Written by Diyana J. 13th August 2021
- Women Empowerment Series -
Being the only female member of an all-male crew might seem intimidating, a little worrying, or even a deterrent to some from taking the job. I, of course, had my worries and doubts when Ahmad invited me on board as their creative and copywriter, but as it turns out – I’m not the only female member there’s been in Urban Salvation’s history.
I got in touch with Dinah Farhanah, who was formerly a woodworker when Urban Salvation was a 50 square meter workshop. They were just starting out, so I took the chance to learn more about Dinah’s experience and more importantly, her goals when she set out on an unconventional career path.
Diyana: How did you come across Urban Salvation? What made you decide to work with them?
Dinah: I heard of Urban Salvation through a mutual friend during a kopi session. He mentioned that he had a friend who had a wood workshop and asked me if I was interested to work with him. That’s when he connected us! Prior to meeting Ahmad, I had 2 years of experience in the industry as a carpentry apprentice, making custom solid wood furniture with nyatoh and suar. Ahmad was recycling crates at that point of time, which was very different and refreshing, so I thought I should try it out. when I came over to his workshop, it was much smaller than I expected, but he was so welcoming and easy to talk to so I was just telling myself “Why not?”
My mom was totally against it *laughs* but I love it. I’m a very hands-on person, so woodworking really makes my heart full.
Diyana: Oh, i love that!! Passion before anything else! But were there any setbacks to when you first started carpentry/woodworking in general? Other than your mom's disapproval, I’m pretty sure it wasn't easy right?
*laughs* Yes it definitely wasn’t easy. At the start, everyone in the whole Industry Block looked at me weird because “What is this young Malay hijab person doing in this area?” Because obviously, it was a weird sight, but slowly the Chinese uncles in the area started to be friendly and asked me random questions like “Sudah makan?” or “wah habis kerje lambat eh?” Even the people at the hardware store knew me. I probably went there a little too often. I love hardware shops!
Carpentry/Woodworking was also very physically tiring, I feel like I was working out everyday, using heavy tools, carrying loads of wood. I was sweating whole day every day from top to bottom. Before I worked at Urban Salvation or when I first started out with carpentry, I wasn’t earning as much as I had hoped to. I wasn’t even getting CPF at the time. But working with wood feeds my soul! There’s nothing else to describe the feeling So, it’s hard to explain to my friends when they told me to find a better job. I told myself if i don’t do this now. I will regret it later.
Damn. Now you’re making me miss it :(
Diyana: *laughs* Come by some time! I bet the team misses having you around too. Talking about that, how was it at the time working with the old team? Sounds like work got stressful too.
Dinah: There was already a team before I joined. Alif was there and a bunch of other guys. Ahmad was super flexible in a way that he allowed us to make use of his workshop to even do our personal projects, so we'll just pop in whenever we're free. And when we do, he would always get lunch for us. That was something that I really appreciated. Ahmad wasn’t calculative and really took care of his team. So, I’m really, really glad things worked out great for him now, he deserves it after all his hard work!
At that point of time, we were also trying a few other things, like conducting workshops. So that was very fun, because I got to meet new people and share my knowledge and experience with someone.
Diyana: Oh that sounds awesome! Could you show me some of your personal work?
Dinah: *laughs* I’ll send you a photo when I can find them!
When it comes down to it, the difference between conventional and non-conventional jobs is the difference in the environment, opportunity, and most definitely passion. Most people who pursue unconventional jobs are likely to be ridiculed by their peers or even by family because the pay isn’t enough or the working hours are too long or perhaps just like Dinah, you might even face opposition based on old-age stereotypes - the list goes on and on.
Even though Dinah worked with Urban Salvation for only a year, it did help her explore woodworking, pick up new skills, and become part of a community who all had the same unyielding passion. Personally, that’s also the same reason I for one, chose to work with the team here. Though I would never say no to freelance projects or branching out to refine my writing skills, Urban Salvation has become the one workplace I’ve ever been to in my entire life where all ideas are accepted, challenged and perhaps one day, become an actuality.
Of course, I myself faced opposition from family members about my decision to be part of a woodworking company. But after thinking it over, I decided I had nothing to lose. Writing is as much a creative process as woodworking and I, of course, did not want my writing skills to be undermined by constant filtering and regulations. Even now, Ahmad respects my decisions in what I choose to put out and the team always pitches in with ideas. More so, he encourages me to have full control because ideas from a woman’s perspective would always be different from anyone else on the team.
The lovely conversation I had with Dinah only reminded me about what Urban Salvation is about – we’re in the business of making meaningful furniture not only for our clients but meaningful experiences for both the team and our clients. It’s what makes our hearts full.