I Was Asked to Leave My Job at 55. I’m Back on My Feet Again

Leong Yew Wah was let go from his job in his 50s. But instead of feeling defeated, he took the opportunity to upskill himself and found his next role soon after.

When you meet Leong Yew Wah, the first thing you’ll realise is that he is an easy-going, glass-half-full kind of person person. The 57-year-old is very calm and collected, and his life mantra is to take things in a positive stride. 

“I take things very positively, which I think is very important,” he shares. It is, after all, what kept him going when he was made redundant from his regional role as Business Intelligence Analyst at international digital security company Gemalto, where he supported the technical systems for the organisation worldwide. At that time, the company had begun making plans to move the responsibilities of his role to China.

“I was in a position of the company that wasn’t moving,” he shares. “At the back of my mind, I knew it would happen. Because the new management didn’t subscribe to what I was doing.” So he had already started making some plans, such as ensuring he had sufficient savings to tie the family over in case the inevitable happens. But despite this, Leong was hesitant to move because of his family. His daughter was still in lower secondary then. 

But in June 2016, the bombshell was dropped – his then superior broke the news that he would be let go. No matter how positive a mindset, going out of a job at 55 was surely not the easiest of news to accept. Naturally, even Leong had his apprehensions. 

“Having been in a company for so long, the news was tough, especially when I had to go back and face my family,” he recalls, though he adds that thankfully by then, his daughter was older and more independent. “Initially, my wife and daughter tried to see if there was any way to salvage the situation, like ask for an alternative role within the company.” 

“But after a discussion with my supervisor, we understood that the main thing of why I was made redundant is because the role I was doing can be shifted to another region.” 

As such, the responsibility of main income provider had to be borne by his wife for the time being. But instead of waiting for a job to slowly come his way, Leong made the decision to seek out opportunities. Two months later, he decided to undertake Workforce Singapore’s Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for 12 months. 

“This programme is a good starting block. It’s beneficial to help participants establish a strong base to face (potential) challenges ahead,” commends Leong. “Such programmes are avenues that can assist us but we too must take action.” 

So while on the programme, he continued to look for available opportunities, whilst building his portfolio of skills. “I was actively looking for a role after its completion,” he says, recalling the many frustrating times when he couldn’t find a job over one and a half years. 

“I kept myself occupied to keep going,” he shares. “I met with people in similar situations and learnt from others with different experiences. I also took up some volunteer work in the neighbourhood library to spend my time wisely.” 

On his lifestyle, he admits that there were some cutbacks on certain luxuries like eating out and travelling. “But I look at it as cutting back with a purpose,” he says. “We’re doing it for future opportunities.”

Finally, in December 2017, with the help of WSG’s appointed Career Matching Provider MAXIMUS Asia, he joined Modern Beauty Wellness Pte Ltd, an SME in the beauty and wellness sector, as Management Operations Officer. Though remuneration was about 40% less than when he received at Gemalto, he and his family have since learnt to manage around it.

Leong is enjoying his new role, where he has room to hone his data analytic skills, while learning new skills in operations and facility management.  “This job is not as demanding as previously, so it lets me contribute to the company in other ways,” he shares. “Previously, I was also required to travel because it was a regional role. Now operations are based here mostly so I don’t have to go out of the country.” 

Having worked in an MNC his whole career, the transition to an SME was not easy. But thanks to PCP, he gained some experience working in a smaller company and was able to better adapt to a different culture. “The programme eased the path in switching from a manufacturing services environment into a beauty services industry,” he affirms. 

He adds with a smile, “Now my wife and I are just making plans towards retiring comfortably.” 

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