Jobbatical Taught This Advertising Pro That His Skills Matter Globally
This Russian advertising pro’s story reads like a movie script. A guy stumbles on an article about Jobbatical on the most popular Russian social network, signs up, and finds a job ad that ticks two main boxes – advertising + an opportunity outside his native country. He applies for the job. After that he flies to Las Vegas – to get married. The job offer arrives during his honeymoon, somewhere in the middle of Death Valley. This is when he buys tickets to Malaysia and the adventure begins…
The man’s name is Damir Abdullin and he’s almost a year into his jobbatical at Mindvalley – a company creating a global school that delivers transformational education for people all ages. Before moving to work in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, Damir lived in Saint Petersburg and had actually never considered Kuala Lumpur one of his dream destinations. “I had traveled there some years ago and to be honest I did not LOVE the city. It was just ok. I really wanted to try working outside of Russia. Now I understand that Kuala Lumpur is a pretty good place to live, but not so much to visit.”
As someone who’d been to Asia before, Damir didn’t experience much of a cultural shock. “Cheap and good food, hot and humid weather, a lot of cars, and troubles with walking – all this was as I expected. But I wasn’t expecting such a welcoming and multicultural atmosphere!”
Damir’s first months in Malaysia still turned out to be a bit of a challenge.“It was super hot. I asked my colleagues how long it took for them to adapt to the weather and some told me matter-of-factly: three weeks. I started freaking out by the end of my first month since I was not adapting at all! But there were others who said that after six months they were still sweating excessively.” Damir decided he wouldn’t use the AC in his apartment – in order to adapt faster. “Not sure if it was the right thing to do. I guess some adapting did happen – because when the temperature recently “dropped” to “only” 27C° I considered it chilly and wore a jacket outside.”
A Country That Welcomes You Like the Most Awaited Guest
Moving to a new country and adapting to everything new – from climate to food and the work culture – can be tough on the mind, too. “I had three breakdowns during my first months. I found myself crying on the bed and thinking that I’m the stupidest person in the world who cannot do anything right. But after a breakdown you actually start feeling better,” assures Damir.
What made the ride of change smoother was the fact that Malaysia is a very welcoming and multicultural country. “I was amazed at how multicultural it is. They have a lot of national holidays – Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Malaysian – all are celebrated here. And I feel really welcomed here. Like I am the dearest guest, not some unwelcome stranger. I didn’t feel so welcome even in one of the most welcoming countries of the world – Thailand. Malaysian people are genuinely interested in you, they might ask you where you’re from, what you’re doing for work, ask if you know any Malay. They can be super curious.”
Hugs, High Fives, and Alumni
Damir describes his employer Mindvalley as a one-of-a-kind company. “I’ve never worked in such a welcoming and friendly workplace that truly cares about you. Not only how you’re doing your job, but how you’re feeling in general, what are your goals in life and not thinking only how they can benefit from your work but how you can benefit from the company as well.”
Damir, not a “hugger” by nature, is now used to the people in his company hugging each other and giving high fives. “Now I feel weird when I have to formally handshake somewhere outside of Mindvalley.”
According to Damir, people at Mindvalley are oozing personal growth. “It was overwhelming in the beginning. It made me feel that I need to catch everything and complete all the trainings we have – and we literally have hundreds! – and that I’m the slowest and dumbest person in the company in terms of growth. But then I calmed down, found my own pace, relaxed and started consciously working on myself and became the best possible version of myself.”
Damir describes the company culture as incredibly friendly, super transparent and with very open communication. “It is the first time in my professional life where I know what’s happening in different departments of the company, I know the company mission and the quarter strategy. I can freely pitch my ideas to any department, not limited to my team. And one amazing thing you might not know – there are no ex-employees of Mindvalley, there are the alumni.”
Affordable Foodie Heaven 🌶️🌶️🌶️
I ask Damir to name some of the best things about Malaysia. And he replies in a second: “Food! You can eat super nice local Malaysian or Indian food on every corner of the city for a measly $1-3! And it is finally spicy enough for me. Because after visiting Asia I started to love spicy food and couldn’t find spicy enough food in Russia, even when I said “as spicy as possible.””
The only “problem”, according to Damir, is that after one is used to eating in cheap local cafes called mamaks and then goes to a normal restaurant, dishes costing $7-10 feel super expensive. “And how can I drink coffee in Starbucks for $4 when I can have a whole meal for the same money?”
Another problem, this a real one, is the fact that Kuala Lumpur, like a lot of cities in Asia, is not pedestrian-friendly. “I love walking. Back in Russia, a 30-minute walk is an easy deal and I always prefer it to other ways of transportation. But nobody here is thinking about pedestrians. No sidewalks, no traffic lights, no crosswalks…on top of that the scorching hot sun. That’s why local people prefer taxis with AC. And that’s why they can wear long jeans and jackets. AC is at home, AC is in the taxi, AC is in the office, AC is in malls – this way you never feel that it is super hot outside.”
Damir laughs that since it’s freezing everywhere inside, he goes out to get warm. Quite the opposite of how life is in Russia. Please confirm 👇
What makes Kuala Lumpur an easy city for expats is the fact that almost everybody speaks English. “Even in the deepest suburbs people will understand you,” Damir says. “Also, all events are in English, so you can attend them without problems.”
Tattoo of Flags & a Panda from Ikea
Damir couldn’t be more content about his choice to go and work abroad. “Looking at myself one year ago, I think oh, he’s so silly, so young, so naive, full of self-doubt, self-criticism, negative talk, self-destroying stuff…Now I feel myself much better, I almost know what I want and how to get there, I’m sure of my capabilities and I know I’m pretty good at advertising. My mind is opening every day and I’m becoming more and more myself, which is the most important thing in the world.”
It is so evident how much we learn about ourselves when we’re out of our comfort zones and willing to change, adapt, and learn. “You will be surprised but wherever you go, no matter how far it is, you take yourself with you,” reflects Damir on his experience. ”Your good, old self. With your fears, thoughts, and habits. You cannot run from yourself. A new place will not solve your problems, it will not make you better magically. You will stay the same if you are not willing to change and work on yourself.”
Some old and familiar things do help, though. Like the toy panda, Damir brought along to Malaysia with him. “He’s from Ikea and his name is Pooh and it was a must to bring him along.”
If Damir ever leaves Malaysia, the country will come with him, like do all the countries where he’s traveled – in a form of a tattoo with flags.
So far the experience has surpassed Damir’s expectations. “Jobbatical showed me that I am a valuable specialist, that I have useful knowledge and that somebody in the world needs me. I used to think that out there is a big scary world where the best opportunities go to the lucky or the rich. But here I am in Malaysia, doing some epic stuff and I know now that I can apply my knowledge anywhere in the world, in any country I want. And I don’t need to pay or sleep with anybody for this. The world is smaller than you think, and it is super beautiful, diverse, and interesting. Thanks, Jobbatical for opening my mind and opening this world to me and me to this world!”
I’m guessing you’re not surprised when Damir says that we all should try working abroad. “Guys, seriously, just do it! You’ll feel so free and alive after a while,” says Damir. “You don’t know anybody, don’t understand most things and might seem weird for everybody because you moved to their country. So you can do ANYTHING. No judgment from friends or relatives, no fear of failure or shame, no attachment to known places and routines. It is like you’ve been given a new life, but with your existing useful skills. It is simple, but not easy. And this experience will be so beneficial to you. You won’t see the changes while you’re abroad, but when you return to an old environment, to old friends and places – you’ll see how much you’ve changed and how little everything else has.
Ready to change your life? Check out all the cool career opportunities we have available right now on Jobbatical.