Maria Ivena Amanda – Chief of Human Resources at Design for Dream

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Maria Ivena Amanda, but you can call me Vena. Currently I’m working at a startup called Design for Dream, which aims to empower members of the disabled community through technology and partnerships. I am in charge of the human resources department, managing all of our workforce so that we can work more efficiently and building up a stronger team.

I grew up in a Javanese family, and you know, the stigma towards a family with disabled children is quite strong. There are a lot of people who can’t really accept that their children are disabled, so they tend to hide their children. The worst I’ve heard is that there are people who hit their disabled children in their homes. They’re caged away. It’s because they tend to feel  shame from society, since according to traditional views we are considered cursed or diseased. I’ve been mocked as a child because I was different. So it’s quite hard to socialize, especially with people who have that mindset.

My parents sent me to an inclusive school because they didn’t want me to feel depressed. I came back from Pekan Olahraga Pelajar Disabel Nasional  (National Sports Week for the Disabled) with a gold medal. And that’s the first time I could see myself more clearly. Back then, I honestly felt ashamed of being disabled and tended to hide my disability. Living that kind of life is not what I want. You know, I don’t want to hide myself. But I’m afraid of being rejected by society. And that is the first time I felt empowered by myself, despite my disability.

In university, I wasn’t really involved in the disabled community because as you can see there are still only few communities. Even within the community, most of the members are not disabled but care a lot about disability issues. And fewer still are organizations built by disabled people themselves or disabled figures in the spotlight.

For a few years after, I joined the feminist organization JAS Associates. They needed translators to evaluate their organization in Indonesia. From this experience, I also learned something about acknowledging my power as a woman. After all, being disabled is difficult enough — being a woman who is disabled is even more difficult. Luckily over the past few years, the expectations are changing. There are a lot more career women out there versus stay-home ones. I don’t know the reality, but in my opinion there are still very few opportunities for us to be able to join a company because our government has the regulation of 1% of the population in their company should be disabled. But the reality isn’t like that, in one company only one or two disabled people can enter. So that there is still a lot of disabled people that can’t even sustained themselves.

Another turning point for me was when I participated in a camp event for disabled people held by the Ministry of Communications, meant to train disabled people on technology use. We were trained for three days to develop skills on things like graphic design and Microsoft Office. So there were a lot of people with physical disabilities. We were grouped together, with one group consisting of different people with different disabilities. One of my teammates suffered from vision impairment. When I asked for his number, he edited his name as “pijet,” or massage therapist. People who have vision impairment tend to become therapists. It’s a stereotype. You can be anything you want, but unfortunately because people have an image of the visually impaired being therapists, they exclude and limit themselves with that belief. With that experience, I came to realize that sometimes disability is created in our own minds. We limit ourselves because we think that we can’t, even though we haven’t tried it yet. But we already think that we cannot.

These realizations made me feel like I had to do something. And as psychology student, I have to use my knowledge to fix this situation.

What challenges do you face as a woman who is disabled?

I mentioned before that in Indonesia is difficult enough, but being a woman who is disabled is even harder. The first challenge is self acceptance. As a Javanese woman, I am told to lower myself towards men. But as a woman who is disabled, I was already lowering my pride; being disabled just adds to it. It connected to my self esteem as a woman, and I feel like it’s quite difficult to socialize. I mentioned earlier that the stigma of disability is still negative in our society.

Another challenge is education. I think there are a lot of women out there – especially women with disabilities – who have limited access to education. Like when their family is ashamed of their children they tend to hide themselves so they can’t have access to education.

How did you personally overcome those challenges?

It’s quite a terrifying process; I constantly have internal battles with myself. It’s like an endless doubt, like, “You can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this,” but at the same time, “I have to, I have to, I have to.” And then I realized that I didn’t want to live this way. I don’t want to seek social acceptance from external sources.

I am also watching some of motivational videos in youtube on Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo. They’re women, they may have their own difficulty but they won’t give up on their dream. So I want to be like that in my best version of course.

For those disabled women who struggle with challenges such as education and opportunity, what does society need to do to support them?

Well first of all, it’s educational access. In Indonesia, there are still very few inclusive educational institutions. Maybe in the most urban areas like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, there are fewer problems in terms of facilities and access. But in rural areas, there are many. So I think that it is better for the government or people concerned about this issue to create more inclusive and accessible educational environments. Access is important because I cannot ride a motorcycle or car. And when we ask for a driver’s license, the procedure is quite long for us. Thankfully today we have GO-JEK, so it makes our lives easier. But if we depend on government transportation, it’s quite hard for us to mobilize.

What are some ways the disabled community is breaking glass ceilings and shattering boundaries?

As I mentioned earlier, we need more disabled people who are successful at exceeding their own limitations. With the growth of social media (like Instagram and Facebook), we’re seeing more of these. In Indonesia, there is a huge growth of influencer; I’m quite happy with that because there are new faces. For instance, the disabled model Angky Yudistia. She’s a model  with a hearing impairment. On Youtube, there is Surya Satehapi. He is also an activist for hearing impairment. Some people with vision impairment, they tend to have a podcast. But there are still not as many figures who have physical impairments, like myself, in the spotlight. So I’m dedicating myself to be one in the future.

In Design for Dream, I am learning to become a model for our product. I remember back then when I felt afraid or ashamed of my body. Now I have to embrace it as a model of Design for Dream. I think that in the future I can share this with my fellow friends with disability: That you can be anything. You don’t have to be a masseuse or a tailor or a beggar. You can do something or create something while sustaining yourself. You can even make social impact.

There’re aren’t many in the disabled community that are entrepreneurs yet. In many ways, you’re one of the pioneers. How is that like?

It’s an amazing feeling. I guess this is my chance to tell other women that, “I was able to do entrepreneurial things, so maybe you can do it, too.”

What’s something exciting that your startup is doing now?

My startup is initiating our first project to empower a disabled organization, Binasiwi. They make batik and we help them not only sell their product but also how to advertise and create a good brand image. We increase the social recognition of their product, their community, and their activities, as well as the people in the community and their artworks. They can draw very well, so I want them to believe that their art is something that can be appreciated by spreading their artwork.

What’s your goal five to ten years down the line?

I want to make my startup company more successful and have a great social impact. I want to help as many disabled as I can, and possibly do a TED talk. That’s one of my dreams: to share my story and tell people that, “You are loved and appreciated enough, so get your ass up and do something!”

Do you have any message to tell other girls that want to be in the startup or entrepreneur’s space?

Of course. First of all, I’m so proud of you girls. I’m so proud of you. With your story, we have to spread more to our sisters who may still be being locked away by their minds or by society. We have to tell them that, “We can do something,” like, “We can create something and we can become something,” even when society tells us we cannot, but we can.

I think it’s a great move to make our society more inclusive, because being a disabled person does not lessen you as a person. Our disability shouldn’t limit our ability to succeed, because “normal” people tend to underestimate our abilities due to our disabilities. But I want to break that stereotype to show myself that I can become great and continuously develop as a person. And I want to encourage my sisters to do the same and to love yourselves and spread that love to everyone else.

Dheta Aisyah: Chief of Business Development & Co-Founder at Binar Academy

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Dheta Aisyah. I am the Chief of Business Development at Binar Academy. To be honest with you, I never planned to do this. Before I started Binar, I worked at GO-JEK and I met my co-founder Alamanda there. After GO-JEK I joined a consulting company called Palladium; I was there for three months and then Alamanda called me and she shared to me this idea that she had. At that time I found that I didn’t fit with consulting life. I didn’t really enjoy it too much and I thought that I could use my potential better at Binar.

Long story short, I spent five years in the U.S. studying and working for a year. When I came back from the US, I hated it. I was quite depressed and I didn’t like what I was doing. In the US, I worked in politics and loved it but because of immigration issues I had to go back. I wasn’t really accepting the fact that I had to return and was having a really hard time adjusting with the new culture. It’s quite ironic because it’s not really new culture; it’s like my home culture, but then it became something that is so distant to me. And so I really hated it and it took me a while to really like Indonesia again. While I was working at GO-JEK, I was looking for other opportunities to come back to the U.S.

But after a year of being depressed and really tired of hating my country, one day I just came up and kind of like switch my point of view you know like instead of me trying to go back to the U.S. because it was comfortable, so why don’t I just switch my perspective and try to change Indonesia to be as comfortable as the US? And not long after that, Alamanda came to me with this idea of digitizing Indonesia, of giving out opportunities to students and second-tier cities of Indonesia more I.T. education. I shared the same vision with her. I thought it aligned to my calling at the time, so I just took the opportunity.

Why is Binar Academy so needed in Indonesia?

One main problem that we are trying to solve is that digitalization is very centred in Jakarta but in order for us to move forward and compete in the global scene, Indonesia as a whole has to be digitalized and I’m not seeing that right now. We are trying to really cultivate the hidden talents – the underdogs if you will – in second-tier cities so that they have more opportunities.

The second thing is that we’re seeing a huge talent war in Jakarta. Good programmers are very scarce and big startups with limitless capital are trying to double down their offers, to the point that it hikes up the market price of software engineers. Companies need to be brave enough to look at Indonesia as more than just Jakarta. There are a lot of opportunities and talents that they can leverage to build their products outside of the capital.

And three, I see that there’s a lot of ideas that are not able to be executed because they don’t have the talents to build the product. At Binar we’re opening up a host of talents in Yogyakarta, and with the abundance of potential hires, we’ll be able to help early stage startups build their product and realize what was once a dream turn into a real product.

Can you comment on the gender makeup of your program? Of the programming world in general?

We have been running for about a year now and have graduated about 300 people over 6 batches. I would say it is very sad that only about 10% of the student demographic are women. I think the stigma is that women are more emotional. That they’re not very systematic, that they’re not very technical. So tech seems to be an unfitting sector for them and so it marginalizes women in that way. But I don’t think that’s true. Tech, as it grows, needs more women in it. The emotional trait of women is very much needed in order to personalize a product, in order to make it widely used. It has to solve specific problems in people’s days, and that’s where women can really make a significant contribution.

How can we encourage more girls to, say, start applying to Binar? Or to similar programs to become engineers and developers?

it requires cooperation from a lot of stakeholders. If it was just Binar, I don’t think we are big enough to be the catalyst of that change. But, for example, in the past we’ve worked with Adidas and Citibank. They have supported us in giving out more scholarships for women to study in our academy. And that is necessary. Corporations should really be aware that the tech sector is something that cannot be dominated by men anymore. So that’s one. And then the second is that parents should be more supportive of the tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career. Because, as you know being an engineer or being in the tech industry is not easy; it requires hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, we live in a country where traditional values are still being upheld. It’s like the dichotomy of women and men are still very strong, as if women has their own role which cannot be interfered into by men and vice versa. And I think that certain values might need to be dissolved. It’s not an era where women have to be stuck at home taking care of children. They need to have a career and remembering digitalization is going to be the future of work, the future of our era. Parents and families in general have to start planting their seed to women in their families to see tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career.

Can you speak more about your own personal experiences as both a woman in the tech sector and as a female co-founder?

I think I am very fortunate to not really care about what people think of me. Maybe judgement is out there, but it really doesn’t affect me. I can tell you that very often I am the only woman at the table. And sometimes it is quite degrading where guys would start to flirt with me just because I’m the only woman on the table. And given my age, I think it’s very tempting for them to do it especially in my role as BD. I negotiate deals a lot and sometimes being a woman kind of puts me in that kind of position.

How do you deal with that stigma or that temptation from guys kind of do that? Like how do you how do you deal with that?

Like I said, just show them who’s boss. You know, if they are being flirty with you, maintain your composure and just stay professional. It’s their problem, not yours, so you’re not the one to solve it. You just keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re negotiating, just keep negotiating. If wearing a knee-length skirt or dress is what’s comfortable for you, don’t change it just because you’re afraid that someone some guys on the table will flirt with you. Just do you and be honest. A lot of people are thrown off and discouraged by this environment that they’re in, and it’s very unfortunate because I’ve seen a lot of women do that. Just be confident. Stick with it.

Are there any digital trends in Indonesia you are excited about?

What I’m really excited right now to see is that the move towards the digitalization in the manufacturing industry I think like if we see the global trend. A lot of them are going to 3D printing. And I’m really excited. If the industry in Indonesia will start adopting that technology. Because I think it’s going to make our goods a lot cheaper which is good for consumers. It will force us Indonesians who are used to working in factories but want to be in a better position to use their brain and potential into something that is more worth it. You know I think it was very Victorian era to work in a specialized field doing the same thing all over again. And now we have this technology that can free us to really explore our  societal needs. So I’m really excited to see that.

Do you have any advice for those who want to become an entrepreneur in the tech sector?

I would say start to think about your first $100,000 as soon as possible. Now if I interview people, one thing that I always ask is, “How did you make your first $100,000?” If the answer is like, “My first $100,000 is from my first job out of college,” then I don’t think you have the entrepreneurial mindset within you. So start thinking about it. Start relying on yourself to sustain the kind of life that you want.

And don’t wait to start until the end of college. If you are still in elementary school and have a good idea, for example. Start by buying something on the market and then selling it. Jack up the price and sell it to your peers. It’s that easy to make money. Like me for example, a little bit of an intermezzo but when I was in 4th grade, I was very fortunate to have been given permission to subscribe to magazines. A lot of my peers didn’t have that luxury. So what I did was I cut up sections from different magazines – I created my own magazine of sorts – and then I sold it to my friends.  And it was really for no cost; literally, my parents paid for the magazines but then I got to make money out of it.

So yeah, think about how to make money and don’t wait until other people give you that opportunity. Make that opportunity for yourself to start having a dream. Start thinking about where you want to be 10 or 20 years from now. Because that vision in your head is something that will really help you move forward. If you have that vision, often enough you’re going to create an itch in yourself like, “I really want it. I don’t just want it to be in my head. I want to actualize it.” And that’s going to be the base of your motivation theory.

Start looking for a role model. I think that’s very important. Sometimes I think people in Jakarta are very globalized and they’re open to information. But what is important is that Jakarta is the minority. Jakarta is not representative of Indonesia. And the sad thing is that a lot of women and the rest of Indonesia lack that information of what they can achieve. As you explore a lot of role models, try to define what success means to you. Because as you grow up, you’re going to be so tempted to really follow what your role model is doing — but don’t forget to be authentic as well.

Who is your role model?

I like a lot of people, but I would say my role model is Tim Ferriss. He is very balanced, very ambitious in his work and worldly pursuits. But at the same time, he’s very spiritual. And I think having that balance is very, very important. He’s very sharp. He’s very disciplined. What I like the most about him is that he always experiments on himself and tried to create new habits that made him even more productive in everything he does. That’s really something that I look up to because even though he’s now very successful, he always sees that there’s room for improvement. And I think that is very admirable.

Denica Flesch: Founder of SukkhaCitta

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Denica, and I’m the founder of SukkhaCitta. We’re a social enterprise based in Jakarta that connects artisans in villages across Indonesia with the modern global market.

With a background in Economics, I worked for the World Bank when I first returned to Indonesia. There, I got quite frustrated as I didn’t feel like what I was doing made any direct impact. This led me to do my own research, I wanted to understand what poverty looks like so we can find what works.

When going from village to village, I found an interesting trend. That is, poverty tends to be clustered around economic activities, on what people do. I started to narrow down my focus, and it led me to the craft industry – the second largest employing industry in rural Indonesia, especially for women.

I found out that the current system, the craft industry itself, is kind of broken. The economics seem to be upside down. People earn more from simple jobs like working in Indomaret or as a waitress then being an artisan. Artisans are aging and none of the daughters want to continue. Why would they? And yet, without regeneration, how can the craft survive?

Now, this really intrigued me. I realized that the last thing the world needs is another fashion brand. We do not need more pretty things when the way it was made is ugly. Something needs to change. A bridge needs to be built – and that’s exactly why I started SukkhaCitta. To leverage craft as a viable mean of poverty alleviation – while at the same time sustaining our craft through our modern reinterpretation.

Besides the economic aspect, what drew you to crafts over everything else?

It was also a personal attraction. As an economist, you are trained to judge production based on scale and efficiency. Yet, there I was living with the women in these villages. They would tell me how their mothers, grandmothers, shared stories through the fabrics that they made by hand. Batik was their mean of saying a prayer to their families, of meditation.

There, I realized how much stories and values get transferred like this in our culture – and how much is lost today with the rise of mass-produced clothes. With the pursuit of fast, everything becomes homogeneous. In craft, you find the story of our culture, of our humanity. And I believe it has its place in today’s time, not only in museums. We just have to make it relevant again.

Fashion has the reputation of being environmentally destructive. How can fashion be ethical while also being sustainable at the same time?

You’re right. Through my research, I was shocked to see just how dirty the craft industry is – both on the people and on the environment. In fact, it’s the 2nd most polluting SME sector in Indonesia! I feel that part of the problem is that currently, there is simply no transparency whatsoever. There is no traceability, no way to see how a fabric was made for customers like you and me.

Now, we do things quite differently. Our impact model is based on our own transparency standard: #MadeRight. It is a promise that this fabric provided a living wage, is environmentally sustainable, and at the same time sustains culture. Working with Villages, not factories, means that we are even more careful when it comes to our environmental impact because otherwise, production causes a lot of negative externalities for the community.

The price of fabric is very unique because fabric uses a lot of water and dye. Villagers will use synthetic dyes because it’s very cheap, and then they will dump it in their waterways. The problem is the community lives with the water from the rivers. That’s why in our work we use a lot of natural dyes; we actually spent almost IDR 50 million just doing capacity building so that all of our villages understand how to do natural dyeing.

At the same time, the production of clothes itself produces waste. So even if your fabrics were made ethically and sustainably, the production of fabrics into clothes produces waste. That’s why we have a lot of upcycling and zero waste programs as well — we’re turning our waste scraps into paper now, so all our tags are made from our waste as well. Our aim is not to cause unnecessary damage.

Ultimately, we believe that the way forward is not only about production, but also about consumption. So in our marketing, we focus a lot on storytelling, because we believe if you have a connection with your clothes, you’re not just going to wear a piece for two weeks and throw it away but you’re actually going to take care of it. If it’s broken you’re going to repair it, so it’s a complete and holistic cycle. If you produce ethically sustainable clothes, but you promote fast consumption — it doesn’t work as well.

In the craft industry, do you see a greater movement towards that holistic sustainable model, or are you guys going against the current?

The current for fast fashion is definitely very strong. Really. What I see in Indonesia is that of course you have this positive trend of brands trying to bring light to this issue, but the problem lies in how they go about doing it. Because you have to make sure that your solution is 10 times better than conventional practice, so you can actually contribute to solving the issues.

One of the things I saw is definitely the hype towards natural dyes. For us, it’s a natural choice. Again, because we work with Villages, not factories, we need to be very mindful to ensure our production causes no externality to the community. From this, I learnt that there is actually a difference between natural dyeing with natural process – or natural dyeing with chemical process. Unfortunately, most brands that I see in Indonesia don’t really take this into account. We need to be careful that we do not actually add to the problem.

Why is it important to empower these rural women in the first place? Why do we need to care about this demographic?

Because there’s a lot of potential for impact. What I’ve found is that nobody has ever taken the time to believe in these women. In the beginning, when I started this journey, I noticed a very strong sense of inferiority that people living in rural areas feel compared to someone from the city. The women wouldn’t look me in the eye; the prevalent mindset is that they can’t. They’ve worked as artisans for 20 to 30 years and have always been exploited, so they don’t believe that they can actually change their lives. But now, every time I go to the village, they keep harassing me about what they’re going to do next. “What new products are we going to try?”, “What new techniques are we going to learn?” There’s this new sense of optimism and hope.

And I noticed that once you empower women you empower her community as well. Especially in villages, women typically spend 80 percent of their expenditure on their family. You start noticing things, like one woman would tell me about the healthy, nutritious food that she can now provide to her kids. She started asking me about how she can best provide an education to her kids, what kind of books she can buy — so there’s this new sense of empowerment that we didn’t expect.

And most importantly is this desire to pay it forward — we didn’t start off with that in mind, but the women in the villages, they started to come to me and ask to be involved in the capacity building of other villages. When I asked why, they said it’s because they’ve been helped and now they want to help. So you start seeing that when you do this kind of work, there is also a ripple effect in the community that you’re initiating in. So that’s why I find that it’s very important to be able to empower these women, and also for them to be role models in their communities. Before we started our initiatives, typically the artisans were typically above 40 years old. Now we’re actually really happy because there are these two women under 30 that came up to me asking if they could be trained as well. And I couldn’t imagine doing all this without doing it for the crafts sector. Because suddenly they feel so proud — they feel like they’re visible to the market again, they feel like there’s actually value in what they do, and the pride is just unbelievable.

In your work, you’ve gone into the villages, and you’ve interacted with these women. What would you say are the main challenges these rural women face in their everyday lives?

It’s the general mindset, this social conditioning that after getting married they should be moms and that’s it. It was actually very startling for me during the last field trip; we were sitting in a circle and I was asking them about why there were no women entrepreneurs in the village. They said, “What would we sell, who would buy anything? That’s what men do, right? They work and we just take care of the kids.” I asked them about whether they thought about something beyond just being a mother, because obviously being a mother is not enough for them, right? And they just look at me, puzzled, “No, we haven’t.” Because their mothers were like that, their grandmothers were like that, so they have never left the village. They don’t know a world beyond this.

I was doing a survey about living wage and I wanted to know what was the living wage for that village, so we broke down their expenditure and found that the bulk of it was from their kids’ snack money. Everyday, kids would take IDR 8,000 to 10,000 just to buy snacks. And I asked them what snacks they would buy and they said, “Oh you know, just chiki (a type of snack) that they buy from the warung (small local eateries).” So I asked them one question: “You farm a lot of moringa. Why don’t you just create snacks which are actually healthier than chiki? Make them cute, colorful. Your kids can just buy that instead.” And they look at me and it’s as if they think of it for the first time.

And that’s when I found out that the biggest problem in rural Java is this social norm. These women were not educated, and so they don’t have the courage to dream beyond things as is. But once you start introducing entrepreneurship into their minds, it’s really quite amazing. I just went back to the village last week, and they showed me samples of different snacks that they made and they asked me how to brand it and everything. They can clearly do business; it’s just about whether anybody would take the time to sit with them and guide them through this process. I feel like when you empower women to be entrepreneurs, the impact is a lot larger than men.

Speaking of women in entrepreneurship – you yourself are a woman entrepreneur, but the percentage of women entrepreneurs is quite small in comparison to how many male entrepreneurs there are in Indonesia and around the world. How is it being a women entrepreneur, but being a minority in that sector?

I actually try to use that as an advantage. Because there’s so few of us, it’s very easy for us to be noticed. I personally never noticed that there was any difference between women versus men. What I noticed is that men tend to be impressed to hear that you as a woman dare to go to these villages, stay with them for a few days and do this kind of work. I do feel that especially in our field it’s very advantageous because the community trusts women more. And I think as a man it would be a lot more difficult to do what I do. Because you work with women, and how comfortable would they be with some man living in their house and telling them different concepts of sustainability and design and everything? So you have a different kind of credibility, socially, as a woman. I think that’s a plus point.

Do notice any differences between the mindset of women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs?

Yes, in terms of the way that we think about scaling businesses. There’s definitely not much aggression in terms of scaling when you meet a lot of women founders, especially in the field of sustainable fashion. They seem to be very content with where they are. Let’s say they impacted five, ten people, and they seem to be very happy. But they don’t understand that it’s not enough just to do that, because the problem is so big that you need to think big as well. What the industry needs is not five women you’ve impacted, but a sector change. That’s why it’s very important that startups like ours need to grow, to show that it’s possible to grow in a way that does not exploit the environment or the people in it.

On the other hand, male entrepreneurs seem to really think about this. Maybe they typically go more into the tech sector which is easier to scale, so you find them constantly talking about acquisitions, about percentages, about growth — whereas women entrepreneurs, we’re playing nice. We don’t want to compete, we feel like we should form a community, and how do you balance these two? Because you find a lot of startups that remain small, but then how do you create sector change?

What direction do you see your impact model growing: breadth or depth?

Both. Our impact model is grounded in our Jawara Desa program (village champion). In the beginning when I first started, we worked directly with artisans. So literally, if I worked with 50 women, it would be 50 houses I directly had to visit and train. We changed our impact model because that was not scalable. In each of our village, we have a Jawara Desa who we select, train and provide access to microcredit to so they can start their social enterprise on the ground level. In a way, we transfer our DNA, our values to build mini SukkhaCittas on the village level.

In general, we see each of our Jawara Desa leading up to 20 artisans. In that sense, by scaling our breadth, we directly intensify the depth of our impact. We’re already seeing it happen; it’s really interesting when you introduce the concept of entrepreneurship into a village. They start being entrepreneurial in the ways they solve village issues as well. Last field trip I went to visit this village, and on their walls, I saw that they put up A4 papers. Apparently they were brainstorming how to improve the education of their village. It really gave me a sense of validation to continue with this impact model.

Do you have any advice for young girls who might also want to build their own social enterprise? To face all the things that might have to go with handling a social enterprise?

Be patient and persevere, because nobody will prepare you for the job. It is very hard. Not only do you have to take care of the whole business side — because if you just want to keep asking for donors you should be an NGO, you have to understand that you need to be as cutthroat as conventional enterprises — but at the same time, you must maintain your mission. It is seriously very difficult. You will experience higher highs than your typical job, but also very much lower lows. My biggest advice is really to stop giving your power away, because as women sometimes we’re scared to think big. We don’t think that we’re capable or that we don’t have the experience or we don’t have whatever is required to do it, but I find that if this is truly your mission then you’ll find a way. You’ll learn, you’ll find people, you’ll make alliances to achieve your mission.

[UPCOMING] Women in Blockchain

Who run the world?
Women sure have a huge part in running the world, including the Blockchain world.
Asosiasi Blockchain Indonesia is inviting you to join us in a sharing session, Women in Blockchain. We will talk about how women play important roles in Blockchain industry.
Three powerful incredible women will share their experience and knowledge with us:
1. Pandu Sastrowardoyo, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Blockchain Zoo.
2. Daphne Ng, Secretary General of Singapore Blockchain Association (ACCESS).
3. Merlina Li, Founding Member of Indonesia Blockchain Network, Head of Marketing & Partnership at Triv.co.id.
Moderated by Meredith Peng, Director of Connector.id and Senior Consultant at ANGIN.
Register now for FREE! (bit.ly/blocktalk52018)
Thursday, 3 May 2018
2.00 PM – 4.00 PM
Wisma Barito Pacific, Lv.1A
FREE

Farina Situmorang: Managing Partner at Catalyst Strategy

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Farina Situmorang. Five years ago I moved back to Indonesia and started a services company called Catalyst Strategy. We focus a lot on marketing and digital strategy, helping companies and even political clients in creating campaigns. In the last five years of my journey, I dabbled in a lot of other companies; by dabble, I mean starting three other companies. Right now, I’m only focusing on Catalyst and am on the board of a beauty company. Catalyst provides consulting services for marketing, communications, and crisis strategy. We take on a lot of interesting projects, including those involving Blockchain technology.

How did I get here? Well, I started my career in Indonesia, and I’ve always been working for technology companies, in marketing and sales roles. I started in IBM, Microsoft. Then I went to the United States for business school. After that, I moved to a company that you might still know, Blackberry in Canada, doing their strategy at corporate headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. Then I moved to San Francisco, where I worked for a small marketing automation startup. Following that, I worked for WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook). Now I’m here.

Such a diverse journey! What made you want to get into the tech entrepreneurship scene in the first place?

Part of it is wanting to prove yourself and show that you can succeed in front of others. You kind of also believe in an idea. When I was in San Francisco, I was fired (this is before WhatsApp) and I thought to myself, “What am I going to do next?” I’ve always wanted to do entrepreneurship for some reason; I think it runs in my family, so it was kind of like, “Oh maybe it’s time to do it.” Because at that point, what’s there to lose? I was sleeping on a couch already.

The only idea I had at the time was to take a lot of the strategies, techniques, and tools that I’ve learned through my technology marketing experiences and use them in a more socially impactful project. At the time, I thought this would be the presidential election. So that was it, actually. I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna come back home and I’m gonna run the digital campaign for a presidential candidate.” I came back to do just that and convinced my two partners to leave their full-time jobs to do it, too. They’re still my partners today. We basically all came together for that particular idea, which in the end we managed to do a year later, but not without blood, sweat, and tears. We got rejected so many times and we thought we failed so many times. But fortunately for us we were rejected by the right people and we got OK’d by the right ones, too.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going in the face of rejection? What’s your strategy to cope with it?

I’m not gonna lie, it always sucks. I think most entrepreneurs, or even investors or founders, we try to kid ourselves and think that “Oh, failures are so important and being rejected is part of success, and you will only learn when you make mistakes.” But at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel good. We have this idea of romanticizing failure, but in the end we still don’t like it. And I don’t like it. But it’s reality. You get rejected all the time. I still do.

To add to that, it’s actually quite easy to be rejected by others that you don’t necessarily care so much about. But when it comes to receiving feedback from people you are closest to – say your partner or your spouse or your parents – that’s a different level of hearing your mistakes or listening to your failures, so to speak, as they’re being put in front of you by people you care so much about. And you want their approval so much.

How I deal with it is not taking it too personally and realizing that a lot of things are not under my control, understanding how I can do better next time, and asking myself, “is this for me, is this not?” Just having that self awareness, that’s how I deal with it. And how I cultivate self awareness is through meditation and self reflection. I actually do it religiously every morning – it’s how I start my day. It’s something you kind of have to build.

As a side note, my husband keeps on telling me I’m really bad at receiving feedback. But it is what it is. I said, “Well, there’s content and then there’s delivery. And your delivery sucked!” (laughs)

Have you faced any challenges as a female entrepreneur and CEO?

I get invited a lot to panels on women in technology or girls in tech or whatnot. You know, sometimes I question it. Like, this is 2018 and we’re still calling female CEOs, “female CEOs” instead of just CEOs. The term is not a “boss”, it’s a “boss lady”. Things like that.

In terms of gender-specific challenges…I realize that we tend to be very permissive. I was asked this question a while back and I was like, “Honestly I don’t feel any differences being a woman in the tech space or running my own company. I don’t think I’ve ever felt discriminated.” Until you know, there was a time last year when all these women founders came out and they named a few VCs that were treating them inappropriately. And all these stories came out. I actually had an interaction with one of those VCs. He lingered in my hotel during a business trip out of town. Yet, at the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong about it.

You know, how permissive women can be…it’s mind-boggling. I tend to let it go, let it slide. It’s almost expected of them to do that to me or other women. As if it is okay for some men to allude to you being pretty or beautiful or whatever in a business setting. And when they do these things and you’re kind of just like, “Ugh whatever, it happens all the time, right?” So that was like a realization moment for me, to be honest. I didn’t know what to do in that situation, and I still don’t know.

Another example: I was in a restaurant for a meeting only a few days ago, actually. And the ratio of males to females…I was the only female. There were 14 other CEOs and investors, and they were all male. I was the only woman there. And the only question they asked me was, “Are you married?”

That was probably one of the very first times that I had to command a presence in a room, versus people already gravitating towards me or asking me questions. If I didn’t ask enough questions, I don’t think they would’ve seen me there. The environment was aggressive. This is just another anecdotal example.

But the truth of the matter is that 80% of the time, I don’t feel any differences. But there’s always that 20%. I don’t really like to play the victim or the woman card because I don’t feel victimized and I don’t feel like I’m not given the same chance. But maybe I should be speaking out more.

It’s a known fact that an all-female founder team doesn’t get as much investment in the VC game. There are VCs out there that blatantly would just say no to female founders. And they say it very openly. These cases are not ok. I think I probably also need to educate myself on how best to deal with that.

How do we get more girls to be CEOs, managers, partners of firms?

For one, when it comes to choices and options, anyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation – should have options and choices. And once you have the option, the choice, people should be free to do whatever they want to do.

I dont think it’s a question of should or should they not want to be leaders? Is being a CEO a good thing? I don’t think it’s good or bad. I think it’s just a choice. If those women want to take this choice or exercise this option, then yes I think the ecosystem and industry should be nurturing anyone – not just these girls – who wants to achieve these positions. I could say the same about people coming from outside elite universities, or people coming outside of Java island. These people also don’t have enough opportunities, for example. I think that the conversation should be a lot more broader.

Do you have any advice for first-time entrepreneurs who want to embark on their entrepreneurship journey?

I think first and foremost, you really have to understand why – why do you want to do this? Because you know, if your excuse or your reason to start a company is to make money, there are easier ways to make money. Starting your own company might be one of the riskiest ways you could possibly take. Ask yourself over and over, “Why am I doing this?”

Then, there’s what kind of entrepreneur you want to become. Our company did really well in the beginning doing services. It’s when we decided to stray from our path – what we’re supposed to do – and tried to dabble here and there… that’s when we didn’t do so well. There are going to be investors and other entrepreneurs and other founders that will ask you why you’re doing the things that you’re doing. They’ll ask, “Don’t you want to achieve bigger and better things?” and you’ll want to believe that it’s true. People will come to you if they see you as somewhat capable and they’ll want you to push your boundaries. You have to decide whether you want to be that kind of entrepreneur or not.

Nowadays, people think the only way you can do a startup is to look up to these big companies and aspire to be like them – the Grabs of the world, or Uber, GO-JEK, Facebook. You have to realize how many people actually become that, what it takes to get there, and whether or not that’s for you. I think that was a very painful learning for me over the last five years. Because your ego says you want it and you can do it, and probably you can if you persevere and go through that, but is that actually something you want? And are you willing to give up the things you need to give up to get there?

How about advice for current entrepreneurs?

Asking these really hard, truthful questions is very important. Why? For me, the elegance of the consulting process is something I love. Not everybody is so passionate about that. If that is what I love to do, then why do I want to do all these other things that comes with being the CEO of something like GO-JEK or Traveloka? There’s a lot of operations and routine, which is not what I do best. So knowing yourself is very important for entrepreneurs. Self awareness is so key, and the ability to question that all the time, to ask if that’s something that you want.

Also important is knowing that you probably won’t be great at everything. Knowing that will help you decide who to partner with, who to found the company with. If you don’t know that, you should know that. As I said, I’m much more strategic. I actually don’t really like looking into details. I would make a really terrible CFO. That’s just not me. So you need to partner with people like that and surround yourself with people who are better than you are at doing all these things that you can’t do.

When is the right moment to pivot? To scale? And when do you decide to stick your ground?

The notion of growth and scale and expansion can be tricky. Like why? Are you not happy with being very premier and boutique and just good at what you do? Or do you really need to scale up? You need to ask yourself how much money you need to make at the end of each month. And then your business decision, your business model should reflect that.

It really all comes back to business fundamentals. Will there be a market for what you’re building? Will people pay for it? How hard is it to sell to other people? If it’s so hard, you have to question whether or not you’re doing the right thing. It’s like a test. When things are moving in the right direction, it will still be hard. None of this is easy, but it’s not going to feel like you’re swimming against a current. When it comes to building something that doesn’t have a market and the business fundamentals aren’t there, you’re going to get questioned so much more. 10x, 100x more the usual amount. Swimming against the current is not fun. You’re not going to be moving anywhere. So I would question that.

What is one tangible step to achieving success?

On a lot more practical level, my advice is to seek mentorship. I think what a lot of younger people tend to take for granted are the opportunities to be mentored and coached. They tend to want to go through things on their own. They don’t seek enough advice.

I didn’t get here on my own. I have a lot of mentors and advisors and coaches that have helped me get to where I am. It’d be impossible without them. Nobody can open your perspective more than those who’ve done it before. If you want to be a CEO, then you need to start talking to CEOs. Because they’ve been there, they’ve done it. It’s very important to surround yourself with people who you aspire to become.

In my company, there’s a lot of younger employees. They tend to stick to their own classmates from university or high school. You need your peers of course, but at the same time you need to be talking to people who are older. People who have been out there in the world doing many other things. If you’re not doing that, then your perspective isn’t really open. If you’re aspiring to be a CMO or COO or founder, then you need to be talking to them. I don’t think that’s being taught enough at local universities. In business school, I was told to reach out to as many alumni as possible. That mindset is not being talked about enough here.

Do you have any mentors or role models that you constantly look up to?

Yes. And they come in different forms. You kind of realize that people are not perfect, and you take what you can from different folks. For example I look up to this one CEO and he always gives me very pragmatic feedback on my business decisions, for example. But that’s the only advice I would get from him. I wouldn’t ask him for any personal stuff.

I very much look up to a group of my girl friends. I seek advice from my friends who are investors, other CEOs, and my own husband. He’s my constant coach and mentor. I look up to my grandmother very much. She is probably one of the most successful entrepreneurs I know but has also failed multiple times. She was a widow at 28 with five children; my mom grew up without ever seeing her father. One day she started a textile factory on her own and ended up becoming worth tens of millions of dollars. Her story is fascinating and means a lot to me.

 

Namira Puspandari of Foundation for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Namira Puspandari. I am a program coordinator at an international NGO called Foundation for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST), founded by some human rights celebrities in Indonesia: Marzuki Darusman, Makarim Wibisono, H.S. Dillon and James Kallman. As program coordinator, I handle human rights issues such as religious tolerance, minority rights, and the death penalty in Indonesia. I’m also in charge of the development of our work in our Brussels office.

The story of how I got this job is actually pretty funny. In Jakarta, I attended a business and human rights conference. One of the speakers was my would-be boss. I was very interested in his speech; after he was done, I went up to him and asked him some questions. I was like, “Oh yeah, your speech was amazing, I had no knowledge about business and human rights. I learned about it in school but not as in-depth as in your speech. And by the way, are you recruiting?” The next thing I knew he was like, “Oh you should come to our office!” And then a few weeks after that, I started working at FIHRRST.

So that’s how you do networking!

Yes (laughs). I’ve actually never gotten a job from a website or something. It’s never worked out for me. I always have to do it some other way. Even my previous job I got from LinkedIn. I was still in the Netherlands back then, desperately unemployed (again) after finishing my contract with an NGO in The Hague. And my would-be boss sent an InMail and told me he read my research and was interested in the possibility of working together.

What projects or initiatives have you spearheaded within your NGO?

The ones that are under my supervision right now are the prison reform project funded by the Tifa Foundation, an Open Society network and the one that I recently finished is a human rights short course for senior students at a pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding school) in Jombang, East Java, which is funded by the Canadian government through the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta.

How do you empower women through your projects?

The prison reform project implementation is in a women’s prison in Tangerang. We want to improve the psychological wellbeing of the prisoners and help reintegrate them into society. Basically, women that have just been released from prison usually face discrimination; they feel that they cannot engage even with their own families or feel like they cannot be good role models to their children. Those kinds of feelings can lead them to commit the same mistake. So we want to help them out, but at the same time we want to reduce the rate of recidivism. Women in prison fall into the category of vulnerable group. This is a way to empower them so that they will be ready when they have to reintegrate back into their communities.

And then regarding the short course – the focus is more on introducing or trying to advance the concept of freedom of religion to traditional Islamic school students. The idea is also about introducing equality and challenging them in thought. At first the women participants were a bit shy, but we always encourage them to participate in discussion and engage. At some point, they were as enthusiastic as the male participants. In the end they even showed more interest. When I was delivering my presentation, they asked me a lot of stuff: “Hey, can we do this, what do you think about women’s rights, can we voice our opinions?” It was a very remarkable experience, I would say.

What’s the situation when it comes to women in indonesia and employment opportunities?

I wouldn’t like to say that it is all equal. Because we know that it’s not yet there. Compared to our parents’ generation, though, it is so much better now. The concept of women working in Indonesia, I think it’s quite accepted and normalized. We can find more and more opportunities to develop ourselves and to work. Even if you travel to remote areas in Indonesia, women who have skills are running businesses. They run shops by themselves. When you go to a warteg (small local restaurant), you see those women, they cook by themselves and manage the store by themselves.

But there’s still a lot of homework to do.

Maybe we don’t really feel the discrimination because to us it’s slight. But it affects women from lower household incomes the most. I think the main reason why these women cannot find a proper job is due to lack of information They don’t know where to find a job or how: for instance, if I want to land a good job, where do I start?

Maybe it is also about education – it’s so important, the level of education. I think for people like us, we are quite privileged, right? If we wanted to get the same benefit or same salary as a man, we can always fight for it. But it’s not the same for women of lower household income. They don’t know how to do it, that’s the thing. And in most cases they don’t have the same access to information of how to find a good, proper job. There’s also women in the informal sector; a lot of women feel like they’re not workers. Because they’re not registered. Probably your housemaid at home doesn’t have an official labor contract. I’m pretty sure because mine doesn’t have one either. And as a result, they are prone to have their rights violated because they aren’t legally protected. It’s simply because they don’t know how to voice their rights, and that what they do is still regarded as part of the informal sector.

So how do we empower women from going beyond opening a small warteg to opening a chain of them? How do we unlock the leadership potential of women?

We need a greater number of facilities to develop potential so that more women can hold those strategic positions. Employers should also acknowledge that we have the same capabilities as our male counterparts, that’s the most important thing. But we should also acknowledge that we have different needs.

In most cases that I’ve seen, when you are married and you have a kid, you feel like you have to choose between your family and your career. Currently, the perception is that if I hire this woman and she is recently married, then she will leave this office soon because she is on maternity leave. That will probably reduce the chance of that woman getting hired. A possible solution is applying the approach of Scandinavian countries and other European countries by giving paternity leave. This would be more fair. Employers would realize that not only women take leave upon having children, but also men. And it would also give women the chance to get back to work faster because the male partner would share in child-rearing responsibilities. This would also break the belief that only women who should have the main responsibility to take care of their children – it’s clearly a shared responsibility.

In the case of empowering former women convicts: How did they fall into that position in the first place? What made them resort to crime? What challenges do they face integrating back into society?

The biggest reason is financial. These women want to provide for their families. And that’s the the amazing thing about women: they would do anything, anything at all – even risking their lives – for their families. And that’s how they end up in prison. It’s not because they want to be a drug trafficker or something in the first place. It’s just the only way they know how to provide for their family. Again, it’s the lack of information on how to find proper job opportunities. They don’t know where to find the proper job and how.

And once these women try to get back to society, it is difficult for them to find a job due to the stigma against them. If you know this person is a former prisoner, there’s probably something in your mind, like a stigma that you cannot help. Of course you don’t want to discriminate against that person, but there’s something in your mind that says, “Oh she committed a crime against the law.”

So that’s difficult for them, even if they want to find a proper job. Even before they start working, if their prospective employee finds out they’re ex-prisoners, it’s over for them.

It’s a whole cycle.

Have you yourself faced any challenges being a working woman?

At work, I don’t really find any significant challenges based on my gender. I mean, it’s a human rights NGO, so we should all respect each other or there’s something wrong there (laughs). But from society, I do find challenges…some resistance, like from relatives who don’t understand the nature of my work. They think what I do is trying to implement a western agenda, trying to alter our culture while it’s not the case at all. When you talk about morality or religion, those two concepts already recognize human rights – they acknowledge other people’s’ rights. It’s basically respecting each other and not hurting each other and being a good citizen.

The challenge I’ve found the most is trying to explain the nature of my work. Whenever I mention I work at an NGO, people ask, “What are you doing?” Even some say that women’s rights is part of a western agenda trying to destroy Indonesian women. That it is trying to alter the morals of women in our culture.

Do you have any advice for girls who want to assume leadership roles?

If you’re sure this is what you want to do, just do it. For me, I’m still exploring my approach, too. I don’t know the best formula of how to succeed. But I’m pretty sure this is what I want to do, so I keep on going. If you asked me for the magic formula on how to be the best in this field, I don’t really have the answer. But because this is what I want to do and I want to deliver the best – I’m doing it.

In terms of taking leadership – don’t you want to prove to yourself that you’re capable of taking bigger responsibility? I always want to challenge myself. I don’t want to prove something to everyone; I just want to prove to myself that I can always push my limit. If, in the end, it leads you to a leadership position, that’s a plus from you being fearless.

 

[UPCOMING] Shinta Kamdani to speak at the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards

We are proud to announce that our very own Shinta Kamdani will be a speaker at the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Ceremony due to take place on April 26 at Capella, in Singapore.
Founded in 2006 with INSEAD business school and McKinsey & Company, the Cartier Awards select each year six talented women entrepreneurs, one from every region of the world. The competition aims to support creative, financially sustainable and responsible women-led businesses in all countries and across all industries. Here is a presentation video to give you a glimpse of who they are and what they do.
This year, for the first time, Cartier is partnering with TED to celebrate women and bold ideas.
We have no doubt that Shinta’s business achievements and personal journey will help inspire a new community of women entrepreneurs. ANGIN continues to support empowering women in their entrepreneurial and career journeys, and hopes that this event will help catalyze more women to exhibit qualities of leadership, strength, and resilience.

Elsa Dewi Santika: Co-Founder of Luminocean

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Elsa Dewi Santika. I’m working for an organization called Luminocean. It is an educational ecotourism organization based in Banda Neira, Maluku that I set up with my business partner – Mareike Huhn from Germany. We started it in November 2014; it’s been 3 ½ years of a journey for us.

Can you talk more about Luminocean? How did you get started? What was your inspiration behind it?

Well, it started when I was in Banda Neira, in September 2013. I had come to Banda Neira to do humanitarian activities, bringing donations from Jakarta, Singapore, and Malaysia and distributing it to remote islands in Indonesia. When I arrived in Banda Neira, I came across a dive center owned by a German, who was also a dive instructor. I learned diving from him and fell in love with the place. When I found out that they have an NGO set up by a few Germans in marine conservation, I signed up as a volunteer to work at the NGO and stay in Banda starting from Feb 2014 until October 2014.

While I was there, I had this idea: Why not start a self-sustaining organization, rather than an NGO which relies on donations? An entity that has its own business model. I was inspired by Blue Ventures in Madagascar, which provides a scuba diving internship for the purpose of conserving the environment in Madagascar. I brought this idea to my friend Mareike. She agreed and said “I also have the same idea – why not do it together?” It was actually born as Sea Ventures, but we changed it to Luminocean in 2017. So yeah. After some brainstorming, Luminocean was born.

Can you describe what social impact Luminocean seeks to achieve and how you go about achieving it?

So I think there are a few types of impact. First, we want to create environmental awareness for the people, especially for the local people. In Banda, the Bandanese – they live from the sea. However, they do not know how to take care of the creatures living in the sea such as coral reefs and the fish there. There’s so much plastic trash in the ocean in the Banda Sea. And every year there are certain religious traditions where plastic ends up being thrown away – into the sea, into the water. We want to help educate locals in Banda to not throw the plastic waste into the ocean.

In addition, we want to create environmental awareness for the international community. There are a lot of scuba divers – tourists from Europe that come to Banda. However they just dive for fun without thinking much about the environment. So we want to create another product, where diving is not only for fun but meaningful as well. For instance, you can learn about the coral reefs. You can participate in scientific research. We work together with some universities –  one from Germany, another from Australia, and local universities in Indonesia. We bring scientists and projects to Banda and we offer these projects as part of a package of scientific diving to these international divers. That way, they can come to Banda not only for recreational diving but also for environmental and scientific diving. The revenue that we get, we channel it to environmental education as well as English and computer literacy to the Bandanese people.

You mentioned that your passion is in environment and education. How can the private sector go about addressing education and making a difference in people’s lives?

Basically, education in Indonesia is already established, you know. The mainstream education. However, the private sector can contribute on top of mainstream education in terms of more practical education. For example, the voluntourists we bring to Banda can interact with the local kids. Kids can learn in terms of practicing their English with the tourists, or other skills like computers. At the same time, these children can also learn diving. In the future, these kids – upon graduation – can work in the diving or tourism industries.

More and more tourists are coming to Indonesia and to Banda Neira every year, and I want this next generation to be prepared and to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, and therefore be independent and self-sustaining. In remote islands because of the lack of jobs and opportunities, they might just want to be a civil servant or teacher when they graduate. Or maybe those who lack opportunities, they think they can only be fishermen or do some labor work, which only gives them a very minimum amount of salary. But in the tourism industry, there is a huge chance to earn more than just being a fisherman or laborer.

Based on your experience, have you noticed any difference working with girls in education? Are there different issues?

From my experience, girls are more motivated than the boys (laughs). I ran this English course – 3 girls 2 boys. The girls were much more motivated than the boys – the boys were still playing.

The challenge for Banda is that it’s still quite a traditional society. Girls are expected to behave in a certain way – it’s not liberating. It’s not good for the independent kind of thinking that we want the girls to have. We want the girls to be educated and to be independent, not to only think, “Oh I want to get married after I graduate,” because of obligation, but to postpone the marriage and to do something that they want first, to be something that they want first before finding a spouse and having a family.

How do you kind of go around that traditional mindset? How do you convince girls or their families that they can pursue their goals rather than immediately start a family?

At the moment we cannot force people to change their mindsets, especially in the short term. What we can do is work with others who are more open-minded. Some people allow their daughters and children to work with us. Some people do not. So we choose to work with people who allow their daughters to work with us. However, we hope that in the future we can bring some changes – we can open the mindset of the people and show them that working with outsiders – foreigners including me (in the Bandanese point of view, I am a foreigner even though i’m Indonesian) – is fine and can bring benefits as well.

What challenges have you faced, being a woman in the startup ecosystem?

Well, I mostly faced challenges from my own parents. They have these expectations of me working in big cities – in Jakarta, or…because I used to study and work in Singapore, they expected me to be more oriented towards more “developed” countries or cities. However, me choosing to work in more remote islands was pretty challenging because they didn’t really agree with my idea. I think that was the biggest challenge I faced at the time.

What are some tips you can give women entrepreneurs going into a room full of investors, who are often all-male?

Just be confident. As long as you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Even if you’re male – if you don’t portray that self confidence, people will sense you don’t know what you’re doing. Investors will have that sense as well. But if you’re sure and full of self confidence, people will feel that. Know what you’re doing.

Any advice for other women entrepreneurs who might want to start up a venture?

My advice is just do it. Sometimes we think too much – you see there is this thing called analysis paralysis. We think too much, about how we can earn money from a startup, how we can survive. I didn’t think about any of that at the time of starting Luminocean. I was pretty naïve (laughs). Looking back, I probably would have thought if over 2-3 times more. But I think if you’re passionate about something enough, you should just do it. And everything will fall into place if you just do it.

What’s your advice for overcoming doubts or doubters – for example parents, a spouse, or other naysayers?

Starting from where you are is also a good idea — not making a big change, because people – parents, spouses, children – might not react well to sudden change. Starting where you are is so good.

However, if there is a calling in which you have to go somewhere else, where you have to make big changes – I think it is important to have a support system. Maybe a group of people who also have the same ideas who share the same passions. If there are two or three or more people who can walk with you, it is more fun and more bearable. It becomes easier to brush off those negative voices that come your way.

 

[RECAP] UBS x ANGIN Empowering Women High Tea

On 4 April, 2018, ANGIN co-hosted a high tea event with UBS Unique. The event was a chance for attendees to gain greater insight into the world of impact investing and gender-lens investment. Tracey Woon of UBS moderated the discussion – two presentations and a fireside chat with James Gifford, CIO & Head of Impact Investing at UBS, and Shinta Kamdani, CEO of Sintesa Group and Founder of ANGIN.
James Gifford spoke of the many ways that the next generation could have an impact on investment activities, as well as how the world is changing to reward sustainable businesses and punish ones that do harm. Meanwhile, Shinta Kamdani gave a presentation on the strides that ANGIN has taken in women’s empowerment: from the Women Fund to empowering women through Women’s Spotlight, ANGIN has shown a track record of dedication to supporting women throughout the Indonesian startup ecosystem.
The high tea was filled with buzz, networking, and conversations on responsible and sustainable investment. We hope that some of the discussions at the event will lead to concrete actions in both the Indonesian and Singaporean investment ecosystems. ANGIN is looking forward to hosting more productive and insightful events with our friends at UBS Unique in the future.

Fany Okthalia of Wonderlabs Academy

Tell me a bit about yourselves.

My name is Okthalia. I’m a business major student. Aside from being a student, I’m also involved with female empowerment. I inspire to be a changemaker, no matter what others say. I’m really concerned about women’s rights and how women are usually misjudged in society. Maybe that’s what inspired me to do something and be the voice for women to be heard.

My name is Isthofany Irfana Azkiya (or Fany for short) and I am a female software engineer. I always wonder why people hold the stereotype that women cannot be skilled in tech? Why they can’t be prominent in the tech industry? Actually, women can make it as programmers. My goal is to change the perception of women in the tech industry, to show that women can be programmers, too.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the inequalities you’ve noticed in the tech industry and society in general? What stories out there have inspire you to do this?

Okthalia: Actually if you ask it like that, I’m afraid it will be out of scope of our concern in Wonderlabs Academy. but I’m just going to say what I feel. In Indonesia, some people  – whether we like it or not – some people think women still belong in the kitchen, or are born to be housewives, cooking and taking care of kids. And when a woman has a higher status than a man, nobody wants to approach her because men certainly want to be higher in status than women, right?

There’s something that really bothers me a lot — how religion is mistakenly correlated with culture. For instance – I’m a Muslim, and Islamic tradition does not promote disrespecting women. But somehow in [Indonesia] we still believe that women are not capable of leading. It’s,  you know, the belief that women just belong in the kitchen and need to have kids and everything. It is true that women have emotions and might be more empathetic than men, but that doesn’t mean that the degree of a woman is worth less than that of a man.

So in starting Wonderlabs Academy, what challenges have you faced? How do you make yourselves keep going?

Fany: We just started the pilot project, so this is the first batch, the first cohort. The enthusiasm is good. We got 78 applicants, but we could only accept 8 due to limited resources. We luckily have had no hate comments or objections or anything like that.

Okthalia: The challenges we face are actually general challenges. It’s a challenge people face in running a school, such as how to convince the participants that what they’re learning matters, and teaching the participants effectively. Another challenge is in finding resources to teach them.

What’s your vision? Your long-term goal for Wonderlabs Academy?

Fany: I hope there will be more women in technology. Women are good – we are better than men in some ways (laughs). Just kidding. But we have to be confident. We can do it.

Okthalia: Actually, the tech sector is really interesting and it really brings benefits to women. We understand that women want to take care of their children. Actually, you can do that in the tech industry – you can work from home.

What are some tech trends or news that excite you?

Fany: We want to support our government program – 1000 Startup Digital. 1000 Startup Digital is a government program in which the government wants to support and create 1000 startups. It’s something that is new for Indonesia, but startups are rapidly growing here. For example, GO-JEK, Grab, Kitabisa, Bukalapak, Traveloka, etc.

What is one thing you want to tell girls out there who want to be developers but are unsure about themselves?

Fany: We have to be brave and believe that we can do it. If we are really patient and really want to learn, we can be good programmers.

Okthalia: For me, for the developer, it’s that yeah, I think it’s pretty much like Steve Job’s message: If you want to succeed in a goal, you have to be curious and dig deep to find the insights you need to get there.