It is, perhaps, her experience growing up that makes Anne Rajasaikaran the perfect person for her job. “My mother worked in the Welfare Department and I used to see her changing people’s lives. I saw the joy in that – transforming people’s lives, making them more than what they were,” she reflects. “I felt it was like a superhero’s job.”
Now, as Principal Officer of The Budimas Charitable Foundation, Anne is the one changing lives as she and her dedicated staff focus on supporting the welfare and well-being of orphans and underprivileged children in Malaysia. Under the Budimas umbrella, the team operates the Budimas Home Charity Fund, Budimas Food Charity Fund and Budimas Education Charity Fund, each addressing the three basic needs of a child – food, education and a home.
It is, however, more than a job for Anne. “My overall want and need, and my ultimate happiness, is if I can make a difference in someone’s life. Which is why I love working in Budimas because it gives me so much satisfaction,” she explains. “I love seeing the children grow, see how they improve in their education from this term to the next – it all just gives me so much joy.”
It was not a direct line to Budimas, however: “When I first joined the MAA Group, I was doing corporate communications and, after a few years, there was a reshuffling at the company and I was asked if I wanted come into the foundation and turn things around.
“I jumped at the idea, seeing this as an opportunity to show what I can do. I love writing and organising projects, and coming up with ideas for fund-raising. I started the food programme and mooted the idea of building libraries for orang asli children, and I never felt so fulfilled.”
Nearly 10 years after helming Budimas, another opportunity came along. “Our parent company was venturing into education and I had just completed my MBA (from the University of Strathclyde) then. I was asked to do the branding transition onwards for Imperium International College and, ultimately, I was made President.”
It is role that Anne relishes, as it furthers what she wants to achieve. “As Budimas evolved, we realised that education was the only way out for these underprivileged children, and we started by building libraries for orang asli children. When I was offered this position at Imperium, I realised this was an opportunity to help shape the future. Here’s my chance to help mould our leaders of the future.”
Even with those mantles on her shoulders, Anne never forgets what’s important. “I’m seen as this CEO figure, the one who’s doing a lot of work, always holding the fort, keeping everyone in line, coming up with strategies and ideas… But I’m not defined by my work. I’m basically someone who wants to make a difference. I want to see what I can do to make your life different.
“Work is interesting; I have my ups and downs, good days and challenging days. It truly hits the spot and excites me when I know I can truly make a difference and change the world, one good deed at a time. I would always feel good when I know I’ve changed someone’s circumstances for the better.”
With such heavy responsibilities comes the pressure to succeed, one compounded by the expectations of those who depend on her. “I am always realigning my focus and goals, looking through my pros and cons. There is definitely pressure and I have learnt to compartmentalise it. I wear many hats and I decide which pressure I will take on every day. Managing stress in much more important than trying so hard to succeed. I’ve never let down my team and all who depend on me – it is also because I have been blessed with an awesome team.”
The satisfaction from work notwithstanding, Anne’s priority is her children. Still, both home and the office contribute to her happiness. “There’s really no such thing as a work-life balance – I’m living proof that it is hard to switch off and on in an instant. My family and work keep me going, and I also believe in taking care of my mind and body. Exercising regularly is my coping mechanism. Perhaps the formula to a great work-life balance is to understand that you will need to ask for help, and I do so both at home and at work.”
In the end, the motivation is personal. “I would like to leave the world and the people I meet in a better place than when I first found it,” she says. An ambition worthy of a superhero indeed.