From Tronoh To Jakarta  

By June Ramli

Borhan Erwan Adaham was never a fan of his school days and he never took his studies seriously. Life was all just fun and games back in the day.

Recalling an incident from the era where he was caught smoking.

“There was once The Star newspaper took a photo of me and my friends smoking outside the school compound. I was in my school uniform but thankfully when the picture got published, our eyes were blackened,” he recalled.

“My father spotted that article and brought the clipping home from work. He asked me point blank if I knew the guys that were in the photo. I told him no, although one of the guys was me.”

As soon as he finished high school at Saint Micheal’s in Ipoh in 1991, after a few months of pondering on his next move, Borhan decided to head to Pulau Tioman in Pahang to pursue a career as a scuba diving instructor.

“After doing a myriad of jobs, I headed to Tioman from Tronoh because there was nothing to do there,” he told the in a recent interview.

Borhan went there with the idea of learning how to become a divemaster, something that he envisioned doing as a career.

“I received my open water license for free because I was working at a dive shop in Kampung ABC but to become an instructor, the cost was about RM10,000, so after some time, I decided to leave the place and seek new opportunities on the mainland.

“When diving becomes a profession, I can safely say that it is no fun,” he said.

Borhan during his scuba diving days. Photo: Supplied.

So, Borhan went on to Bukit Jambul, Penang as there was an opening for a bellboy position.

“Someone told me that they were looking for a bellboy and so I headed straight there and got the job after several rounds of interviews,” he said. 

After a couple of months, Borhan soon left the job to seek greener pastures in the capital city in Kuala Lumpur.

“I had a lot of relatives there in Penang who was trying to matchmake me with someone. 

“I wasn’t ready for such a commitment at that age and so I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur on the day I received the job confirmation of my role at the hotel.”

Fast forward to 2021, Borhan is now one of the managers for a multinational Sweedish conglomerate IKEA.

But this was not always the case.

Borhan recalls the day when things soon changed for him after working as a part-time barista in Coffee Bean.

From a part-timer, Borhan was soon given the mandate to run several outlets in Kuala Lumpur as the assistant manager after he was accepted into the company’s management trainee program.

But soon, Borhan was itching for a new challenge. 

After many unsuccessful attempts, Borhan finally managed to bag a job at IKEA.

Borhan (far left and in Batik) with his family and Malaysian singer Amy Search. Photo: Supplied.

“They were opening a new branch in Damansara in 2003 and I joined in 2005 after a friend told me of an opening.  

“I applied and after five rounds of interviews, I was finally given the job,” he said.

Today, Borhan is one of the managers at IKEA Indonesia. 

He believes that the trick in getting a job without a degree was to actually pad up one’s resume with a lot of hands-on working experience.

“My first role with the company was as a supervisor.

“I’ve always been open about my educational background and would say that I am only an SPM qualified candidate,” he added.

Borhan said his qualifications did not hinder him in getting most of his jobs because of his good command of the English language.

“My late father was very particular about learning the language. 

“He would always bring back the New Straits Times and The Star for us to read.

“I remember reading it cover to cover and if I didn’t understand a word, I would look it up in the dictionary,” he added.

He said people don’t have to spend lots of money to learn English because the best way to do it is by reading daily.

Looking back, he said his good command of the language helped him in many ways especially in excelling in his career.

“During my interview as a bellboy, the managers would take turns to ask me questions because they were in awe that I had a good command in English,” he said.  

Seventeen years on, Borhan said that it was his grasp of the language that helped him launch his career to where it is today.

The father of three said that he always inculcates the importance of reading English materials among his daughters in order to get a leg up in the language. 

He added that one should also never abandon their mother tongue when it comes to learning a foreign language like English.

“It is disheartening to see that many people are not speaking in Malay in Malaysia anymore. 

“I spoke Malay at home yet here I have a good command of the English language as well,” he added.

Footnote: SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) or the Malaysian Certificate of Education, is a national examination taken by all fifth-form secondary school students in Malaysia.

To contact this reporter, email

Success! You're on the list.

One thought on “From Tronoh To Jakarta  

Leave a Reply