This year’s theme for International Women’s Day hits closer to home than ever. Focusing on women professionals, Daeng Hamizah Abd Aziz definitely captures the spirit of every young, independent woman who aspires to climb the corporate ladder despite the odds stacked against them. As the current group chief operating officer of Astaka Holdings Ltd, an award-winning premium developer based in Johor Bahru, at just 29 years old, it is astonishing that Hamizah has managed to be where she is today.
“I graduated from Robert Gordon University, Scotland back in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Surveying. Upon returning to Malaysia, I first started off as an assistant quantity surveyor in a Johor Bahru firm for about a year before joining Astaka in June 2012,” she shares, adding that she was a special assistant to the CEO and has since been instrumental in Astaka’s development, planning and negotiations with authorities and investors. Dynamic and energetic, Hamizah was ready to work from the ground up and learn the trade. And as time past by, she slowly gained extensive experience and intimate knowledge of the Johor property market, offering Astaka a strong competitive advantage as it continues to diversify its project development portfolio.
What does your new role involve?
I am currently overseeing Astaka’s development projects, namely its flagship RM6 billion development, One Bukit Senyum, an integrated township in Johor Bahru and home to Southeast Asia’s tallest residential twin towers. Our focus is to achieve high-end developer status for it. Astaka’s larger vision is to pioneer the transformation of Johor Bahru into Malaysia’s most prominent city after Kuala Lumpur. Last year, we partnered with Saling Syabas and formed a joint-venture company called Bukit Pelali. We are looking to develop a township, approximately 258 acres, nearby the Petronas Integrated Petroleum Complex, situated in Pengerang, the southern tip of Johor. We envisaged that it to undergo an eight to 10 years of development process. The location itself was previously a small town, but with Petronas building its biggest oil refinery hub there, the population is now increasing and has the potential to become one of the biggest towns in Johor soon.
Out of all the options, why did you choose to study quantity surveying?
I actually wanted to take up law but my aunt and my father advised me to give quantity surveying a try. I guess they foresaw that quantity surveying would one day come in handy. And I have no regrets! Unlike what most people would think, quantitative survey is not all about numbers and construction. We learned about contract and construction laws, which have served me well to this day.
I read that astaka is a family-owned business.
Yes, it is. Astaka was incorporated in 1996 and embarked on development in 2005. Then, we received a piece of land (8,654 acres) through privatisation with the Johor state government. The project involved us building two stadiums for the government. Sadly, it didn’t take place due to insufficient funds. Thus, Astaka remained dormant until 2012 when the directors decided it would be a great time to revive the company due to the rising market. At that time, I was the project executive with a team of five people working with me.
Can you tell me about your journey to becoming the COO of astaka as well as notable challenges you faced and how you overcame them?
Staffing was limited when I joined the company so we had to divide the tasks accordingly. During that time, they asked me what tasks I would like to undertake, and I told them that I’d like to handle finances, authority and land matters as the land still belonged to the government. In 2012, the land was in the process of enlistment. So I had to undergo the whole elimination process in order for us to get the land back. Additionally, I was in charge of securing finances for the project. I managed to secure the first branch of financing, which was worth RM100 million from the bank and another RM170 million later on. I also managed to secure the facilitation fund from the government which was worth a total of RM149 million.
Any advice for young women who are too afraid to take the first step towards climbing the corporate ladder?
Just be confident in yourself. You must have a vision of what you want to do as well as know clearly what you are good at. Give it your all and disregard the judgement of others. You must accept that there is no shortcut to success and be willing to learn. Sacrifices must be made to get to where you aim to be.
And what have you sacrificed?
Time. When I first started, everything was new to me and I had to put in extra hours as well as efforts. When people were spending eight hours in the office, I’d be spending an extra two or three more to learn, and that had enabled me to reach where I am today.