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‘Work Smart, Not Work Hard’, Says “Apprentice Asia” Winner Jonathan Yabut

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KUALA LUMPUR – Jonathan Allen Yabut brought his own steam iron when he joined the “Apprentice Asia” season one last year.

After watching all the spin-offs of the “Apprentice”, a US reality show for aspiring talent to compete for a spot working for a business tycoon, he knew that getting household chores done should be the least he should worry about in the cut-throat competition.

“We called it a day after midnight. Then we had to get up at 5am or earlier to get our hair and make-up done before the recording started.

“Every morning, all contestants had to panic and scramble to do their ironing and washing. I was the the only one sitting in the kitchen, enjoying my coffee and strategising for the day,” he said.

Call it street smart, said the 28-year-old Filipino who won the “Apprentice Asia”, because at the end of the day, work smart was more important than work hard.

“In Asian culture, we take pride in working 12-14 hours a day. But the job can probably be done in five hours, minus the time surfing Facebook, Twitter or YouTube,” Yabut told a Corporate Board Leadership Symposium held here recently.

Too many times staff were burying their heads into the projects and executed what they were told to do, only to forget to think of the overall bigger picture, he pointed out.

Yabut was among the 12 candidates chosen from 30,000 applicants for the inaugural season of the “Apprentice Asia”, aired last year.

They were thrown gruelling tasks every episode such as selling fish at a wet market for the highest profit and creating a 30-second viral video.

One contestant was “fired” at the end of each episode by Malaysian aviation tycoon Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the host/magnate of the “Apprentice Asia”.

As the winner, Yabut earned a six-figure salary, one-year contract as the Chief of Staff for AirAsia Bhd, Asia’s largest budget carrier founded by Fernandes, in August last year.

Speaking to Bernama after his presentation, Yabut said his contract had been renewed for another 12 months.

The executive, who recently authored “From Grit to Great”, currently helms AirAsia’s non-core operating businesses that include a soon-to-be-launched in-flight Wi-Fi service and a travel content portal billed to be the “TripAdvisor for AirAsia”.

Asked on the surviving skills one must have to work under an “iron fist” like Fernandes, Yabut said the key was to manage expectations.

“Managing expectations is important. What your boss thinks and the reality is may be in disparity,” he said.

Scooping out a project at the beginning to learn how long it will take, which people are involved, what documentations to make, and how much the cost is, and communicate it upfront with the boss, he advised.

Being the apprentice to Fernandes has Yabut realised the various career paths one can make.

“Tony always said: ‘Never be afraid to leave your nine-to-five job. If you want to fulfil a dream, just do it'”.

“Every employee in AirAsia is very entrepreneurial. When you leave AirAsia, you have been trained well as an entrepreneur — you will get rid of all the formalities to get things done if it can be done low-cost and efficiently,” he said.

Give it another four to five years with AirAsia, Yabut said he planned to launch his own start-ups with the experience he gathered from the “Apprentice Asia”, and his mentor, Fernandes. – Bernama

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