Ling Yah - So This is My Why Podcast + Ong Kian Ming

Ep 121: I’m OK, Man! | Dr Ong Kian Ming (Former Deputy Minister of Malaysia’s Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry)

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Welcome to Episode 121!

STIMY Episode 121 features Dr Ong Kian Ming.

He went from being a BCG consultant to a lecturer and policy analyst at UCSI University and director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP). He then entered politics and eventually became the Deputy Minister, Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia in July 2018.

If you don’t know anything about Malaysian politics, here’s a heads up: Kian Ming (legitimately) thought he would always be in the opposition. The then incumbent government had been in power since Independence Day for the past 60+ years!

So as you can imagine, today’s conversation focuses on politics. A lot

Touching on things like why Kian Ming chose to enter politics, what it was like becoming a Deputy Minister, what went so wrong (e.g. the Sheraton Move!), why he’s setting up a PPE course and so much more.

P/S: This interview is also available on YouTube!


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    Who is Dr Ong Kian Ming?

    Dr Ong Kian Ming wanted to be rich as a kid.

    He was an ASEAN scholar (where he met Tony Pua!) and eventually became a BCG consultant, where he learned a very important lesson: it’s more important to make your boss look good, than your client!

    • 2:07 imokman
    • 3:32 Wanting to be rich
    • 4:22 Being an ASEAN scholar
    • 6:44 Seeking a “higher purpose” in BCG?!
    • 9:14 Make your boss look good (not your client!)
    So in 2012 I was at a crossroad. I was given an offer to join a think tank in Singapore... And the other option was to join DAP and to prepare for the general elections that were coming up in 2013. And I spoke to my wife and she told me that look, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
    Ling Yah - So This is My Why Podcast + Ong Kian Ming
    Dr Ong Kian Minga
    Former Deputy Minister of International Trade & Industry


    He eventually realised that management consultancy wasn’t for him and went into public policy, before entering politics and winning two terms!

    • 10:29 Public policy
    • 15:06 How his PhD in political science helped his career
    • 19:24 Meeting Tony Pua & blogging
    • 20:50 Sacrifices we don’t know?
    • 22:32 “The Talk” with the wife
    • 24:18 Only 2 terms?!
    • 26:21 Preparing for his first election
    • 29:51 Deciding who to help
    • 32:40 Managing expectations from his constituents
    • 33:32 Giving safe financial support
    • 34:49 I’ll be in opposition forever?!
    Ling Yah - So This is My Why Podcast + Ong Kian Ming

    Sheraton Move, Mahathir v Anuar & Not Seeking Re-election

    Malaysian elections has gone through an upheaval. And Dr Ong Kian Ming was at the heart of it.

    Here, he shares his experience of some of the major events that unfolded recently – what it was like going from opposition to government only to be kicked out in 2 years after the Sheraton Move, what it was really like between Mahathir & Anuar and so much more.

    • 37:06 The manifesto
    • 38:29 Managing the euphoria
    • 40:34 Building trust
    • 41:47 The legacy he inherited at MITI from Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz
    • 44:56 Industry 4.0
    • 47:23 That $70 billion investment from China
    • 49:24 The realities of running trade investment missions
    • 50:50 How does China see Malaysia?
    • 53:36 The Sheraton Move – what really happened?
    • 55:49 What could’ve been done differently?
    • 57:05 The relationship between Mahathir & Anuar
    • 58:56 No reelection
    • 1:00:17 How do we know if constituents are actually doing the work?
    • 1:01:11 Wishing he’d worked better with his minister
    • 1:03:31 Who’s a lifelong politician?
    • 1:04:43 When is it time to leave?
    • 1:05:26 Building Malaysia’s first PPE Course (and future Malaysian Prime Ministers?!)

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Barney Frank: Former US Congressman, Chairman of the US Financial Committee and co-lead sponsor of the Dodd-Frank Act
    • Lydia Fenet: Top Christie’s Ambassador who raised over $1 billion for non-profits alongside Elton John, Matt Damon, Uma Thurma etc.
    • Eric Sim: From being the son of a prawn noodle hawker stall owner to the former Managing Director of UBS with 2.9 million LinkedIn followers
    • Adrian Tan: President of Singapore’s Law Society & the King of Singapore

    If you enjoyed this episode, you can: 

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    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    Ling Yah - So This is My Why Podcast + Ong Kian Ming

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