The Covid pandemic, while causing widespread disruption, also acted as a catalyst for a surge in entrepreneurship. Individuals around the globe found themselves reevaluating priorities and reimagining their futures. Entrepreneurship ended up becoming a lifeline for those seeking to navigate the economic disruption, with countless new ventures sprouting as a response to the challenging landscape.
According to The Straits Times, nearly 280,000 new businesses registered in Malaysia between March and September 2020 - a testament to the spirit of entrepreneurs seeking innovative paths. Among these inspiring stories are Safrizal, a freelance E&I engineer by day and a passionate baker by night. His entrepreneurial journey, born out of the pandemic's chaos, reflects the extraordinary capacity of individuals to transform adversity into opportunity.
1. Which began first - your baking journey or engineering endeavour?
I started baking during the pandemic era in 2020. When we couldn't go out and didn't know what to do, I began learning baking from YouTube. It was very interesting because I didn't know what to do at that time since I wasn't working, so I started learning how to make cakes. As for my engineering journey, it began 22 years ago. I embarked on my journey as an Electrical and instrument Engineer, and I continue on that path until now.
2. What inspired you to pursue both engineering and baking?
Engineering has been my dream and my occupation from the very beginning. However, in the case of baking, I never thought I would continue pursuing it until now. Initially, I simply treated baking as a hobby, often making cakes for my family and those closest to me at home. Gradually, my fondness for baking grew, leading me to bake cakes every day. The positive feedback I received from my family brought me happiness.
As time passed, my family grew weary of consuming cakes and suggested that I consider selling the cakes I had been making. Eventually, I heeded their advice and began selling cakes to neighbours and extended family. This transition allowed me to once again learn more about baking and experiment with the latest recipes. To my surprise, the feedback I received remained consistently positive, leading to a surge in orders.
Several months down the line, I received a job offer. Faced with the question of whether I could manage both pursuits simultaneously, I deliberated over the decision. Ultimately, I accepted the job offer, subsequently becoming a part-time baker.
3. Who’s your #1 supporter?
My wife and family are my biggest supporters.
4. How do you manage your time effectively between your engineering projects and running your bakery business?
The most important thing is time management. In the past, when I first became a part-time baker, I used to work as an engineer from morning until afternoon, and in the evening, I would turn into a baker. While trying out new recipes and creating new menus. As time went by, I started hiring staff to assist me in running this bakery business. Up to now, I have my own bakery shop and I no longer work alone as I have several employees. Currently, I work as an engineer from morning until afternoon, and in the evening, I just check whatever is happening in the shop with my staff.
5. Have your engineering skills influenced your baking approach? If yes, how?
Yes, I have - In the way it's (baking) calculated. When performing calculations, it's very possible to make mistakes. Therefore, we must be careful in examining the calculation results obtained. We should pay attention to the neatness and clarity in recording data, noting logical problem-solving steps, and the final presentation of the calculations. Just like when baking a cake, we must carefully measure the right amount of flour for a cake. To maintain the consistent taste of a cake, I will record the recipe or steps, along with the detailed calculations of the ingredients, and the clear way of making the cake to preserve its flavour.
6. Any parallels between solving complex engineering issues and baking challenges?
In both engineering and baking, we have to be able to identify problems and find solutions to resolve them.
The challenge is when a cake fails. For example, the cake doesn't rise properly or the taste and shape aren't as desired. We need to figure out what caused the failure. It could be due to mistakes in the ingredients or the techniques used in making it. Afterwards, we search for solutions to address this issue. In both engineering and baking, we have to be able to identify problems and find solutions to resolve them.
7. What keeps you motivated and fulfilled in both roles?
I remain motivated and enjoy both of these jobs because I have come this far. I have spent energy, time, money, and effort to achieve and develop this bakery business. That's why I continue and carry on with this endeavour until now. Right now, I already have staff taking care of the bakery, and I just check in periodically every day. Like asking, how's today? Are there any issues? And if there are, let's find the solutions together and decide what kind of cake to make tomorrow.
8. What’s your favourite dessert?
I like chocolate babka cake.
9. Have you ever introduced engineering concepts into your bakery operations?
Of course, there are similarities. Like when I want to bake a cake. I would apply a checker method similar to that used in engineering. When baking a cake, I would create a checklist and go through each preparation step for making the cake. For example, if all the items on the list are complete, I would approve it and proceed to production. I use this method to maintain the consistency of the recipe and the taste of the cake.
10. What is a memorable engineering project that brought you great satisfaction?
One of my most memorable experiences was when I worked on the Prelude FLNG Project owned by Shell. I undertook this project from 2011 to 2013 while working with Technip as an Electrical & Instrument Engineer. For me, that project was extremely interesting and one of the significant undertakings.
11. What advice would you give to aspiring engineers who dream of pursuing their passion alongside their careers?
The advice is, that when they want to achieve their dreams alongside their current careers, they must be adept at managing their time. Because this is crucial when trying to juggle two things simultaneously. We have to ensure and allocate our time effectively to reach our goals and produce meaningful results.
12. Any final thoughts on embracing a multifaceted career and life journey
I am grateful to be able to pursue these two different fields up to this point. Initially, I wasn't sure I could achieve this. But thanks to the support of my family, I can pursue this. In terms of engineering and company management in running this bakery business, I've been able to learn about Human Resources, Marketing, Payroll, Strategy, etc. Overall, I am grateful for what I have been working on and doing up to now.