1. Tun Mahathir Mohamad, current Prime Minister, served as a doctor in government service and set up his own practice shortly after
In his childhood, Mahathir started selling coffee, pisang goreng, and other snacks when schools closed during the Japanese occupation of Malaya during WWII.
He went on to study medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore, where he met his future wife, Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, a fellow medical student. Upon graduation, worked as a doctor in government service. He returned to Alor Setar in 1957 to set up his own practice and subsequently began to invest in various businesses following the success of his practice.
2. Dr. Wan Azizah, current Deputy Prime Minister, served as a government doctor for 14 years
Dr. Wan Azizah served as a government doctor for 14 years after graduating from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland as a qualified ophthalmologist (she was also awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology.
When her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, was appointed Deputy PM in 1993, Dr. Wan Azizah decided to focus on volunteering work. She became a patron of the National Cancer Council (MAKNA) during that period.
Dr. Wan Azizah took her first steps into politics following the dismissal and arrest of her husband in 1998. A key figure of the fledgling Reformasi movement, she helped establish the Parti Keadilan Nasional in 1999 and subsequently became the party's first president.
3. Lim Guan Eng, current Finance Minister, used to be a senior executive at a bank
Lim Guan Eng graduated from Monash University in Australia with a bachelor's degree in economics and by 1983, had become a qualified professional accountant. Although he has always had an interest for politics, he embarked on a banking career and worked his way up to the position of a senior executive.
But it wasn't long before he followed his father Lim Kit Siang's footsteps. In 1986, Lim Guan Eng was elected MP of Kota Melaka after defeating Soh Chin Aun with a majority of 17,606 votes, and was subsequently re-elected in the 1990 and 1996 general elections.
4. Anwar Ibrahim, founder of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and former Opposition leader, has been an active political activist since his days as a student
As a student in Universiti Malaya, Anwar was the President of the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students (1968 - 1971) and a pro tem committee member of the Angkatan Belia Muslim Malaysia (1971).
In 1974, Anwar was arrested during student protests against rural poverty and hunger in Baling, Kedah. He was imprisoned under the Internal Security Act for 20 months in the Kamunting Detention Centre.
Following his release, Anwar was selected to represent Asia Pacific for the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (1975 - 1982) and co-founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought in the US in 1981.
Anwar officially began his governmental career when he joined UMNO in 1982, then led by Tun Mahathir Mohamad, who became prime minister in 1981.
5. Khairy Jamaluddin, former Minister of Youth and Sports, has written for major publications like The Economist and Wall Street Journal
After completing his tertiary education at Oxford University and University College London for his bachelor's degree and master's degree respectively, Khairy had a brief stint at The Economist as a correspondent for the magazine's foreign news department. Upon his return to Malaysia, he served as a presenter on ntv7's now-defunct political talkshow 'Dateline Malaysia'. He has also written for major publications such as Time and The Wall Street Journal.
Khairy joined the office of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then the Deputy PM, as a Special Officer. He quickly rose among the ranks of UMNO under Abdullah's prime ministership from 2003 to 2009, and was subsequently elected as MP of Rembau in 2008.
Prior to his parliamentary career, Khairy was involved in several football associations and even served as the Vice-President of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) frrom 2007 to 2010. He also teamed up with radio DJ Jason Lo to produce 'MyTeam', a football-based reality show.
6. Najib Razak, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, used to work for Bank Negara and Petronas
After graduating from the University of Nottingham in England with a bachelor's degree in industrial economics, Najib returned to Malaysia in 1974. He served briefly at the Bank Negara and later worked for Petronas as a public affairs manager.
However, his stint in the business world did not last long. Following the death of his father Tun Abdul Razak in 1976, Najib was selected to run for the parliament seat left vacant by his father. He won the election unopposed, becoming a Member of Parliament at the very young age of 23, and has held on to the Pekan seat 'til today.
7. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, current UMNO president, was a prominent figure in the banking industry and several commercial corporations
Before venturing into politics, Ahmad Zahid was a banker for OCBC, and also served as one of the directors of Bank Simpanan Nasional (1995 to 1998) and Permodalan Nasional Berhad.
He was also a marketing executive for Amanah Saham Nasional Berhad, executive director for Scandinavian Motors Sdn Bhd, CEO of Kretam Holding Berhad, chairman of Tekala Corporation Berhad, chairman of Seng Hup Berhad and Pengerusi Ramatex Berhad, and chairman of Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (1999).
8. Rafizi Ramli, vice president of PKR, is a chartered accountant and used to work for Petronas and Pharmaniaga
Though Rafizi Ramli studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Leeds (he was awarded a scholarship), he first worked for an accountant firm in the UK while taking professional papers to qualify as a chartered accountant under ICAEW at the same time.
He returned to Malaysia in 2003, where he started working for Petronas until 2009. He went on to become the general manager of Pharmaniaga in August 2009, before being appointed as the Chief Executive of the Selangor Economic Advisory Office, a position he held until July 2012.
9. Azmin Ali, current Minister of Economic Affairs, taught mathematics while he was working on his master's degree
While working on his master's degree in Education at the Univesity of Minnesota, Azmin Ali taught modern and additional mathematics. He also attended an executive training programme at Oxford University.
He started working for Anwar Ibrahim, then a Minister in Mahathir's Barisan Nasional government, in 1987 and served as his personal secretary throughout Anwar's tenure as Deputy Prime Minister.
10. Azalina Othman Said, MP of Pengerang, was a lawyer and also hosted several TV talkshows
Azalina Othman started her law career as a legal assistant at Messr Raja Darryl & Loh law firm from (1988-1989, 1991-1994). She went on to become an associate partner of Azalina Chan & Chia law firm (1994-2001) and with Messrs Skine (2001-2002).
Prior to her involvement in politics, she also hosted various television talk shows such as 'Dateline Malaysia' and 'Lidah Pengarang' on ntv7, discussing political, economic, and social issues. She also holds the 7th dan (7th degree senior) in taekwondo.
11. Ibrahim Ali, president of PERKASA, was a student activist and founded the Kuala Lumpur Polytechnic
He was arrested and detained under the ISA after joining a student protest against rural poverty and hunger in Baling, Kedah in 1974 (the same one Anwar Ibrahim was arrested for). When he was released in 1976, he was invited alongside Anwar to attend the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
Though he was offered jobs by then Information Minister Tun Ghazali Shafie to be an information attaché at the UN and by then Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to work for Petronas, he turned them down in favour of setting up the Kuala Lumpur Polytechnic, a private professional school for external courses, in 1978.
12. Tun Abdul Razak, second PM of Malaysia, spied on the Japanese army on behalf of the Askar Wataniah Pahang
When Yeop Mahidin established the Pahang Reserve Force (Askar Wataniah Pahang) during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in WWII, he recruited and instructed Abdul Razak to join the Japanese-controlled Malaya Public Service to be the resistance force's eyes and ears.
As Yeop proceeded to recruit 200 men to train them as a guerilla force (Force 136), Tun Abdul Razak had gained the Japanese confidence, and he was elected as the assistant to the District Officer. In that position, he was privy to confidential details of the Japanese army's movements, which he then passed on to Yeop.
The Wataniah and Force 136 launched several successful ambushes, and the Japanese began to suspect that there was an inside man among their ranks. Fortunately, Yeop was able to extract Tun Razak from the hornet's nest by orchestrating a "kidnap".
After the war, Abdul Razak left for Britain to study law and subsequently received a law degree in 1950 and qualified as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn in London.