6 Well Known Malaysian who did not Pursue what They Studied

By Clair Leong Oct 07, 2019 2298 Views

        6 Well Known Malaysian who did not Pursue what They Studied Are you stressed out about not pursuing a career based on the degree that you are currently majoring in? If you nervously nodded yes, keep calm and I think it is about time you snap out of it! Sometimes in life, we have this habit of wandering a little further away from our starting point and you know what, that is totally fine. Take these very well-known Malaysians for example. They started off focusing on one thing but soared to success doing something else that they are truly passionate about. Go ahead and read about how these individuals made it to where they are today.

1. The Late Yasmin Ahmad – Film Director, Writer and Scriptwriter (1958 – 2009)


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"We'll always remember her for her movie Sepet."

Born in Kampung Bukit Treh, Muar, the late (and great) Yasmin Ahmad initially took up a course in Arts, majoring in Politics and Psychology. After graduating, she managed to get a job as a trainee in a bank and later, took on the role of a marketing representative at IBM. Then, she decided to play the advertising field by working as a copywriter for an international advertising firm, Ogilvy & Mather. It sure looked like things turned out very well that she continued her career in advertising and ultimately rose up as an executive creative director at another mega advertising firm, Leo Burnett. Year 2002 marked the beginning of her career in the film industry. That was when she released her first feature length film, Rabun. She also came up with many other films that we all once enjoyed and could all relate to such as Sepet, Gubra, Mukhsin, Muallaf, and Talentime. Aside from that, Yasmin Ahmad also directed various television commercials that centered on family life and racial unity which touched many hearts I’m sure, including mine. Indeed the greatest Malaysian director of all time.  

2. Tony Fernandes - GCEO of AirAsia, Founder of Tune Group, Chairman of QPR, Chairman of Caterham Group


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"Thanks to him, everyone is flying."

Before Mr. Tony Fernandes introduced the beauty of traveling the world at a budget friendly price, he obtained a degree in accounting from the London School of Economics. Then, he scored a job at Virgin Atlantic as an auditor and moved on to become a finance controller at Virgin Records. He is also a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). One fine day, he decided that he has had enough of the corporate world. So, he left his job to focus on his long-time, childhood dream – to set up Asia’s very first budget airline. Thanks to that very dream, now everyone can fly!

3. Michelle Yeoh – Former Miss Malaysia 1983 and International Movie Star


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"She definitely put Malaysia on the map."

Recognised as one of Malaysia’s national treasures, actress Michelle Yeoh took up ballet at the gentle age of four. At 15, she relocated to England with her family and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, majoring in, you guessed it - ballet. Unfortunately, her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer ended up in the opposite direction due to her spinal injury. Well, give up, she did not and she later acquired a Degree in Creative Arts, majoring in Drama. Michelle Yeoh kicked off her acting career by taking on roles in action and martial arts films alongside the likes of Jackie Chan and so on. Did you know that she came up with her own stunts in most of the action movies she was in? Super #badass!

4. Yuna – Singer-Songwriter and Businesswoman


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"You can always recognize that beautiful voice of hers."

Yunalis Zarai, affectionately known as Yuna, signed up for a law degree in Universiti Teknologi MARA and graduated in Legal Studies. Behind this classic Malay beauty along with brains to boot, lays a gifted talent who started writing songs at the age of 14 and learned to play the guitar at 19. Before her singing career sky rocketed, Yuna took part in one of Malaysia’s renowned singing competition, One in a Million. She made it to the top 40 but was eliminated before heading to the finals. Did that stop her? Of course not! Later on, an American record label took notice of her God given talent and brought her under their wings. Since then, things just escalated from there. Today, Yuna’s career continues to grow and expand, to a point where she managed to land a duet with the ever so sexy, Usher! Sigh, be still our hearts. Hold on, there’s more! Did you know that Yuna is also a businesswoman? She founded her very own independent lifestyle boutique known as November Culture. Talk about being a Jane of all trades, ey.

5. Boey Chee Ming a.k.a Boey – Artist and Author of When I Was a Kid


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"Best known for his illustrations on foam coffee."

Boey is the creative mastermind behind ‘When I Was A Kid’, his very own comedic series of childhood stories which we all are able to relate to. Before his book debut, Boey made his way to the United States to pursue his studies in advertising at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. According to sources, he later changed his major to Computer Animation. After graduating, Boey returned to his alma mater to be a teacher in the Computer Animation faculty. When his teaching stint ended, he worked for a game developer as a lead animator for various types of computer games. From there, he moved on to drawing on cups and writing in his daily pictorial journal. So, what’s Boey been up to these days? He is now a full-time writer and a freelance designer. To date, he has written three editions of ‘When I Was A Kid’ and we heard through the grapevine that a fourth installment is underway! Can’t wait!

6. Joel Neoh – Founder of Kfit, Co-founder of, and Former CEO of Groupon Malaysia


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"He just keeps coming back with brilliant innovation."

Do any of you remember Malaysia’s very first corporate reality show called ‘The Firm’? It was somewhat similar to The Apprentice, also a corporate reality show from America that was hosted by Mr. Donald Trump. Anyway, Joel Neoh was the youngest winner of its first season back in 2007! *cue round of applause!* Joel Neoh graduated from Monash University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, even ranking in the top three of his course. Currently, he’s the Founder of KFit and has been listed as one of Asia's Top 10 young entrepreneurs. Apart from that, Joel Neoh is also a speaker and a business investor. He does have a lot under his belt. I really hope these fellow Malaysians have inspired you, in one way or another, to be more daring when it comes to the career aspect of your life. Not sure if this is apt enough but remember, ‘when one door closes, another one opens’.

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