Fifty Shades Of Beautiful Orange Flowers

ByFaizal Sohaimi

This magnificent orange-colored flower – magnificent to my eyes at least, I didn’t know its name. I would see it from my balcony daily. I Googled it. The typical name is “African Tulip” – supposedly an invasive species. Native to the dry forest of Africa.

First Noticed

I noticed it when I lived at Maxwell Tower, at the foothills of Bukit Gasing. I noticed their vibrant orange colour as I opened my door every morning. I began to love the vibrant orange colour of the flowers. I looked forward to seeing the flowers every morning.

It gave me more meaning when I attended a 3-day course in Melaka. There were sessions where we had to mull n quietly contemplate an empty ground. At the edge of this empty ground, there were two of these trees. Their flowers and fruits littered the ground. Which became one of my subjects for contemplation.

So Far Away

The trees, their flowers, fruits, and seeds had me contemplating the advantages we as humans had over trees. For one thing, the tree is rooted in one place. To move the whole tree somewhere else would require a considerable effort of humans and machines.

This tree however is an invasive species, like the name said, from Africa. It didn’t simply fly all the way from Africa to Malaysia. It was brought here presumably during the colonial days after it was spotted by Europeans on the Gold Coast of Africa.

Initially, it was “exotic” due to its beauty and rarity. It was initially planted as an ornamental tree in gardens. The park at my current condo has one or two of these trees.

If you don’t like what you see here, get the funk out! – Extreme

Free To Move

The important lesson – we are free to move, to go anywhere. We are not rooted like the tree. But there are always one or two psychological reasons that are rooted somewhere. Some might be real, but many are imaginary.

I am such an example – I graduated, trained, and practised as an engineer. I felt that everything or anything I do as a career must be linked to or involve engineering. When I left hands-on engineering, I looked for a project engineer job and finally settled on a sales engineer job.

I was a “wireline field engineer” prior. To be honest, the width and breadth of technology and technique that we had to master was way beyond what was taught during my five years of diploma and degree. We had to learn these things and pass the stringent tests in sixteen and a half weeks. We did it! Despite many of us being slackers during our university days.

As I had spent five years in the oil & gas industry, it was “natural” for me to become a sales engineer in the oil & gas industry.


The first item I had to sell was the instrument cable, fire resistant (FR) cable. My first sales manager said, “You were a wireline engineer right? You should know this wire” …, teased the boss.

I knew nothing of this cable or any other cable except for those I had used during my field days. It turned out that this FR cable was only the beginning. There were myriads of other power, instrument, control, and whatnot cables being used in the oil & gas process plants. The internet was already decent then and I had catalogues of cables to refer to. But I was not going to spend my after-work hours reading this! I had a baby boy to play with.

I Like To Move It, Move It!

Since unlike the tree I could move around and I could talk, I went to meet as many electrical and instrumentation engineers as possible, to learn from them. They were happy to share with me their knowledge and many of them became lifelong friends.

After making my successful sales in the electrical and electronic side of the oil & gas industry, unlike a tree, I need to move on. And I don’t just scatter my flowers, fruits, and seeds around. I can move way further. Still, within the oil & gas industry, I subsequently moved into non-destructive testing, inspection services, safety equipment, fire-resistant coveralls, tank inspection, tank building, chemical decontamination, valves, software, data management, laser scanning, intelligent 3D modelling and lastly asset integrity management.

Am I “Clever”?

I am not “that” clever. If someone like me, with an average SPM grade, just above pass diploma and barely touching an “honours” degree could learn through all these, anyone can!

We just need to believe that we have much wider capabilities and options than the tree or its flowers, fruits, and seeds. Our capabilities and range are virtually limitless. However, I highly suggest that you exercise this “range-finding” when you are younger, unmarried, or at least kids-free. Expand your horizon. See the world if you want to.

The world is at your fingertip.


Having said that I have friends who do it when they are already married, with kids. It’s a matter of how you discuss and agree with your spouse and kids on how you do this. I have a friend who shifted with his wife and thirteen children to Abu Dhabi; another who roams in Australia with his wife and three kids and many who felt that they wanted to spend their professional lives in America, Europe, or the Middle East before coming back to retire in Malaysia.

I had my stints too in China and New Zealand before the economic downturn of 1998-1999. Had my opportunities after that too but by that time my priorities and plans changed. So, I remained in Malaysia for the last twenty-three years. I travelled regionally before the pandemic and had some trips to America and Europe. At this point in time, I’ve decided that Malaysia is where my fortune and life are.

I See It Again!

Post-pandemic, I moved to a condo where every time I opened my balcony door, I get to see the African Tulips again, as well as when I do my morning walk. Of course, it got my mind whirling again!

Like the tree, do I have to stick to one place? In oil & gas? As a salesperson?

I had been shifting my career path into training and speaking during the pandemic. I met lots of wonderful people and came across wonderful opportunities. I started to see what the country needs in terms of food security and human capital development.

The Connector

I realise that developing my skills in either of these industries would take as Malcolm Gladwell wrote it is about 10 years. I am no longer that patient. What I learned also in the book “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann, there is this role, The Connector.

In our world today, there are many loose ends – people with know-how but no funds; those with funds, scared to invest; have this and that but don’t have something else. Thus, become untied. All these require someone to connect, facilitate and make it happen. One venture I am facilitating – a friend who wants to expand his cattle farming business. He is limited currently by the funds that he has and the land available to him.

What I had done in the last few months – I connected this business to a potential land/site, and a potential funder and facilitate the process. God willing, we’ll see a new venture by year’s end. Of course, this is not oil & gas! Suddenly I found myself in the agriculture and food industry!


Many connections to be made; can be made.

Have A Look..

I was also asked to look at renewable energy. Initially, it almost hit a dead end – a no-go. Not much money for the specific area we were looking at, nor national interest. But after a while, the “darling” technology hit a snag. The industry is now looking at “what else” is available out there. The interest was reignited.

Like the tree, I “spread” my flower and fruits within the vicinity. I attended conferences, conventions, or any short events, related to my focus industries – to learn, and as a Connector, make connections. You’ll never know how or where the connection will lead you and what would be the results. I connected with anyone and went with gut feeling on how you nurture those connections.


Today it is much easier to nurture those connections. It’s best for physical face-to-face meets, but due to time and distance, social media is your best buddy. Many of my connections are nurtured through our links via LinkedIn or Facebook. Many of us have not physically met, but we feel the connection.

As I wrote this, I could see the African Tulip tree on the hill where the late Tan Sri MK had his residence and office. This flower helps me to be cheerful and thoughtful, every time I see it.

What would it be in your life, that would trigger such a thought?

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