When Kok Jit Weng chose to pursue a BA in Political Science and Government at Queen’s University Belfast, he had his mind set on reforming Malaysian politics.
It was 2013 and the country has just concluded a tumultuous general election. Rallies drew hundreds of thousands, united to bring a kleptocratic prime minister and his cronies down.
Jit, as he’s known, was moved. Despite his parents’ implicit wishes for him to study law, he couldn’t ignore the national mood: an entire country vexed by structural and institutional inequality.
He was compelled into politics instead. “It was really just election fever I feel,” he says.
Why did Jit choose Queen’s University Belfast
With Ireland’s rich history in politics, Jit was curious to know more about conflict management strategies that helped Ireland reconcile their internal conflicts.
He thought to himself: “What can I learn there that I can apply back home?” Some of the classes he took included election strategies, systems of governance and policy research.
“Being in Belfast we studied a lot about local politics. Part of the reason I chose Belfast was because of its history and how closely related it was to Malaysia’s in terms of internal conflict,” says Jit.
But what he learned turned out to be not what he wanted to practise.
The pivot from politics to the coffee industry happened when he chose to forgo his internship to come back to Malaysia to help his brother with his newly opened cafe.
As an avid coffee drinker himself, being involved in the family business further fueled his curiosity and passion for specialty coffee.
Jit continued to pursue his passion even when he went back to Ireland. For his final year research paper, he decided to explore the politics of coffee and sustainability in its supply chain.
The paper was supervised by Dr John Barry , a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, a Green Party and an advocate for sustainability and ethical consumption.
When he returned to Malaysia to run his family’s cafe, Jit started focusing on industry sustainability rather than farm-to-farmer sustainability.
His first task? Changing how consumers think about coffee.
“How can the farms be sustainable if the industry isn’t sustainable? From there we can move on to creating more sustainable farms. Though everything has to be tackled together, this is what I can do now to make a difference,” shares the Queen’s University Belfast graduate.
Having gone through the growing pains of handling his own business, Jit now offers tailored consultation on everything from roasting beans to equipment selection and barista training.
If there was anything he wished he knew before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey, it was how to manage people, manage money and exercise power while minimising one’s sego.
For those looking to study abroad, Jit shares three wisdom nuggets: “Don’t panic; your results, your degree and your university are not a measure of your self-worth.”
“Lastly, do everything in confidence and never sell yourself short.”