Tuesday, 9 July 2013


This is still a shock to me even now: I just discovered that I've been working directly under and for a member of the wealthiest and most influential conglomerate family in the region. Not just country, region. As in Southeast Asia. Here's the full story:

One day, at the start of this year, I was contacted via e-mail by a member of the faculty; she said she had recommended me and 4 other students for a disease database project that the uni hospital wants to create from scratch. A disease database, that's all the information I got. It seemed to involved a lot of writing and some light research, so I expressed my interest. I was then referred to a woman in the hospital office, and that woman referred me to her boss, the Corporate Network and Communication General Manager, let's call her Mrs S. Mrs S and I had a private face-to-face, one-on-one meeting, and she told me to get more friends to help me with the project. By the way, Mrs S was so nice and welcoming yet professional at the same time; even then I already got the impression that she was an important person, though I wasn't sure in what way.

I got the many additional hands I needed, and we began straightaway. The first part of the project was in cooperation with Mayo Clinic; Mayo provided the resources and we translated their articles. I was the de facto leader of the team, because I was the first person who responded to the job offer. *sigh*

There came a problem. Some members of the team inquired about possible salary or any other forms of recognition. I told them I already dropped hints about it to Miss E. And I did. Hints, because I wasn't sure if talking about salary was a wise thing to do so early in the project. In my mind, we were only fresh graduates, with no clear titles, zero experience, who were we to demand money?!? We were [future] doctors after all, weren't we supposed to not be money-oriented?

Long story short, it was clear to me that corporate work was very different from clinical setting. Corporate is corporate: business. So when I, Miss E, and Mrs S held another meeting just between the three of us, Mrs S asked me directly about what we were expecting from this project. To put it frankly, what do you want? (She asked this matter-of-factly, not with a degrading tone or anything, she was just being honest). Before this meeting, our oh-so-patient editor Miss E had explained to me that I could just say anything in my concerns to Mrs S, because she is powerful and she can do anything, and she will much prefer openness and sharing of responsibilities over silent frustration and repressed exhaustion. So I did just that.

To my relief, Mrs S took everything I said gracefully, and she even agreed on many points. She told me that she was glad about me being honest, because otherwise she wouldn't have known. Well I agree 1000% on that, it's just, most people I had encountered did not very much like open discussions; they much preferred subtlety and reading between the [very finely drawn] lines. Not sure if this is personal preference or if it's an Eastern culture thing, but this seems to be one of the social rules.

Shortly after this meeting, a classmate not on the project discovered who I've been working for, and he was like, OMG!!!! Mrs S is one of the grandchildren of MR and the niece of JR!!!! MR is a senior banker in the country, a conglomerate, and a hugely successful tycoon; he was the one who established a huge banking network in the region and built an entire township, complete with an advanced education and health system, whose high school and university I went to and whose hospital I'm working in!!! MR's entire family dwell in this gigantic family business and philanthropy. Meanwhile, JR, one of his sons and Mrs S's uncle, funded the freakin' campaign of the United States' Democratic Party!!!

Well at this point, my face was already like this:


Guess I hadn't known what I signed up for.

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