To say Suhani Albakri Abu Bakar is a busy woman is an understatement. When not running a construction company specialising in electrical works, she’s managing the career of popular Malaysian actress Siti Saleha. It began when her late father asked his newly-graduated daughter to join his construction company in 2005.
“I was quite lost,” Suhani, 38, recalls in an interview with Star2. “My background was in marketing. When I attended meetings with my father, it was all about electronics and buildings. I had to start from scratch. I did my own reading. I spoke to some friends who were in the same line and I observed my father a lot. Slowly I started to pick up (the trade).”
Ipoh, Perak-born Suhani, who is in charge of the management of the business, says she had to get used to being the only woman in the room. “It was quite difficult in the beginning because construction is a male-dominated industry. During meetings, I would be the only girl and the youngest. It was quite intimidating, but as time went by I got used to it.”
When Suhani’s father passed away in 2011, the training wheels came off. She had no choice but to take over his position as managing director.
To unwind from the busy-ness of her new role, she turned on the television one evening. “I watched (local drama) Nora Elena and I thought this girl (Siti Saleha) is good. So I followed her on Twitter,” Suhani recounts.
“There, I met another fan who was asking Siti to organise a fan meet. I tweeted that fan and told her to organise the event herself as Siti is probably busy. That fan tweeted me back and asked if I could help organise it.”
Suhani organised the event and met Siti for the first time. Over the course of about two years, their friendship developed. “We had a few common interests, and sometimes she would text me and ask if I was free to accompany her to events. It started from there.”
At the same time, Suhani became the point person when it came to organising Siti’s fan events. In 2015, Suhani became Siti’s manager.
Asked why she decided to take on the second job, Suhani responds: “If my dad didn’t ask me to join the construction company, I may have gone into advertising or marketing. And being her manager is sort of related to that. I prepare pitches to production companies and help her get ambassadorships.”
To complicate matters, Suhani’s construction company is in Ipoh while Siti’s showbiz commitments are often in Kuala Lumpur.
“I travel a lot. Thankfully, I have a good team back home in Ipoh. My project manager assists me with the technical stuff. I’m constantly on my phone,” says Suhani, who spends an average of three days in Ipoh and four days in KL each week.
Being the boss of her own company allows for a more flexible work schedule. As such, Suhani often plans her time around Siti’s schedule.
“Siti is very independent. If she’s shooting, I’ll mostly be in Ipoh and I’ll visit her once in a while. If she’s not shooting, I’ll be in KL more often to attend events and meetings with her,” says Suhani, adding that she’s grateful to be managing an artiste like Siti who’s understanding and considerate.
Naturally, Suhani has very little free time left. She usually has an hour or two at night to herself and spends them reading and writing. “It can be very tiring, but getting to do what I love, it’s also satisfying.”