We had the good fortune of connecting with Suraya Yahaya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Suraya, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am from Malaysia, and I grew up and lived there until I was 17. My parents were farmers, and so my sister and I grew up and lived on farms throughout the country. We were raised with good old fashioned family values – to work hard, be respectful, treat everyone equally and give back to the community. At 17, I left Malaysia to pursue my law degree in the UK, and then returned home to work briefly in Kuala Lumpur (the big city!) and Sydney, Australia, before moving to the US in 2000. I guess you could say I am at heart a farm girl who learned business, strategy and operations from the best: my farm parents who taught me the values of having a strong work ethic, putting people first and being resilient. I bring that today, along my diverse skills running and scaling businesses globally to the work that I do helping entrepreneurial companies grow and scale. I have worn many hats, even from a young age – and today I apply all those skills of diversity in experience, working alongside a wide variety of people and problem solving all kinds of complex problems to help the companies I work with. I would say the greatest impact of all that my upbringing has had is always remembering who you are, and to represent yourself in the most authentic way.
What should our readers know about your business?
I own my consulting firm and I serve as a Fractional COO and a Fractional Integrator for companies running the EOS model. EOS is the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and prescribed model for running and scaling entrepreneurial organizations. I serve as the Integrator or COO for companies who are looking for leadership expertise to run the day to day operations of the company, so that the CEO and other executive leaders can focus on their areas of expertise. For example, having a COO/Integrator allows the CEO to focus on being the face of the company and developing the vision for the company. I started my company 2.5 years ago, because I wanted to find ways to serve businesses who wanted to grow, scale and benefit from my diverse skills, but for various reasons, did not want a full-time resource. I also wanted to build and scale my business, while still being true to my values of family, service and giving back. I am most excited about how I have been able to align both what I have to offer companies professionally (expertise as an Integrator for EOS/COO along with living my life authentically as a working mother, mentor and member of society who gives back. It was not easy making the pivot from having worked for so many years in big business (in tech and telecom) to starting my own firm and building a brand that authentically represented who I am, and what skills I have to offer growing companies. Again, I would say that this is where the guidance of many personal and professional mentors along the way really helped me find my path to serve the clients I want to serve, add value to their businesses, while living my own values. Saying that, I would say that I am someone who never stops learning. I have a curiosity and a willingness to try new things and keep improving things to always get better. I learn from mistakes. One of the biggest challenges that I had to overcome when I was building my business was how to represent the skills and value I bring to organizations most authentically. Yes, I have a very diverse set of skills and know how to scale and run organizations, but the challenge was in building the brand and communicating that value authentically. The biggest thing that I learned is you do that by being genuine and honest, and you build authentic relationships first and then partner to accomplish common goals of the CEO, Visionary or Company. From day one, I have tried to live by those principles in my business. My firm’s name, Khazana, Inc is a Malaysian word (it means Treasure), and my logo is one that is also representative of my culture and heritage. I like to think that my brand stands for the values of resilience, authenticity and skill. I hope that these values resonate with my clients, and those that choose to work with me, in the future.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oooh, I love this question!!!!! As you can imagine, for someone who likes to travel, explore and learn new things, I have collected quite a few favorite things along the way! Living in Colorado, I would say my first go to would be the mountains. I just love the Rocky Mountains, and one of my dreams is to have a cabin in the mountains by a lake! So, I would say a trip to the mountains – perhaps to Grand Lake or to Crested Butte – both favorite mountain towns for a few days of camping, hiking, fishing and paddle boarding (if its summer!) or cross country skiing or snowshoeing (if its winter!). Then perhaps back down to Denver to sample some very diverse and excellent restaurants we have here! Denver is not just a steak town, we have some of the best Mexican food, sushi and other ethnic cuisine! A passion of mine is Scotch! So, no time hanging out with me will be complete without visiting some of the great scotch and whiskey bars around town. Last but not least, depending on the time of year, we have one of the best music venues in the world, I think – Red Rocks – its outdoors, in the foothills of the front range mountains, and you get to enjoy some incredible music with the backdrop of Colorado’s red rocks in the open air. Its a perfect summer night out.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Well, certainly my parents as I have described who were so instrumental in my early years instilling the work ethic and values that I have today. But, I would like to also make special mention of my grandmother, Mary Anthony. She herself was an immigrant to Malaysia from India. She grew up through 2 World Wars and the fallout of the Depression to raise a family of 7. I learned the value of taking care of family, above all else from her, and like to think that she would be proud to have me live my life, like she did hers. I have also been fortunate to have many professional and personal mentors along the way. In particular, both my “first bosses” – my first boss right out of law school and my first boss here in the United States. I was terribly green in different ways both times – and both of them took the time to mentor, support and help me grow. I am forever grateful to them for allowing me to make mistakes and guiding me back to the right path, with no judgement. Lastly, I have been fortunate and grateful to have friends of diverse backgrounds who have been selfless with their time, encouragement, humor and support throughout my journey. It takes a village, and I am grateful for all of the relationships in my life.