With an awe-inspiring track record and a beaming future ahead, our April Alum of the Month (‘AotM’), Affendy Ali Dally, from the graduating class of 2011, is the beau ideal of a 21st century Renaissance Man.
His plethora of commitments can be traced back to his days at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya (‘UM’). He duly served as the President of the University of Malaya Law Society (‘UMLS’) 2009/2010, notably represented Malaysia at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition (‘Jessup Moot’) in 2009, and was awarded the Dato’ Rajasooria Book Prize 2011 — an accolade awarded to the best all-rounder student of each graduating batch. These are not just the starry moments that form the constellations of his life, for Affendy has also given talks at prominent institutions such as the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union and Cult Creative. Career-wise, Affendy has an unfeigned interest in the creative arts industry. Currently, he sits as the Group General Manager, Group Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department at Media Prima Berhad (‘Media Prima’).
Throughout the interview, we will sail into Affendy’s impressive systoles and diastoles that have culminated his name within and beyond the faculty.
On your LinkedIn profile, you mentioned a quote from Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view; until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ Why did you choose this quote in particular?
‘The genesis of the quote is this: when principles, opinions, and stances collide, there is always an underlying contention beneath it.’
As Affendy’s day-to-day work revolves around interacting with people with different viewpoints, navigating the clashing of ideas remain part and parcel of his job. To reach a consensus — or at least an amicable resolution — it is essential to have the ability to see where others are coming from. The ability to read the room is vital across the board, be it within courtroom situations, mediations, or even corporate team management.
To paint a better picture, Affendy narrates that the proposition of a good litigator involves the assimilation of their opponents’ stances and analysis of witnesses’ statements. Similarly, it is crucial to identify the wants and needs of the other party when it comes to mediation. Applying the aforementioned quote to a more interpersonal setting has also inspired Affendy to improve his workplace relationships with his superiors and team members. As someone who has assumed leadership positions from his university days, Affendy finds it tried and true to always go the extra mile in understanding the thoughts, backgrounds, and behaviours of others. In other words, the concept of stepping into another’s shoes has always been a compass for Affendy in his ‘life, career, and day-to-day work’.
Given your wide range of involvements in the faculty, what were some of your favourite moments?
‘It is so hard to pinpoint a favourite moment!’
The charisma and jubilance that personified Affendy’s presence allowed his innate performer to shine through as an actor in UMLS’ Annual Mock Trial for four consecutive years. In his own words, ‘the annual mock trials are always so much fun, from the daily rehearsals to the actual performance!’ Theatrics and gimmicks aside, there was never a dull moment as each stage — made possible by the hard work invested by the cast and crew behind the scenes — deserved a standing ovation in its own right!
Mooting also pushed Affendy into the limelight at the faculty. He mentioned that the highlight of his mooting career was definitely when his team advanced to Washington DC to represent Malaysia at the Jessup Moot. Besides the awards that came with mooting, Affendy is forever grateful for the training sessions and competitions that he went through, for the rigour has moulded the way he articulates his thoughts to an audience.
When asked about how he managed to balance such huge commitments, Affendy earnestly admitted that he was surprised as well! Jokes aside, he attributed it to the sacrifices he made, especially in terms of how he had to utilise his time. He mentioned that when presented with a long list of things to do — ‘prioritisation is key’. This could not have rung truer, as it would assist in keeping track of one’s tasks and progress. Additionally, he shared that maintaining his passion through it all has helped him to pace his drive through the ebbs and flows.
Correspondingly, Affendy fragmented his advice for current students in the faculty into two dimensions: to embrace what one is doing, and to have an introspective reflection as a part of one’s soul-searching paradigm. He accentuated that all of us will eventually achieve our life and career goals, so we should celebrate each milestone — regardless of how small it may seem at the time. As law students, it is also advisable for us to have a knack for learning, because it is through curiosity that we explore the trajectory of the roads ahead. When opportunities come knocking, we must be proactive and seize them, as they might not come knocking twice. From there, always have short and long-term goals, as they will guide you through uncertainties.
Affendy, alongside his University of Malaya Law Society (‘UMLS’) and Asian Law Students’ Association ('ALSA') comrades — Mr Mike Lee, Mr Koh Kean Kang, and Mr Joshua Beni Chris — who worked tirelessly to ensure that the student body’s needs were best catered to
Mooting has been an ethos of the faculty. What would your advice be to students who are hesitant to pick up the said vocation?
‘We are all built and wired differently. If you think and feel that you might enjoy mooting, then go for it. Along the process, you will realise that it may or may not be for you.’
There is always this internal conflict within law students — the constant questioning of whether to partake in mooting. Although there is no hard and fast rule for this, Affendy maintained that ‘you may join mooting and love it so passionately, or you may not, and hate it to the core. You may get selected, and you may not. Either way, make the best out of the choice you make.’ There is no harm in trying as there is always something to be learned, from wins as much as losses.
The lesson Affendy has attained from his mooting experience is the consistent maintenance of composure, oral etiquette, and demeanour. One should also resist the urge to raise their voices, even if they need to make a compelling point. He vividly reminisced his days preparing for Jessup Moot, where his trainer, Datin Mary George, reminded him to avoid expressing fulminations against the court. According to Affendy, albeit the tiring preparation, these are the ingots of advocacy that one will carry through career developments and life.
Affendy and his teammates, Ms Tharishni Arumugam, Ms Farah Sofia, Mr Samuel Leong, and Ms Karthini Mahendranathan, during the trip to Washington DC for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition was one for the books
Before joining the creative industry, you worked as a Legal Associate at Messrs Raja, Darryl & Loh. What was that like?
‘Always be humble enough to seek knowledge and engage in self-reflection to improve yourself.’
Being called to the bar is one of the most anticipated chapters in a law student’s life. However, Affendy disclosed that things are not as glamorous as they seem, because junior lawyers are subjected to steep learning curves. To illustrate, the legal profession demands that lawyers have high professional standards and nothing less. When trying to persevere in the fraternity, it is wise to practise humility when seeking knowledge and take things one day at a time. By injecting a little fun into his days, he managed to keep the gruesome burn out at bay, to which he reminded us that ‘your career is a marathon and not a sprint’.
Affendy’s experience at the Kuala Lumpur-based firm involved general litigation in the areas of contractual, commercial, and media laws. He expressed his gratitude for his supportive employer, Ms Raja Eileen Soraya — a ‘tough, but a fair teacher’ — and a fantastic team of colleagues, as they have provided him with a nurturing, yet competitive environment for his professional growth.
Affendy with his former colleagues at Messrs Raja, Darryl & Loh at a reunion in January 2020
It is impressive that you were called to both the High Court of Malaya and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak! Could you share with us how this has benefitted your legal career?
‘I felt like it was more of a rite of passage than a benefit to my career.’
When it came to this achievement, Affendy modestly expressed that it was not an easy process. Although there was not much difference between the admission to the two High Courts, he shared that the process before being called to the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak was more daunting. Back then, the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak had an additional pre-condition that was unique to its admission process — the lawyers-to-be had to be interviewed face-to-face by either the Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak or in His Lordships’ absence, by a High Court Judge. Surely, this was no easy task for a fresh-faced lawyer, but yet, Affendy jumped through the hoops. For East Malaysians contemplating a similar path, he feels that they should consider being admitted to both High Courts.
Affendy was in high spirits after being called to the bar, as it marked his initiation into legal practice
Your career transition can be seen in 2014 when you shifted from a Legal Associate to a Freelance Legal and Communication Advisor at Tsyahmi & Nzainal Trading. How was the transitioning period?
‘It was quite a natural progression for me.’
Initially, Tsyahmi & Nzainal Trading was a fashion design start-up, which was then incorporated into Tsyahmi Group Pte Ltd (‘Tsyahmi Group’). From there, the second part of his career enhancement focused on three diverging elements — legal, communications, and business. Naturally, the legal aspect required him to dabble in different fields of laws, from intellectual property to contract and statutory compliance. His communications job scope includes social media content management, while his business-related work involved branding and strategic planning. Although there exists some disparity between full-on legal work and the corporate world, Affendy mentioned that his career change gave him a glimpse into life in a start-up environment.
Amongst the many events which you have been invited to speak at, the most recent ones would be the ‘Free-to-air Television: Reality Bites’ at the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, ‘The Business of Creativity’ by Kuala Lumpur’s Cult Creative, and ‘Turning Your Idea into Reality’ by RIUH. How do you prepare to speak at such events?
‘Ultimately, there is no one right and concrete formula for it, but preparations are indeed very important.’
Training one's mind to see the bigger picture all while zooming into the details, is a duality that lawyers and speakers must be equipped with, because different circumstances require different approaches. Proficiency in just one area should not negate one’s need to master the other. Affendy further emphasised that communicating to the different segments of an audience is equally as important, for an effective speaker captivates his listeners and leaves no ear behind.
In terms of honing one’s speaking style, Affendy recommended watching speeches from renowned public speakers. He recommends for one to ‘observe how great orators like Barrack Obama speak, notice how Oprah Winfrey communicates with her guests during interviews. Watch how actors deliver amazing scripts in films, dramas, and when they win awards, as well as see how comedians successfully deliver punchlines.’ Conversely, he recommended watching videos of bad speeches, interviews, and stand-up comedies to be able to distinguish good speeches from that of the bad.
‘This exercise will help you say to yourself — “I want to present like this and not like that”.’
Affendy at a broadcasting forum in 2020
Your years of hard work have paved your way as the Group General Manager, Group Legal & Regulatory Affairs Department at Media Prima. Do share with us your experience of working there.
‘The value of patience — to take a step back and evaluate what is in front of you — is the most valuable lesson I learned.’
Affendy’s daily work involves a comprehensive to-do list: liaising communications with multiple parties, drafting important documents, managing emails, among others. With that said, the challenge is to check each box and bring about the best legal solutions that align with the organisation’s commercial and operational goals.
Other than the lessons aforementioned, Affendy’s time at Media Prima has taught him the value of taking a step back to rethink and evaluate what is in front of him before making a conclusive decision and being alright with the decision made and its consequences if any.
As long as one has done their best, the other factors are just anomalies beyond one’s control. When the tasks at hand appears overwhelming to start with, Affendy’s best bet is to simply ‘bite the bullet and do it’, because no one else will do it for you.
Affendy is currently leading the charismatic Group Legal & Regulatory Affairs Department at Media Prima Berhad
Working in the field of creative arts opened the gateway for you to divulge into the different facets of the Malaysian entertainment scene. In your opinion, what are the foregoing developments of the Asian creative industry, and its potential of being internationally recognised?
‘Asian representation in the Hollywood scene is definitely increasing — from K-Pop to even the handful of Malaysians in the creative industry that has been internationally recognised for their work.’
Affendy believes that our homegrown creative talents are irrefutably on par with global standards. For example, plenty of our locally produced films, animations, and television content are being distributed to global Over-the-Top (‘OTT’) platforms, such as Netflix, Disney+, and iQiYi.
As for his opinion on what needs to be revolutionised in the creative industry, Affendy stressed on the need for a conducive environment that would allow the industry to not merely survive, but to thrive as well. The unprecedented devastations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused the once-bustling industry to merely survive. Therefore, it is critical for ‘policies to be relooked, investments from the public and private sectors to be catapulted, holistic participation from professionals to be upscaled, and awareness on the importance of the creativity to the human beings and as part of nation-building to be cultivated.’ These steps would then elucidate the importance of creativity as part of our nation-building, as well as showcasing our talents for the whole world to see — or listen to!
You have also helmed the position of Deputy Chairman at the National Film Development Corporation (‘FINAS’) for about 2 years. How did you simultaneously balance this new working environments with your position at Media Prima?
‘The appointment as Deputy Chairman at FINAS was something unexpected!’
Affendy began by explaining the different hats he had to wear when running these two roles, because it should go without saying that the environment, scope, and expectations diverge.
Media Prima is a public-listed media company, a business with commercial aims. On the other hand, FINAS is an agency established in pursuance of the Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia Act 1981 (Act 244) and is under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia with the aim to nurture, promote, and facilitate the growth of the film industry in Malaysia — which essentially involves policy making.
When asked about how he weaved through each role seamlessly, Affendy believes that the ability to adapt to the given circumstances quickly and seamlessly is an attribute that every lawyer should be accustomed to, especially in such contemporary times.
Affendy’s appointment as the Deputy Chairman of the National Film Development Corporation gave him an opportunity to apply his mind towards issues quite differently
Do you have any advice for the current students at the faculty reading this piece?
‘Everyone will have different ambitions and career paths. Consequently, their challenges are also unique to them only. Hence, I believe that there is no magic formula or set of rules that one must follow in any specific path.’
Affendy highlighted the role of a mentor, regardless of which industry one is in. He aptly depicted his mentors as his ‘northern stars’, as they would inspire and guide him through his darkest days. Do not be afraid to reach out to people for a cup of coffee stirred in with some words of wisdom, for perhaps, you will find your own ‘northern stars’ by chance.
‘The world is indeed your oyster. I have my friends from the university who had ventured and built careers in Malaysia and overseas, both within and beyond the legal industry.’
Such dynamics are imminent as some students are keen to pursue a career in advocacy or legal activism, while others might find their way into the conveyancing world. Understandably, the legal practice might not be up to everyone’s liking. As of now, Affendy believes in making the best out of one’s time in law school, in addition to sewing the common thread of perseverance, intellectual curiosity, and humility into one’s fabric of existence!
‘Remember always — the will to do, the soul to dare.’
With all said and done, trust the process and never be discouraged, because things will eventually fall into place
Written by Lishanthan Kumar.
Reviewed by Sirhan Sidqi, Ashley Khor, and Ee Jie