Want To Pursue Your Passion Without Giving Up Your Job? These Malaysians Show Us How

"Ignore stigmas...and always have a backup plan."

Cover image via

While some are lucky to work at jobs they love, that isn't the reality for many who have pushed their dreams aside in favour of more stable full-time jobs

It's easy to say that we'll somehow find a way to keep our passions alive despite not pursuing a career in it, but how many of us actually do?

Indulging in your passion on the side may sound simple but it actually takes a lot of time, energy, and concentration to do so. With how much our jobs take out of us daily, we're left with barely any of the aforementioned elements by the end of the day.

In partnership with BRAND'S, we set out to find Malaysians who have found success in their passions while still maintaining their full-time jobs. Here are their #goalworthy stories:

1. Charissa Ong, a 25-year-old UI/UX Designer and Project Manager at VLT Labs, who is also a published author and founded her own publishing company, Penwings Publishing

Image via Charissa Ong

At VLT Labs, Charissa enjoys working with a vibrant team to build local and international apps such as ‘Boost’, ‘ShopYou’, and ‘Naluri’. Her job scope focuses on various design aspects, illustration and animation.

Being able to put her digital art related skills (both design and technical) to use is something that she finds fulfilling and rewarding in its own way.

Her best-selling poetry and short stories compilation, 'Midnight Monologues', topped the charts to become the No.1 Best Selling title in the country, beating out other titles by notable authors like Jojo Moyes, Mitch Albom and Lang Leav

It was also listed as a finalist at the International Book Awards 2017 for two categories - Poetry and Book Cover Design. And it even managed to break into the international market; it's currently selling in Singapore and the Philippines.

How does she balance her day job with writing on the side? Charissa admits it’s difficult especially when she’s left feeling lethargic and frustrated

“Sometimes it feels like I have no brain power left and I don’t have time for myself. But no matter how I feel, I always try to take responsibility and complete every task with 100% effort even when I feel like a -10%”.

She says that planning ahead and setting goals are essential in making sure she gets everything done. To prevent herself from giving up, she came up with a roadmap of what she wants to accomplish and stuck it on her wall. Looking at it every day gives her the motivation to keep going.

Image via Charissa Ong

As difficult as it is to balance both, Charissa has no plans on giving up her full-time job as she enjoys the variety it brings into her life and it also helps with her writing

“My job helps a lot in my general knowledge. And it entails A LOT of user testings so I get to meet many people from various walks of life. Some of them unknowingly open up to me and talk about their lives which in turn, inspires my writing.”

Her advice to those looking to do the same is to “ignore stigmas, do whatever you feel like (but make sure it benefits society) and always have a backup plan".

For a look at Charissa's writing and to stay updated on her progress as an author, follow her on Instagram.

2. Amir Zaki's day job is the furthest thing possible from his passion: he’s a Civil Engineer with a love for dancing

Image via Amir Zaki

Amir is a Civil Engineer at Sepakat Setia Perunding Sdn. Bhd. which is one of the big engineering consultancy companies in Malaysia. A typical working day for him includes a wide range of duties such as working on his designs, preparing drawings for submission, attending meetings with clients and authority figures, and documentation works.

Amir gets to concentrate on the things he’s truly passionate about once he clocks out of his office daily. While most would see the day as half over, Amir dedicates his nights to dancing.

As part of a dance crew named Motion Coast Crew, Amir indulges in his love of dance by putting on dance performances at events, choreographing for the crew's dance videos, and teaching dance classes.

Last year, Amir and the rest of Motion Coast Crew were able to be part of some pretty cool projects: they were featured as dancers in the music videos of two local artists – ‘Hello Dunia’ by Natasha Sass, and ‘Start That Thiruvizha’ by Balan Kashmir. They even got the opportunity to perform live onstage as backup dancers for Natasha Sass during her performance at the F1 Concert in Sepang.

Amir says that things are especially tough on days when he has to stay overtime to work on engineering projects which in turn affects his following dance schedules. Or vice versa when video shoots or rehearsals for dance jobs clash with his full-time working hours

He gets through those tough days by sacrificing sleep and pulling all-nighters to get everything done or by utilizing his annual leave to make sure he has sufficient free time. In response to those who question him on whether these sacrifices are worth it, he says that "nothing goes to waste if you sacrifice for things you love and are passionate about."

His advice is to "just remember that there are 24 hours in a day. Spare at least 1-2 hours a day to do what you're passionate about."

"If it is something you love and have passion for, 2 hours shouldn't be a problem for you to sacrifice despite your usual working hours. Set achievable goals for yourself within a certain time frame. It helps push you to pursue your passions a lot better.

Most importantly never let go of what you love doing, because true success comes to those who are ready to sacrifice blood, sweat and tears for their passion in life.

You can check out more of Amir's dancing with the rest of the Motion Coast Crew via their YouTube channel.

3. Electronica music fans may recognise Jo Ann as one half of popular duo +2dB. But you probably wouldn't know that she works for an event management company and is also a weekend announcer for FlyFM.

Image via Jo Ann

What started out as playful tinkering around on GarageBand by Jo Ann and her musical partner Jeannie, turned into +2dB’s debut track ‘Syren’. After its release, they grew in popularity and went on to achieve both local and international recognition.

As part of +2dB, Jo Ann has performed at some of the biggest music festivals in Malaysia including Urbanscapes and Good Vibes, and opened for various international artists like CHVRCHES and TOKiMONSTA

She has even caught the attention of top electronic music artists such as Diplo who reposted her original music and Télépopmusik who reposted her cover of their music. A particularly memorable experience for Jo Ann was when +2dB got the chance to go on their first international tour in 2015, which was a 3-city tour in South Korea.

Jo Ann considers herself lucky enough to have full-time job that echoes notes of her passion

Her current job at Freeform involves organizing events, mostly music related ones. Her company also oversees daily operations at trendy restaurant and live gig venue ‘The Bee’ as well as at event space ‘2 Hang Kasturi’.

She enjoys the fact that no one day at work is the same. “One day I could be picking an artist up from an airport, the next I’m thinking of a marketing strategy to get a project out there, and then after I’d be working on the playlist for The Bee. It keeps things exciting and myself on my toes.”

Image via All Is Amazing

Her main struggle with juggling everything she does is that “there’s always too much time here and too little time there, all the time.” But she tries her best to keep herself on track by planning ahead and making sure that her various schedules don’t get too mixed up.

When asked why she doesn’t just pursue her music career full time, she answered that she prefers to live by the ‘don’t turn your hobby into a job’ adage as she finds that there’s nothing quite like the freedom and fun that comes with keeping her music as a pet project

Her advice is to “just keep doing what you do and you WILL find (your path) one day. There’s no one way about it, and I can’t say I’m there yet myself, but you’ll need to believe. Believe a whole lot.”

Find out more about what Jo Ann has been up to as part of +2dB and keep an eye out for their upcoming tracks and gigs via this Facebook page.

Feeling inspired to start pursuing your own passion without giving up your full-time job? BRAND'S wants to assure you that you got this!

BRAND'S Essence of Chicken has been scientifically proven to improve concentration, reduce tiredness and enhance metabolism. These are all important elements that will help keep you going while you're out there working your day job and pursuing your passion.

Check out the video below to see how BRAND'S is encouraging this:

Find out more about what happens when you feed your mind and body with the goodness of BRAND'S Essence of Chicken here.

Here are some tips to help get you started:

We previously did a full-length interview with Charissa Ong: