Women at IBM feature – meet Noorliza Abu Bakar, Country CFO, IBM Malaysia!

Each woman nominated for a feature interview answers a few short questions about IBM and her career.  Here’s what Noorliza has to say about working at IBM.

What made you decide to work for IBM?

It all started almost 29 years ago. I was happily working with a local company until I found out that a couple of my friends from university were working with this esteemed company called IBM. IBM was ‘the’ company everyone wanted to work for and I could not stop thinking and asking why am I not in there? If they can get in, surely I could, too. So I decided to apply.

I was so thrilled and excited when I was called for the interview. The 1st interview went well, and so was the 2nd. The 3rd one, I had to meet with the General Manager and that was supposed to be the final one. This one, I was a little nervous.  I remember this question he asked, very vividly “Why do you want to join IBM, didn’t you hear from your friends it is a very difficult company to work for. Everyone works very hard here.” I responded to him by saying, I am not here looking for just a job, I want to build my career here. And I asked if it was that bad, then why was he still around after so many years?

On Feb 2nd, 1984, I joined IBM.

What is your biggest accomplishment at IBM?

For me, I suppose was when I ran the Services Accounting tower in Asia Pacific Accounting Center. A couple of years before this, I was asked to set up the ASEAN Commissions Center in Kuala Lumpur (KL). The thought of that was daunting, but I managed to pull everything together; gather the right resources, created the space and bringing the job, one at a time, from each of the 5 countries within ASEAN to KL; within the next couple of months.

I must admit that running this unit was the most difficult role ever. I had to deal directly with Sales Executives/Directors and VPs, and it was really tough, as I was only a 1st Line Manager then. I almost gave up, but I kept repeating to myself that ‘a setback is for future accomplishment’; so I kept going. And true enough, this role prepared me for the role that I was to take on in the Accounting Center.

When I came into the shared center, I was handling the ASEAN Services Accounting as a 1st Line Manager with about only 7 employees. Before I knew it, I was asked to bring the ANZ Services Accounting into the Center, and shortly after Greater China Group then Korea, and some of the processes within services accounting of Japan. I was made the 2nd Line Manager, and eventually the 3rd Line, for Asia Pacific Services Accounting Manager. By this time, I had almost 150 employees under me.

When I joined the Center, since I was new to the role, I always referred back to my Manager for advice and guidance on Services Accounting. But I made a promise to him, one day he will be the one coming to me instead. Sure enough, when I became the leader in this unit, he referred me as his ‘subject matter expert’ to everyone. It was indeed an accomplishment!

Has IBM opened the doors to any new experiences for you?

Of course, numerous times. Setting up the Commissions Center was definitely one of them.  I was offered to do the role and I took the challenge. It was my first time doing a business case; first time recruiting candidates for a job scope I hardly understand yet, first time having to reject many Executive requests and standing firm on my position when challenged.

Then, this opportunity given to me as the country CFO; is another. Almost half of my career in IBM was in Accounting in a shared center. I wanted to experience something new; in an area where I am ‘on the ground’ and be able to add value to the business. When I found out that the CFO then was going to move on to a new role, I requested to backfill him. I met up with the CGM, spoke to the ASEAN CFO, and before I knew it, I was accepted.

In other words what I am trying to say is, in IBM, you have to be good at what you do, and the rest will fall into place.

What advice would you give to our new IBMers?

If you are here in IBM for just a job, then you are wasting your time. You have to be here because you want to build a career and be part of the company, fully committed and passionate about it. In IBM, the learning experiences will be endless and you are open to many opportunities. You can move around from one job to another of a totally different area. For example, you can move from a back office role to a sales rep role, if you are proven to have the potential, or vice versa. You just have to want it; and work hard for it.

Never be afraid to take on new challenges; embrace it. Make mistakes because mistakes are the best teachers in learning. Most people misconceive making mistakes are a step backwards, however, I believe in the contrary.

Has IBM provided you with any unique work-life integration solutions?

Yes….this is taking us back to about 20 yrs ago. I was in Treasury dept as a Financial Analyst.  I had just given birth to a baby girl about a month or so, when my husband was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure disease. It was really rough times. I had to juggle between work, attending to my husband and the kids. He was in and out of the hospital even though by that time he was already on dialysis. Finally, I had to talk to my manager for a temporary solution and he (of course because this is IBM) made it easy for me. I was allowed to work from home half the day (morning), and the other half I was given time off to bring my husband to the hospital and be with him during his dialysis treatment. This arrangement was for almost 2 months.

Noorliza Abu Bakar
Noorliza Abu Bakar

This post originally appeared on the Women at IBM page on Facebook.

**For more information on IBM, women at IBM, or to view our open positions, please visit: https://www-03.ibm.com/employment/jobs/women_at_ibm.shtml

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