Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2nd Year Reflection

July 15, 2015 marked my 2nd work anniversary.  It felt like a short time, but the amount of lessons learned is probably surmountable –or to put simply, beyond what I expected. I was very fortunate to choose Project Officer role at the Young Leaders for Indonesia (YLI) Foundation as my first job out of college, simply because of the learning curve, the great culture of work, and the network I had built throughout my time there. As I moved to my 2nd job in DBS Bank, I wonder if there would ever be a better place than YLI in terms of working environment –which says much about the culture.

One said that my reality is twisted because although YLI is a foundation, and contrary to what people have in mind about non-profit organizations, YLI is very strict on professionalism and high performance –thanks to McKinsey & Company who safeguarded the whole operations. On the learning curve, the culture and the network, of course it was highly influenced by how McKinsey does things.

The non-hierarchical culture, where everyone, despite of their background and status, will be valued for their opinion. It is a merit-based organization where politics is hardly to be found. And that is scarce in Indonesia because most people will be respected when they are either senior, rich, or with high positions. People would then work hard to be able to reach the top, without having to worry about being cut off by someone who does not belong there.

Aside from that, I really appreciate the feedback culture they implemented. People are taught to be open to feedback, in fact regard it as a gift. Same thing applies to the giver; they need to know that giving feedback is actually a favor, and keeping it away from the people means doing them a disfavor.

And so I met wonderful people during my time there, people who taught me much about leadership and helped me build an idea of the ideal leaders and work environment, which later on, sadly, caused me to struggle grasping the reality.

Working with such great talents, purpose-driven and highly professional people in the past, I am now very much stressed out knowing the fact that it was way too difficult finding the same situation anywhere else under the sun. Worse, my got told me that it was only going to get worse outside these multinational companies.

Apart from that, however, working in a commercial institution has helped to balance my social spirit even better. I am expected to think from many different angles, hit so many birds with one shot, and try to benefit the business through a social cause. Yes, I took care of the CSR and Internal Communication unit.

I asked for a different challenge, and here I am, with a totally different situation: large organizations with so many stakeholders to take into account, relatively large team (compared to what I had before), a lot more activities to handle (so yes, I need to wear many different caps under the two units), more complex processes, for sure, higher expectations. Nothing is seriously easier. Well, I guess that’s the idea of a promotion, no?

Yes, I am stressed out. I still do the things I love most of the time, and I still do things I do not really like but have to do anyway.

Nevertheless, all these realities will stay unknown had I not jumped into the real life and continued studying. I never imagined how hard it is to be independent and make a living. Never had I imagined the stress level I would be at and honestly this is way beyond what I thought I could comprehend. Yet, I survived, and still striving to survive each and every day, with the many challenges. Just hoping I would be able to get through it and make it out safely.

Monday, July 20, 2015


This is where I usually am: having my insomnia in the middle of the night, so triggered to write, but so tempted to try to sleep. Just met with Beki after a while to find out that we're probably sharing the same problem: being tough (or in my dictionary: being abnormal). I mean, look at me. I am nothing near normal. 

My overthinking habit drives me nuts, most of the time. But don't you think that someone's strength is someone's weakness? And that it works the other way around? At least I think so. I think it helped me to become who I am today -maybe. Or maybe not. 

Do I wish to be someone different? To be less insecure, at least. To be less fragile, for sure. I wish I have talents, and hobbies, because judging simply from my problems, I don't have hobbies and that's what kills me. An independent woman who built her happiness around a guy -that kills me first. 

Why can't I be myself? Why am not allowed to be comfortable about it? Why do the rest of the world seems to protest against it? Is it my fault to be different?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Getting There

As career occupies a big chunk of many people’s life, the question “Will I ever be a success?” haunts us most of the time. Despite the relative measure of success, many want to find their life’s purpose, leave positive footprints, and most importantly, be happy. One of the most affordable ways to build on success is to look for a role model and get inspired to work on your own. What Gillian Zoe Zegal did with Getting There is exactly that.

Through the thirty people whose life stories she covered in the book, I learned how these entrepreneurs, artists, architect, social workers, chef, and professionals came from many different backgrounds; some needed to experience disheartening childhood from personal loss, discrimination and bullying, or tough times getting through formal education whereas some others were lucky enough to find their passion early on and spend the rest of their life focusing to develop it. Some came from a rather poor family while some had a privilege to go to great schools and have no problems in paying tuition.

The common threads I found from these people are that they:

Outwork everybody else to exist today
From Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg L.P. Founder, Former New York City Mayor) to Rachel Zoe (Fashion Stylist); from Anderson Cooper (Journalist) to Jeff Kinney (Diary of Wimpy Kid Author) they believed that the only reason they exist today is because they work hard. That all the achievements made were not because of luck, but by mere hard work. Bloomberg admitted to have been coming earliest to the office and going home the latest to be able to be where he is today. But that is not all, Anderson Cooper helped to see that being hardworking also means to work on the things people avoid.

For Jeff Kinney, it means working on the Diary of Wimpy Kid for more than 8 years –to present its first draft because he remember being told in the fifth grade by his teacher to “embrace excellence and not accepting praise for something he knew wasn’t great,” which later on helped him to be patience and keep improving his work before he let people see it. On that, however, Hans Zimmer (Lion King Composer) admitted that there are times when you need to accept defeat –where you came into a point that it just did not work and embrace it as part of the process.

Muhammad Yunus debunked the idea of a bank by inventing the microfinance concept; he started off with 27 dollars, but ended up helping millions of people on the planet with this approach. That did not come straightforwardly. He had to instill a new understanding, while challenging an Islamic thinking built on for centuries, that women shall be allowed to manage money -in fact they created welfare out of the money lent. This has proven to be enormously hard to do –which took them six years to reach their initial goal: to make women fifty percent of the borrowers.

Work around their competence
Warren Buffet set this point since the first few pages of the book, how he became successful because he worked on the areas where his strength lies, which is analyzing businesses. Apparently, this is something all thirty people shared in common. Though some needed to explore it and spent almost half of his/her life figuring out what he/she wanted to do, at the end of the day, they worked on something they knew they were good at, passionate about, and not having to drag themselves to work every day.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that you only work on something you already feel comfortable with and does not challenge the status quo. In fact, you need to keep exploring new things, which will only expand our options and help you with your future endeavors. Stacey Snider (Co-Chairman 20th Century Fox) never predicted how her law degree from UCLA and experience working for an entry level in an entertainment agency would help her tremendously in choosing which script to be adopted into a movie.

So it is definitely okay to wander, just like Jim Koch (Brewer and Founder of the Boston Beer Company) who took a job as Outward Bound Instructor –where he basically guided people to hike mountains, completed his law and business programs at Harvard and became Consultant at Boston Consulting Group before he found what he eventually was set out to do: making his own beer.

And work does not always have to journey linearly, like what Helene Gayle (CARE USA President and CEO) believed in. Growing up thinking to help people through medicine, Helene finally completed her study also in public health. Later on, from focusing on combatting HIV/AIDS with CDC –where she dedicated her life to work towards positive change, she went to Gates Foundation to understand how the privately funded organization before she moved to CARE USA where she is currently working towards poverty eradication. She always believed that we can never really map life out in precision; therefore we might as well keep ourselves to new experiences, new opportunities, or even expand our options.

Believe in their guts and keep moving forward despite the hardships the face along the way
All kinds of troubles will only get in the way, most artists like Jeff Koons admitted being mocked for their works and there was nothing unique about that occurrence. J Craig Venter, PhD who was able to sequence human genome, or John Paul Dejoria (John Paul Mitchell Systems/Patron Spirits Company Co-Founder) were even fired after the tremendous achievements they made for the organizations they worked for.

It is so easy to get discouraged along the way, but the only advice these people gave was that we all need to believe in our guts, and keep moving forward.

None actually experienced luck after luck after luck, nor privilege after privilege after privilege. The only thing I read so far was that they encountered too many obstacles that would only break the spirit. Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farm Chairman and Co-Founder) worked for the organic yoghurt since 1983, only to be able to make their first profit nine years later, pass Kraft in yoghurt sales five years later and become the world’s largest organic yoghurt maker six years after acquiring Brown Cow. If he decided to give up in the first few years, when they had USD 500,000 in debt and it seemed like there was no way out, there will certainly be no Stonyfield today. He and his co-founder stick to their mission and progressed through, even though it took years to finally pay off. 

So yes, at last, these inspiring people could only connect the dots backwards. No matter how they started, the adversity they went through along the way, when they reached the moment of success, they celebrated it with happiness. That, I guess, applies to us as well. There is no secret path to success, only hard work that will prevail.