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From the bustling streets of Malaysia to the expansive landscapes of Australia, the journey of Peter Ting is nothing short of remarkable.
An ordinary Malaysian-Chinese boy who wants to change his family’s financial situation
Ting, who hails from a humble background, is the first Malaysian to win the esteemed “Engineer of the Year” award in Western Australia. But his journey to the podium wasn’t straightforward, nor was it always filled with optimism.
Born and raised in a modest Malaysian family, Ting grew up with dreams that stretched far beyond the confines of his small-town upbringing.
While his family did their best to put food on the table, Ting knew that to change his financial environment, he needed to excel in English– a language that could unlock a world of opportunities.
Proficiency in English could be a ticket to better opportunities
During his high school years, Peter found himself in a national secondary school in Sepang, where most of his friends were Chinese-speaking Malaysians. In such an environment, learning English was a challenge. However, it was in these trying conditions that Peter’s resolve and hardworking nature were forged.
Ting says, “To be honest, I was never an ‘A’ student, but I knew the importance of English. Every Sunday, I would buy ‘The Star’ newspaper, the thickest edition of the week, to improve my grasp on the language. That habit I cultivated since my secondary school days has helped me immensely.”
The efforts bore fruit when Ting, despite his average academic record, secured a spot in University Sains Malaysia (USM). The high-achieving ethos of his peers and the competitive environment drove him to work harder than ever.
“In Malaysia, the competition is cut-throat. The pressure to outperform peers and impress the boss is immense. It’s a stressful culture, but it prepared me for what was to come,” says Ting.
From Malaysia to Australia
Fresh out of USM in 2006, Ting landed his first job with a Japanese construction company in Malaysia. Two years later, an advertisement in ‘The Star’ newspaper caught his attention – an Australian company was looking for engineers.
The job advertisement sparked his interest, leading to a five-minute interview that would forever change his life.
He remembers being asked why he wanted to work in Australia. His honest answer, simply that he wanted to earn better money, sealed the deal. Despite doubts about the legitimacy of the job offer, he embarked on a journey to Perth, Australia.
Diligence and adaptability are keys
Australia introduced Ting to a new work culture and unexpected challenges. He quickly realized that adaptability and hard work were the keys to survival in this foreign land.
Ting explains, “Aussies respect those who argue and fight for their interest, they don’t like a ‘yes-man’ because they think if you can’t fight for your own right, you can neither do it for the company.”
Faced discrimination in a foreign land
However, the transition wasn’t without hurdles. Casual racism at the workplace and the initial alienation made the first few months tough.
Ting recounts a chilling incident from his first week on site in Australia, “One colleague told me, ‘I’m going to make sure you die within a week.’ It was scary, but I kept my head down and focused on my work.”
Another notable incident that sticks out is when he was confronted by a stranger who told him to ‘go back to China.’ Far from being discouraged, Peter chose to respond differently this time.
He retorted with a touch of sarcasm, thanking the stranger for recognising him as Chinese, as most people assumed he was Filipino. Firmly yet respectfully, he made it clear that he wasn’t going anywhere, stating, “This is my home, I won’t go.”
“In the early stages, I kept things to myself. My focus was to keep my head down and get the job done. But with time, I learned that silence is not always golden. Now, I stand up for myself, often responding in a sarcastic yet dignified manner.”
The taste of Malaysian food often stirs a longing for home
The early homesickness was a hurdle too. Memories of long international calls home, moments of tearful conversations with his mother, and the stark realization that there were no Malaysian food options around are etched in his mind.
But his unwavering determination and the steadfast support of his wife carried him through these challenging times.
Ting’s resilience paid off when, in 2017, he joined CPB Contractors, one of Western Australia’s largest construction firm. Combining his Asian work ethic and innovative approach, he soon made his mark, leading two major projects and introducing new construction technologies to the company.
Became the first Malaysian to win the award
His significant contributions didn’t go unnoticed. The Civil Contractors Federation of Western Australia (CCFWA), which represents all contractors in the state, nominated Ting for the “Engineer of the Year” award.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Ting admits.
“It was the most competitive year, with the highest number of nominees. I went for the event expecting nothing more than a free dinner. So, when they called my name, I was in shock. I hadn’t even prepared a speech!”
Ting’s triumph sends a powerful message about the importance of perseverance and the value of stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Today, he encourages other young Malaysians to seize opportunities and not to limit themselves.
“It’s easy to see ourselves as outsiders in a foreign land, but we’re the one who actually push ourselves away. The land of equal opportunities is not a myth– it’s real, and the only thing stopping you from excelling is yourself.”
Ting’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, hard work, and the courage to chase one’s dreams.
As he looks back at his journey, Ting credits his successes not to his academic performance but to his work ethics and attitude.
“I may have had a CGPA lower than 3, but it’s my work ethic that has got me where I am today.”
The hidden talent of a multifaceted engineer
The talented engineer who hails from a humble background, possesses a hidden artistic flair.
“Drawing on the back of calendars was my humble hobby as a child, the most affordable way for me to express my creativity,” shares Peter Ting, the talented engineer with a hidden passion for art.
“I’ve dedicated more time and effort to drawing. My dream is to retire as an artist, pursuing my passion full-time,” he adds. For Peter, drawing is not only an affordable hobby but also a source of immense joy and fulfillment.
It’s this same relentless spirit that had once led a young Malaysian boy to diligently read ‘The Star’ newspaper every Sunday, that took him from Malaysia to an award-winning career in Australia.
Indeed, Peter Ting’s journey serves as an inspiration for every young Malaysian striving to make their mark in the world.