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I had lunch with Steve Milakov

I met Steve Milakov about three times after leaving Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Mass Communication (MCM) programme. Once in Ngee Ann when I popped by to collect my graduation certificate, the other at the 15th Singapore Film Festival Press Conference when he was there as Caltex's Corporate Communications Director.

The last meeting was informal – 8 September 2005 at a Raffles Place cafe. I was fortunate enough to have lunch with him. We switched tables mid-way through the meal. Those who know Steve well, will remember he would be annoyed by kids making a ruckus.

It's funny how the dynamic changed from lecturer/head of school to friend/mentor. I told him I remember being terrified entering his Public Relations class during our Mass Comm days. He struck a fear in most of my classmates' (few will admit this, of course) hearts. He would enter class and quiz us with "So Joe Bloggs, what's happening in the world, today?" and more importantly, tell us stories that began with:

"My sainted mother from West Virginia used to say ... "

I asked him if there was actually a sainted mother with such great stories about how to write press releases that would be picked up by the media, how to write copy that would resonate with consumers and so on …?

Steve Dushan Milakov

   
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"... Well my challenge was to engage a bunch of kids fresh out of high school and college with no clue of the ways of the world. And how do you do that - by distilling these lessons to something they will remember and relate to."

greypixel

He simply replied, well my challenge was to engage a bunch of kids fresh out of high school and college with no clue of the ways of the world. And how do you do that - by distilling these lessons to something they will remember and relate to.

Of course, I can bravely tell you, we had very little clue of what he was on about in the classroom, but like most MCM classes, for me it all clicked when I entered the working world. When I told him this, he just laughed.

He knew I briefly lectured at my alma mater, and asked me fondly about his ex-colleagues and how the school had transformed since he left. I must go back for a visit, he said. Then, he started telling me about his recent experiences, traveling through Asia and the lessons learnt. More importantly, he was quick to draw on his recent exposures in crisis / change management, executive coaching, and mentoring.

 

Blown away by his stories, I told him he should write a book. He said "Funny, that's what a publisher said. I told them, what have I got to say that others would be interested to read?"

I asked a whole string of questions about his teaching career, and how he felt establishing new organizations and then moving on, all of which he answered. Mid-way through he said, "Kid, why are you asking me all these questions? You are not writing a story about this conversation, are you?"

   

"Opps! I said, no, I am not. Perhaps it's the journalist at work." (Of course, little did I know then, that I would eventually write about this brief encounter.)

We ended off with a rich delicious desert (at the second table), and him saying that I should seriously consider pursuing an investigative journalist career somewhere in the developing world. Not sure, if it was in jest but he did look pretty serious.

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"Kid, why are you asking me all these questions? You are not writing a story about this conversation, are you?"

greypixel
 

He was leaving for the States and ended off saying, "Kid, I like the way you quiz me, its making me think. Let's meet after Christmas when I get back. Some of this brainstorming is relevant to my book."

The follow-up lunch did not happen, but there were email exchanges between us – I put him in touch with some people he was looking for and some who wanted to connect to him. That was it.
 
Most will remember Steve for his directness, ability to connect with people from diverse cultures, levels and backgrounds. For me, it will be Steve's lessons and his sainted mother from West Virginia.

Steve Dushan Milakov, 65 passed away on 23 April 2007. He worked in various media roles as journalist, public relations consultant, executive coach and color commentator for ESPN-Asia. He was co-developer of Singapore's first Mass Communication programme at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. He wrote; "Working Global: Managing and Executing Successful Global Image Strategies","Asian Games" and "Terminal Junction"
     
The writer Nisar Keshvani, is an alma mater of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Mass Communication programme, from its third batch of graduands. Steve Milakov taught him and his peers Public Relations and Advanced Marketing Communications amongst other modules. Keshvani taught Interactive Multimedia Applications and Web Design Applications at the Polytechnic from 2001 - 2003. He also worked briefly with Milakov during the 2001 Singapore Film Festival and again at Chevron in 2005.

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