 of Christina’s life story. For a complete story, please go to the “Our Story” tab on the homepage of our blog.
My lost decade started at the same time as Japan’s in 1989 when I got married to Mr Wrong. I call this my lost decade because it was a period of financial destruction, like the Japanese stock market. Luckily mine ended in June 1999, well before Japan’s did. After the marriage ended, many friends asked why I married him in the first place as they could all see how incompatible we were right from the start. I think I was attracted by his entrepreneurial spirit which was so lacking in myself and my friends. We had all chosen the path of the safe secure job and given up on following our dreams. He started a number of small businesses during our ten years together which failed and supporting his business ventures and the family used up all the financial resources I had accumulated before and during the marriage. During this time I also had my two children who are blessings in many ways, but definitely not financially. Any mother would know, it is very tough to juggle a career and young children. It is even tougher when you are doing this and trying to make a bad marriage work. We moved from Malaysia to Sydney, then to Perth and finally back to Malaysia and moved house five more times when we were in Malaysia. We could never find a location we both liked. I was happy living in Australia but he preferred Malaysia. In Malaysia, I was happy living in Petaling Jaya but he preferred Kajang. I changed jobs every time we moved and my main criteria for choosing jobs were not how much money I could get or what kind of career path I could have but rather how close the office was to the kids school or childcare centre and how flexible the employer was with working hours.
Most of the jobs I had were in IT and I don’t remember enjoying any of them except one which was with a non-profit organisation called the International Plant Genetic Research Institute (IPGRI). I was originally hired to help edit some publications on coconuts and my role expanded to helping the organisation set up a website for the Asia Pacific Region and providing IT user support. I remembered watching the secretaries in the office struggle with updating large scientific documents because they did not know how to use Microsoft Word properly. Although they had all attended basic MS Word training, they were not taught features like document templates, headings, captions, and cross-reference which were particularly useful for doing scientific publications. I decided to create document templates for the office and my first “role based training” course which I conducted during lunch times. The few hours of training I conducted for the secretaries increased their productivity far more than sending them for 3 day advanced MS Word training and it definitely cost the organisation a lot less. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see tangible results like better looking documents, fewer mistakes and happier secretaries. Through this experience, I realised that my passion was more in the user side of IT. I enjoyed helping people use IT (or ICT these days) to get their work done more efficiently. Although this job was probably one of the lowest paid job I ever had, I felt a high level of job satisfaction and it helped me discover my passion for writing, communications and training.
My troubled marriage finally ended in June 1999 when I moved out of our marital home in Kajang to Petaling Jaya where my sister lived. When I left, the only assets I had were my car, some furniture and a few dollars in the bank. I resigned from IPGRI shortly after I moved as it was too long a commute from Petaling Jaya and I also needed a better paying job in order to support my kids as a single mum.