"I studied information technology but decided to build my career in finance. Everything I know about finance I learned, and continue to learn on the job," shares Rachel Lain .
After completing her studies at Informatics College in Kuala Lumpur, Rachel, who hails from Sabah, decided to stay on and work in Kuala Lumpur/Selangor. That was some 26 years ago. Sweetening (and sealing!) the decision was when she met her future life partner in church. Divine appointment, that must be!
Rachel joined Swagelok Malaysia in November 1997. As a finance executive, she is responsible for all account receivable(AR)work for KL Valve & Fitting (KLV), a role that requires her to communicate with a host of internal customers, i.e. sales, services and operations. Her work responsibilities also include liaising with customers such as sending out payment requests to them and following up with calls for outstanding payments.
‘It is not easy dealing with customers, especially when it relates to outstanding payments. I have to empathize with them – the cash flow challenge they face, and at the same time, think up ways on how we can still get the outstanding payments from them.
“It is, therefore, important to maintain good relationship with customers, so that both parties can work out amicable solutions. We need to know and understand our customers' payment habit when we follow up on payments. For those with overdue invoices, we also need to find out what is the issue. Normally I will do internal ‘investigations’ first with our teams to understand if there is any internal challenge that is contributing to the overdues. It is helpful to have details like when was the invoice issued to customers, do our billings meet the terms and conditions of customers’ purchase orders, so on and so forth.
“Customer relationship management is an area that I need to continuously improve on – how to communicate with them in calls and writing; how to provide relevant feedback; and when to release sales orders to those who are slow in their payments. It is a challenge for me to make decisions on all these, but I am happy to say I am improving by the day. Practice makes perfect!” she shares.
For every month end closing, Rachel needs to prepare and update the monthly AR aging report for customers' latest payment status, and have AR meetings with the sales team on their customers’ outstanding payment status. “This helps us be in alignment and speak in ‘one voice’ when following up on the payments with customers,” she explains.
“Though the work is taxing and hectic, I enjoy it. It gives me the opportunity to collaborate with my own finance team and also associates from other departments. I also learn a lot about credit risk management, an area which requires continuous learning and propels me on the continuous improvement journey,” says Rachel.
A die-hard finance person, she shares that regardless, “I will always choose to do finance because I feel confident of my work and I know there is still a lot in finance that I need to learn." However, if she were to leave the corporate world, she envisions herself doing social work in a church. Won’t be surprised if it is finance-related as well!
“Whenever I face challenges or problems, I would always remind myself that I must have the faith to face it; that I should not be angry or worried. When I am stressed and wearied, I will pray and leave my burden to God, because I believe I have a good God who knows my needs. Sometimes I will talk through the issue with a close friend or colleague, and we will usually be able to think of ways to work out the situation. Also, through sharing a need, we can encourage one another. After all, no man is an island,” shares Rachel.
Two decades plus of working have taught her many lessons. Here Rachel shares two key learnings:
- Be assertive and make yourself heard.
- Continuously strive to enhance your knowledge and use that knowledge that you have gained, confidently and purposefully.
When she is free, Rachel loves to do gardening, shopping, and cooking. Cooking is a surprise addition, says the mother of four girls. “I don’t really know how to cook. It was only during the MCO period and working from home that I had the chance to start cooking for my family. Call it ‘forced’ opportunity, but I have begun to enjoy it,” says Rachel. Looks like the pandemic was in some ways a blessing in disguise.