From The Apprentice Asia to AirAsia

By Patricia Hului

HE IMPRESSED Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, founder of Tune Air Sdn Bhd, with his confidence and determination, winning the most coveted spot in the first season of The Apprentice Asia.


He is Jonathon Yabut, the youngest male contestant of The Apprentice Asia at age 27. 


Jonathan has been quoted saying, “I am an extremely driven and passionate person. I always set my eyes on the prize, and as people would describe me, what Nate wants, Nate gets.”


Jonathan Yabut

Jonathan Yabut


Currently, Jonathan is under a one-year contract with Fernandes as chief of staff of AirAsia based in Kuala Lumpur. The former senior products manager started his duty in August last year, and was assigned to Kuala Lumpur for the first two months.


Since then it has been all travelling for him, with him covering up to three different cities in one week.  


“My plane is my bed. I wouldn’t know where I am,” he said during his recent trip to Sarawak, which happened to be his third. The Borneo Post SEEDS managed to catch him for a quick chat while he was in town.


Currently he is working on capital-to-capital city routes between the Philippines and Sarawak.


When asked his impression of Sarawak, he said: “I always think Sarawak is a mix of city and traditional feel. You get the rush but not the stress. At the end of the day, you get the homey feeling.”


On how life is after winning the title, Jonathan answered, “Lesser sleep. I always thought that it will be a crazy journey but not crazier in reality.”


Life hasn’t slowed down since he won The Apprentice Asia, but he finds that working for Fernandes is very empowering.


“The strength of Tony (Fernandes) is he knows where to go and he knows how challenging it will be. He is good in meeting the right people. I guess that’s why he picked me,” he joked.


“It’s been a roller coaster ride but I’m enjoying it. I never met so many people in a short amount of time. (I am) working as if I’m working with my own money.”


When asked what he does to reward himself after all the hard work, Jonathan answered, “A very expensive trainer.”


Jonathan told himself when he first joined The Apprentice, that if he were to win the competition that he would donate some of the winning money to an orphanage that he worked closely with before. He fulfilled that desire by donating around 5 per cent of his big paycheck to the orphanage.


On his experience in Sarawak, he finds Sarawakians and East Malaysians in general are very warm people. “People here wouldn’t easily get angry even if there is language barrier.”


Jonathan added, “There is a lot of eating culture here in Sarawak. Everywhere I go, people would asked ‘Have you tried the Sarawak Laksa?”


After tasting a few Sarawakian foods, Jonathan picked Sarawak Laksa as his favourite Sarawak food, which is interesting, because during the reality game show that was set in Kuala Lumpur, Jonathan found Malaysian food to be unbearable because of the spiciness.


That has slowly changed. “The only thing I find weird recently is every morning I’ll be looking for Nasi Lemak. It became a breakfast staple for me. But I skip the sambal part.”


Overall, Jonathan is determined to leave his mark in AirAsia, “I want to make my own ideas and have them approved because they are good ideas.”


Jonathan also shared that he kept in touch with other participants of The Apprentice Asia. They even have their own chat group on Whatsapp.


Will Jonathan be back to Sarawak as a tourist?


“Definitely, I haven’t stayed here in weekend purely for tourism.”


Look forward to his book featuring his journey winning Season 1 The Apprentice Asia that will be expected to be released this March.  

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