We are celebrating the long service and commitment of Sophie Dato Hamid, who has worked at CfBT Education Services in Brunei for an incredible 35 years! In this article, we spoke to her about her long career with CfBT, her most memorable experiences and what she has learned along the way.

Sophie Dato Hamid joined CfBT in March 1988 after gaining experience in various companies, including Standard Chartered Bank, Brunei Shell, and Town and Country Planning in the Ministry of Development. Her journey began as the Personal Assistant to Elizabeth Bryant, wife of the late founder of the organisation, Tony Abrahams. Over the years, her roles have evolved, culminating in her current position as the Property & Facility Manager.

When asked about her career highlights spanning 35 years, she replied, “Too many to pinpoint! Involvement was a big word then.” 

Reflecting on her early years at CfBT, one of the fondest memories was working alongside Christopher Bell, a dynamic director brimming with passion for CfBT projects in 1996. 

“He’s a lively man. His wife told me that he used to wake up in the middle of the night, jotting down ideas [for CfBT] and then return to sleep.”

During this era, Christopher Bell’s enthusiasm shaped pioneering projects within the organisation. Sophie played a pivotal role in ensuring the success of events, particularly with the Ministry of Education in Brunei. Her proudest moments involved handling contracts, essential meetings with the MoE, engaging with diplomatic missions, and the private sector.

Notable contributions included organising projects aimed at impacting Bruneian learners such as the National English Quiz, Short Story Competition, and Wordplay, mostly sponsored by banks. Under Christopher Bell’s leadership, Sophie also witnessed the official opening of CfBT education centers in Belait and Kiarong.

Engaging in local and international conferences like the TESOL conference in Dubai and APEC, organising workshops, and promoting CfBT products to locals in Brunei have all featured in Sophie’s diverse involvement in the organisation’s work. Her commitment has extended to active participation in CfBT’s local charity work, organising fun runs, and various fundraising activities. 

With numerous projects, challenges were inevitable. However, Sophie remained positive through trying times. 

“Every department came together as one. We communicated, listened, collaborated, respected, and were aware. I looked up to the then CEO, Christopher Bell, the Education Minister, local directors, the British High Commissioner… and the list goes on.”

Apart from project involvement, Sophie actively liaised and communicated with teachers. Drawing from her cross-cultural background and experiences in the UK, she understood and met diverse cultural expectations within the organisation. Reflecting on the evolution of teachers in Brunei, she noted enduring similarities in their lifestyles, such as enjoying affordable amenities, especially the petrol; a relaxed lifestyle amidst Brunei’s jungle environment; and engaging in social activities and travel to neighbouring countries.

“Brunei was a different place then. It was more relaxed. But all the same, teachers of the past and present enjoy living in Brunei. They feel safe and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle because they have loads of leisure time with their families and work life balance.”

Transitioning into overseeing teacher housing across Brunei’s districts, managing 200 houses and a small inspection team, Sophie found motivation in recognising the impact she made and continued nurturing her team’s growth. She has observed that currently, processes are more standardised and consistent. The policies are up to date and awareness on important matters such as safeguarding and mental health issues has significantly improved.

As CfBT grows, Sophie aspires to remain an integral part of its impact. She has witnessed CfBT’s influence firsthand, including on her niece’s English language learning journey. 

As for advice Sophie would give to her younger self, she said, “Be responsible professionally. Take ownership of your own roles. Demonstrate reliability and integrity and follow through. Be ethical and trustworthy and to play a big part in teamwork.”

We congratulate Sophie on her impressive length of service at CfBT, thank her for her passion and dedication, and look forward to seeing what she achieves next.