Arus Academy co-founder Alina Amir shares her top tips on growing fast and well

5 minute read

What can time spent with schoolchildren teach entrepreneurs? A lot, it turns out. Alina Amir co-founded Malaysia’s fast-rising Arus Academy, a game changer to make education approachable for all, including children from low-income families. Having now reached over 70,000 teachers and a million online users, she shares her five top tips on getting the best out of people at every age.

As part of Telenor Asia’s 25th Anniversary, our Game Changer interviews celebrate women and men in Asia that Telenor has supported in their quests to harness the power of connectivity for the benefit of their communities.

Alina Amir had worked as a consultant for two years when she gathered the courage to quit and pursue her passion instead. She joined a two-year program with Teach for Malaysia to be a full-time teacher in a high-need school—and ended up staying another two years. Then, she co-founded Arus Academy, a platform that delivers tried and tested educational resources that can better connect with youth, particularly those from underprivileged homes.

In addition, Arus Academy reached a million users online by partnering with digi (a Telenor company providing mobile connectivity services in Malaysia) to launch gamified content, leverage rural internet centers and expand accessibility of their material to deaf users.

We spoke with Alina to understand what it took to quickly scale a social enterprise from nothing to nation-wide impact. Here are her five tips on learning, growing and leading.

  • Don’t Wait
    “Sometimes all you need is a bit of encouragement, a thumbs up. My only advice to my younger self would be to just go for it and become a teacher. Once I joined the corporate world, I felt I had to stay on to prove that I wasn’t a quitter. But if I could do things all over again, I’d just go into teaching straight away.”

  • Get On the Frontlines
    “Founding Arus Academy was made much easier by the fact that all the founders had actual classroom experience. That’s become a requirement for all our employees. Even if you’re a social media manager or a graphic designer, at Arus Academy, you have to teach. That’s how you understand the purpose of our organization.”

  • Put the User First
    “My biggest challenge as a leader is that we should create things we want our end users to own. But it’s hard to stay focused on empowering them—the teachers and students—rather than rely on individuals in our team. We do it by basing our success on others’ success.”

  • Look at the Big Picture
    “To teach children more effectively, we have to cut across disciplines. You can’t teach financial literacy with math alone. You also have to look at language and history. Within a team, it’s the same. I’m a strong believer in getting people from different disciplines to work together. But because we haven’t learned to work like that in school, we struggle to do it at work.”

  • Go for Grit
    “When hiring, the quality I now look for is grit. It’s what determines success most reliably—more so than intelligence or abilities. Brains without the passion to persevere won’t get you that far. So now, when I conduct hiring interviews, I look for candidates who can talk about persevering to achieve something.”