Something amazing happened at work today.
On Monday morning, Abah’s aka Big Boss’ usual routine is to dump meetings, even the important ones to us. Ditching them over golf games invitations which by the way none of our nagging will work on him. I guess he’s in the phase where he just wants to retire but cannot just yet. So this time I naively volunteered to replace him on what apparently was a project bidding interview by this government body. In all honesty, I thought it was just some casual discussion between us and this Encik Nasir, and oh man, I was so wrong about that.
When I reached there, I was stunned by a lot of senior looking men, either balding or had grey hair, all from other architectural practices waiting for their turns. And all of them went in either in pair or more and here I was all alone, inexperienced and too young for this sort of things! I called my mother and asked what is this meeting is actually about and all she said was, “Buat muka confident je..”. Sure thang Ma, until I was finally called in. I was only expecting En. Nasir or maybe another one of his aide but to my horror it was something like this:
Just imagine they are all Malay and way older than this
Yes. About 8 or more people sitting like that all looking at me entered the door. I did not almost pee, I probably had shit all over my new pants. One of them even asked, “Sorang je keww?” with a sneer. If this was any other kind of interview, I would’ve asked if she was blind but since this was part of everybody’s rice pots I just nodded, took my seat and nervously passed around my name card.
I had a bad start when one of them asked whether I knew where the site is. Moakil in Segamat? Where on planet earth was that? They were like, “You didn’t even look up on the map??” Well, no lies believable enough pops in my head so I just said no. The rest of the meeting went on and apparently most questions after Moakil were easy enough to my shallow knowledge, until they said that the proposed fee that I tabled was actually too low. In sessions like this they said, they’d normally ask for discounts but we came up with such low figures. We weren’t being unethical, we did base on minimum scale of fees regulations. Even that has been marked up. So they asked whether we can sustain with such figure.
I went on explaining about the nature of a housing project. You only design intermediate, corner and end lots; the rest are repetitive. And the fees doesn’t include reimbursable like printing costs and travels to site. Plus of course we have other projects and most importantly, “Kita tak ambil untung banyak sangat..”
After I babbled about possibilities of using IBS and shamefully answered no when they asked whether I have had my Part 3, it was over. I was free and I could not wait to go back and rant about how-could-he-sent-me-to-that-meeting to Abah. But truthfully, it was such a thrilling experience, although I didn’t think I did well and they probably thought we took it so lightly by sending someone like me.
Until today when I received a call from En. Nasir with two good news, he said. “One is that my boss is giving you the job and secondly, my boss asked you to resubmit your fee proposal but please double it. We are paying you more.”
Oh God. I must’ve done something right, I thought. It was probably that RM10 notes I kept passing to Fakhrul everytime he goes to Friday prayers for donation. Probably all of those recites of murahkan rezeki in all the doa.. But of course, for sure, part of it was because we were probably the cheapest. Probably in all honesty, we do not intend to make so much money out of this. Here I was, thinking its almost impossible to get any jobs without internal connections in Malaysia, let alone being asked to charge more than what we wanted!
I had been too humble and a little insecure with myself, career wise. Being surrounded by too many architects in my life, in words of Khaled Hosseini, I cant’ stretch a leg here without poking an architect in the ass. Especially the fact that most of them are overachievers, like the only Malaysian Foster+Partners’ Associate Amer, or the Ken Yeang’s number 1 Qadir, or born architect artistic Fakhrul, or his ARUP 3D Visualizer brother, my Dean listed and best designer award winner little sister, not forgetting the rest of the families.. But I think I can stop being insecure for now because it makes Fakhrul sooo pround, that he had to say he loves me (always), publicly, for the first time.