03 Aug Clarity Feature Story: Dayal Krishnan – The Career Crusader
Conquering Unchartered Career Possibilities in IT, Logistics and Coaching
by Harry Tan
Corporate head honcho Dayal Krishnan, 55, left behind a top-notch job for a mid-career switch to reconcile with his passion – to be a career crusader. For three years, he was the head of IT and contact centre at Malindo Air, a regional airline company based in Petaling Jaya.
Now back in Singapore, Dayal actively coaches job-seeking PMETs, including seniors in their 40s to 70s. He has clocked in more than 300 hours of one-to-one coaching sessions. His assignments are arranged by Centre for Career Excellence (CCE), a leadership course facilitator established as a joint venture by Training Vision and Asia Gold Bell Education.
You do not sense any aloofness in the man who spent half his career life in senior positions in several IT companies, including giants such as Texas Instruments and Singtel. His benign nature shines through his composure and soft but firm voice.
Dayal’s broad-based experience in marketing, manufacturing, HR and finance has placed him in good stead. Through networking, he was able to secure senior positions without having to go through the mill of submitting job applications.
Over three decades, he witnessed the evolution of the IT industry, and he subsequently found his niche in IT solutions, even heading a startup which pioneered mobile phone payments.
Despite his illustrious background, Dayal’s career path had not been smooth. There were transitional periods which left him wanting and desperate for work. Among them was the SARS outbreak which crippled the economy and affected jobs in 2003–2004.
He braved the fall and after the lapse, bounced back to the IT industry he knew so well and again secured work through networking while proving himself to be a capable and innovative leader… a conqueror amid unchartered career possibilities.
Little did he realise then that his leadership, management and training expertise would one day enhance his role as a career coach.
Dayal has come full circle in his pursuit of a profession that he is passionate about. He took on relief teaching in his youth and had then harboured hopes of entering the teaching profession. He shared with a tinge of sadness: “Much as I had wanted to make teaching my career then, I was put off by the meagre pay. The take-home was barely enough to feed my family!”
So the young Dayal deviated from his primary goal and found work at Texas Instruments in 1987 as a market planner. His role was to plan the regional production for one of the MNC’s product – the Logic semiconductor chip – and worked closely with the manufacturing division to deliver as scheduled. To enhance job stability, Dayal opted for a transfer to the IT department so that he could pick up IT skills along the way. After 11 years with the company, Dayal had yearned for a change and left his launch pad for a smaller IT firm.
The small startup exposed Dayal to opportunities he never had in his previous job. He was given free rein to run the company and to engage in strategic consulting while generating business plans and sales strategies. All these opportunities enhanced his leadership capabilities and groomed him for better times ahead.
Dayal is a devoted family man with a loving wife and two grown-up children – a daughter, 24, and a son, 22. He lights up the screen of his iPad to reveal a family portrait taken on his 25th wedding anniversary. “My family (as well as my extended families!) have consistently provided me wholehearted support all these years in my pursuit of a career carved out of a necessity for survival,” Dayal said.
Q & A with Dayal
CCE: Dayal, you had a rewarding professional career spanning 30 years in the corporate world, backed by solid leadership and managerial experience. What made you switch to coaching and leave behind your previous positions in senior management?
Dayal: Yes, I had a lucrative career in IT, enriching in some ways. My previous job with Malindo Air was also satisfying. But the fact is, I missed my family – and vice versa – those three years. So I discussed with my wife and children about seeking alternative work here.
CCE: Tell us briefly how you made the transition.
Dayal: I had this coaching passion at the back of my mind for a long time. After consulting my family in late 2015, I started preparing for the switch by getting back to my connections, a process which took six months, including a three-month resignation notice to the company. I guess my IT connections would have to be placed on the back-burner for now, as I begin to share my broad-based experience in corporate management and leadership with coachees.
CCE: Describe some challenges and rewards as a coach for the past year.
Dayal: Initially, being able to identify the specific needs of the coachee was a challenge for me. I also discovered that certain questions I asked were taboo without first knowing the coachee’s character. Currently, I am beginning to enjoy the role. But seriously, I am happy to share soft skills and relevant knowledge with my coachees. Conversely, I gather inputs from my coachees and learn a few tips from them too. Even so, if my coachee succeeds in achieving his or her goal, or has secured a job, then I am glad I have contributed in some way to helping the person realise it.
CCE: I’ve heard about your humility despite having been a head honcho in the corporate world for many years. Apart from humility, what do you think would be your strengths as a career coach?
Dayal: I have my ups and downs too in my career life, so I can relate to job seekers and the unemployed too. For every coachee I counsel, I try to picture myself in that person’s shoes. I think my previous capacities as a director, team leader and trainer in the corporate world, as well as counsellor at The Hindu Centre, have helped equip me for the present role. There is still much to learn though, so I do not want to make presumptions.
CCE: Which coach or coaches do you look up to as role-models?
Dayal: As part of the certification, coaches have to take up the role of a Client/Coachee under the accredited ICA (International Coach Academy). My coach was Axela Rinoa, a Polish professional based in London who impressed me with her discrete coaching techniques. She knew how to effectively engage me and her other coachees, especially when I was off my targets. I had learned much from her when I had to assume the role of a coachee for six of the sessions in the programme. The quotes and videos by Robin Sharma (of ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ fame) are another source of inspiration. Back home, my two ladies (wife and daughter) are mentor and critic. They jested that they could see the glow on my face ever since I took up coaching!
CCE: Now that your reputation as a coach is steadily growing, what sound advice would you impart to newbie coaches?
Dayal: Haha. Like I said, I still have a long way to go and so I would not be presumptive. However experienced a coach may be, he or she should not impose on the coachees. Allow them to view and be accountable from their own perspective. Also, the coach must gain the confidence of the coachees. Listen attentively and listen well to their wishes as well as their woes. Make a genuine effort to understand each coachee. I find coaching very satisfying and fulfilling, more so when my family sees that glow on my face! When you have this passion in you to help job seekers, and you know you can as a coach, you tend to wonder why you did not stumble into this profession earlier!
CCE: Let’s talk about your early years in employment. Texas Instruments was your springboard for a career in IT solutions. Describe your role then.
Dayal: I had no background knowledge in electronics. But I was a fast learner and adapted to the environment quickly. My boss labelled me a ’super user’ as a result, and recommended me for more training. I then moved into IT. After 11 years, I felt my role was rather restricted and I thought I should move on to face new challenges.
CCE: You stand out as a pioneer who devised the payment transactions via mobile devices in 2001. Share with us how the idea came about.
Dayal: I was at the supermarket queuing to pay for my purchases. When my turn came, I realised that I left my wallet at home. I then called my wife on my handphone to fetch my wallet. The idea of creating payment via phone to transact struck me at that point. I realised that we have reached a stage where you ‘never leave home without a phone’ (tongue-in-cheek!) as the phone has become more indispensable than the wallet. Today, the smartphone is the mode for transactions and has almost replaced the wallet. See how far technology has arrived!
CCE: You mentioned earlier about your role as a volunteer counsellor with The Hindu Centre in Singapore, counselling convicts (2005–2010). Cite an instance in which you believe your counselling had a positive influence.
Dayal: Recently at Tekka Market, a former inmate I once counselled recognised me and called out my name. I had heard that he became a gym instructor shortly after his release. That day at the market, he was with his family, heading for their parked car. We had a brief chat. In my heart, I felt proud to see that he had changed for the better. There was a personal sense of satisfaction, in that my counselling efforts over those years have paid off.
CCE: One last question. How and where do you spend your free time?
Dayal: Much of my spare time is spent with my family. We comb the island for local food haunts and try to explore the up-and-coming malls. Other than that, I devote several hours to planning my talks and workshop seminars.
Written by Harry Tan
Harry Tan began working on his passion for writing with a leisure weekly. He then picked up copyediting and proofreading skills, working on college textbooks, annual reports and travel guides. Currently, he offers freelance editorial services. A Peranakan Singaporean, Harry enjoys small talk and long walks. He loves planning train-bus journeys and has gone on several DIY road trips to Japan, Britain and Germany.