Hiring: A Pain in a Developing Country

*written in anger and lots of pain....

Large Western multi-national corporations move their menial operations to low cost developing countries in Asia. Why not? Revenues are earned in a higher currency, say US Dollars or Euro's; costs in developing world are abhorring-ly low, cheap and English-speaking labor everywhere willingly with arms wide open to work for a 'large' multi-national. Call centers, software development, pharmaceuticals, information technology have taken jobs away from expensive Americans and Europeans to the low cost developing nations.

With this in mind, and having us develop software to cater to the first world countries, we thought of the same thing too, of basing our operations and software development in Malaysia. After all, labor is cheap and we are earning in US Dollars!

Cultural, economic and socio background differences between first-world nations and developing nations like ours effects the quality of workforce available. Finding even the good ones is like searching for a needle in a haystack, what more great talents we need to work for our team.

After my experiences with hiring people and our experiences working with them, we can almost distinguish two types of labor in Malaysia. One, the educated abroad; two, the locally educated ones. However, I must also stress that these distinctions can be too broad, because good apples in the former group are hard to find too.


To a very large extent, the country's culture has a large significance in the type of people it produces. The education system seems to be the favorite blame target for the bad quality of graduates it produces. I would blame both.

Having worked, in my personal opinion, in a highly talented team, it takes more than just a good education or a college degree, to be able to do the kind of software development we are (trying and hoping) doing (to do). Though, each of us in the management team has what the Brits say, red-brick university degree, we know what makes a great team goes beyond that.

Our culture and education system is extremely obsessed with academic paper qualifications. I'd say 90% of the graduates pick a degree because 'mommy asks to' or because of the 'promising job prospect' it offers in the future. Being the wiser, the education system can be tricked and worked a way around it to achieve their dream CGPA of 4.0 or a first-class degree.

Therefore, the primary focus in enriching oneself with (certain) knowledge, is not a true chase and acquisition of knowledge, but just to sit through a three hour exam sometime during the year. Ask them any more than what they have been asked during an exam, "I dunno!".

Imagination and Creation - Limited!

In pursuit of a nice looking academic paper, knowledge is not acquired for its most sincerest reasons. Many of its graduates lack imagination and unable to create new technology because of this paper-culture. It is even worse with local university produced graduates as they cannot think beyond what is being told. This is what I call, spoon feeding. Spoon feeding limits a person from being able to expand knowledge, being resourceful, and lead to serious lack in intelligent analytical and critical abilities.

Ultimately could be more expensive

In producing the right quality workforce for software development or such, lots of money is needed to train the people. I would say, setting up a software development company in Malaysia and to depend on the present workforce is impossible. Most computer graduate students started their programming experience right in university itself, as I will mention AGAIN, taking the course because 'mommy asks to' or because of the 'promising job prospect' it offers in the future.

If you are really serious in setting up a software development company in Malaysia, a lot of money and even more patience is needed to train the people here, which could take years. (Yes, I mean years). There have been tried efforts by Western foreigners to start something here to take advantage of the MSC (no taxes for 10 years. Uh-huh!), but because of the pathetic quality of workforce available, they packed their bags and leave this country frustrated vowing never to come back again.


The mediocore knowledge possed by Malaysian graduates is laughable, but their attitude can be even more loathing (Malay translation: menyampah). I wish there could be a literal translation for a favorite Malay term I use to desribe these graduates, called perasan - living in absolute dillusion of intellectual superiority.

The feeling of perasan is even heightened when they obtain a nice academic paper. The first month could be time wasted just toning down their ego, and hopefully, they could realize how crap they really are.

Ego that come from the Western trained graduates is of a different form. They think that they are just too good for any job. We had a very hard time trying to hire foreign graduates because our company has none of the glitz and glamor of the any of the multi-nationals like Shell, Accenture, PWC or IBM (even if the job offered is just handling their database).

Though from experience, foreign graduates are better than local produced ones, they aren't that great either.

Star Studded Life!

I believe the great disparity between quality of Malaysian workforce (foreign educated or not) and those from West lies with passion. To begin with, the core reason in the pursuit of knowledge, in the Malaysian case, a degree, is not at all in its most sincere reason.

I have always felt sympathy towards my fellow Malaysian who have really nice qualifications (during this time, I was still very naive) to have work at a large multi-national handling database or as a customer support representative. But now, having gone through the painful experience with hiring and training them, I know better.