Everyone’s measure of success is different, but people always look at successful women in a different way to men, sometimes questioning why they have done so well. Publisher Alistair Speirs’ first boss in the City of London was a German lady who succeeded in the cut-throat, public-school, English dominated insurance industry despite all her disadvantages, something he grew to admire and respect.
In the upcoming months we celebrate both International Women’s Day (8 March) and Hari Kartini (21 April) in Indonesia, so now is the time to really look into this subject. And to do that he asks women from NOW! Jakarta’s community — each of whom have succeeded in their own fields — what they think are the correct measures of success and how they got to where they are today.
The interviewees are:
Ambassador of Sweden to Indonesia. A dynamic and personable lady who works at the highest levels of government and espouses and engenders the highest degrees of professionalism and equality.
A successful businesswoman in the building materials business, is married to a very successful businessman and who could easily have sat back and enjoyed life but instead works hard in a very male oriented field.
Who owns and runs the wonderful Tugu Hotels Group. A very determined and dedicated woman who strongly supports the culture and heritage of Indonesia and fights hard against encroaching alien values.
The go-to person to organise top golf tournaments across Indonesia. Her legendary attention to detail and organisational skills have made her mark in the very male-dominated golf world.
The leading light in PR for the hospitality industry in Indonesia, looking after the interests of many of the country’s top brands. Having started as a hotel PR intern she is now the owner of a leading PR company.
Question 1. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be ‘what makes a successful woman?’ but ‘what makes a woman successful?’ Do you think you have been successful? If so how did that happen?
It all boils down to being treated equally and fairly. To be treated equally there needs to be an enabling environment – both in your private sphere as well as an enabling working environment. The former is all about the upbringing and the latter is all about politics.
I was fortunate to be brought up in a home where equality was a given. It was my father who cleaned the house and that took as much responsibility for me and my sister as my mother did. I understand this is not the situation in most families – not even in Sweden. My childhood gave me a solid platform where I saw the sky as a limit. I had a true #HeforShe standing behind me.
Political support and will are central for all girls and women to be given the same opportunities as boys and men. Sound care policies, such as maternity protection, parental leave, childcare services, and flexible working arrangements are indispensable parts of achieving a more gender-equal world of work. Political reforms that contribute to gender equality are needed. In 1974, Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce gender-neutral paid parental leave. Of significant importance were also the policy reforms that made it possible for women to remain and develop in the labor force. To this end, the introduction of individual income taxation was crucial. Women thus gained greater financial independence, which increased their overall independence, their well-being and bargaining power in the household.
I don’t like to use the word successful to describe myself, because successful sounds like completion of a milestone. Whereas I always think success is a life-long journey, I may be considered successful presently for my short-term goals, but I still have plenty to work on my overall life achievements.
I am proactive about my goals, passions, interests and values, and I make sure that I have my priorities in order. I have a deep sense of self awareness of my strengths & weaknesses so I can work on aspects of my life that need improvement. I make an effort to be physically & emotionally resilient so that I won’t be bothered by critical remarks or adverse conditions. Everything counts for me: time spent with family, time devoted to hobbies, work hours and I am constantly striving to maintain the right balance for my own happiness and fulfillment
I believe that women in general need to work extra hard when compared to their male peers in order to reach the position of leader and earn the respect of their employees, peers, superiors and clients.
The decision for me to start my own company some 21 years ago has been to me a great success, setting up a company and running all aspects of a small business. Although my company is a relatively small organisation, it gives me a sense of pride to be where we are today, having survived through the thick and thin of various economic, political and unique, unforeseen situations.
Success for me is reaching and going above the target I set for myself, and not to base it on what others set for you. I think nowadays with the dominance of social media in our lives, it is so easy to measure our success based on what you see others posting – everyone on social media makes it sound so positively easy that may leave many who spend too much time on social media thinking: why is it much harder for me? What have I done wrong? Why am I not doing as well as those people?’
I am super blessed; I have been given the drive and willingness to strive for the best in everything I do. Diligence, integrity, and honesty are the 3 key values of my success stories, and I prefer people to appreciate me for my achievements. I also strive to be successful at home too, not only in my professional career but in my personal life. That’s why I’m trying to be a good leader, mother and wife.
Question 2. Were there “break-through” moments in your career which took you from one of the packs to a leading role?
My break-through moment was approximately 10 years ago, when I created & implemented a new vision & strategy to reinvent our business model. Our core business used to focus on distribution of building material commodity products to small retail outlets, and we were doing well.
So it was quite a risk to rock the boat, however I managed to convince the Board of Directors that we should move away from this saturated market of cutthroat competitions and explore new opportunities. We did complete rebranding, expanded our product ranges, revamped our business infrastructures, built a community of architects & interior designers so we could understand their product needs better.
Today, Sandimas Group covers all major cities in Indonesia and has grown to be one of the largest importers and suppliers of building materials nationwide covering all market segments thoroughly including building material modern markets and independent retail operators as well as architects, contractors, developers and specialised projects.
I don’t believe there is a shortcut in reaching success. It is through hard work, persistence, being organised, and having a great network and team to support you or to work with. Focus, focus, focus. If you fall or fail, don’t beat yourself too hard. Every failure is just a learning process. It is not a step backward but just a part of the steps forward. After, you get up and you are already one level wiser, smarter, more experienced
The economic crisis which brought the fall of the Soeharto regime in 1998 had a huge impact on all businesses in Indonesia and the region. This situation brought about my ‘break-thorough moment’ when I was put in a position to go solo and set up my own company.
Seizing the challenge of starting the business from zero in a totally new field, without the corporate benefits and perks I was used to was hard but tremendously exciting. However being my own boss, working when and as much or less as I wish, planning my own schedule, taking the risks and getting the rewards has been tremendous.
My breakthrough moment was 7 years ago, when I left my job in the hotel industry, which I loved so much, in order to have more quality time with my family. However, the universe brought me from one client to another, and now I am busy working but still can manage to get more time with my family. I started the company from my living room, and now we have grown into a little enterprise. I have 2 families now, one at home and at the office.
Question 3. Did you have a mentor, or someone who guided or inspired you?
Yes, and I believe you should have more than one, men and women in different ages. However, my best mentors and people that have inspired me have always been my family, my husband, and children, as well as my close friends.
I have always been working alongside my father ever since I joined the company, so he has been my mentor from the very start. My husband has been a great inspiration. A high-achieving CEO and a very supportive partner, he plays the biggest part in my success. He is the person who has the most faith in me. He continuously sets the bar higher and encourages me to rise to the challenge so that I can achieve things that I never thought possible.
My mentor is my dear husband, Chris Wooten, who was responsible for changing my earlier ‘master plan!’ He introduced me to the world of running your own business, standing on your own feet, take the risk, being a good negotiator, always delivering the best service and never compromising on quality.
Yes! I joined the hotel industry because of my aunt, Donna Kairupan, who was one of Indonesia’s first female Sales & Marketing hotel directors. And I had the pleasure of working with Rosmalia Hardman, my Director of Sales & Marketing, back during my time at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta. Funny enough, both of them know each other well. Both are intelligent ladies, very driven yet passionate. But my role models are all women out there who work hard to pursue their careers and yet remember their role at home and strive to be good moms and wives.
Question 4. What were the sort of setbacks you suffered, and how did you recover?
I have had a lot of setbacks and with setbacks I have gained necessary experiences. Setbacks have formed the platform for succeeding. For me, success is going from one failure to another with undiminished enthusiasm. I try not to see life as a competition, instead I always challenge myself. For me, winning is sticking to my decisions and most importantly I try hard to see losing as part of winning.
In my 23 years of career journey in Sandimas, I’ve weathered plenty of setbacks, pulled through government fickle & often preposterous regulations, lost key customers, survived cutthroat competitions. However, the most recent setback, leading the company during the global pandemic and making decisions amid uncertainty, was the most challenging one.
I recovered by changing my leadership style from goal oriented to become more people oriented by learning to be more compassionate. Our company motto is safety of our employees first. We realised that during pandemics, we should be grateful if we can survive this pandemic, growth is a bonus. We didn’t impose target as harshly, we made a lot of exceptions and relaxed our regulations during the pandemics, but surprisingly I saw that most of my employees were actually at their most productive during the pandemic. We all have come to an understanding that the company is like the mothership that everyone has to maintain afloat, and everyone was doing just that.
For me, it is important to be original, be authentic, and keep innovating. You cannot stop innovating. People think because the Tugu properties are about history that means we stay in the past; but it is the opposite. To make art, history & culture — the inspiration behind Tugu — relevant to the general audience (some very passionate but many previously oblivious and uninterested) we must innovate all the time.
Without continuous new ‘contents’, we would have been left in the past, and our guests won’t keep returning. History, art & culture are the inspiration, but the experiences we offer must continue to be new and exciting for people to keep coming back. Also, innovation is not important just for your business to thrive, but for your personal growth and passion. Without continuous innovation, you will lose that energy to excel and to try to be the best in your field.
The pandemic was the apparent challenge. However, we tried to figure out how my company and I could still support the hospitality industry, especially our clients and friends. We met and discussed how we could collaborate with whatever resources they had. You reap what you sow, and when they were back on their feet, they always remember that you never left during difficult times. Our retainer clients and projects returned to us as soon as they had the capability.
Question 5. What advice would you give to a young lady starting her career today?
First, I would like to ask men to please remember that gender equality is not about women, nor is it about men. It is about human rights.
As much as we need #HeforShe we also need #SheforShe. I will always defend a woman’s right to her own choices, her own voice, and her own body. Her own life. In many parts of the world, it is dangerous to be a girl and to be a woman asking for human rights. Girls and women always must prove themselves to be just as good, if not stronger and more successful than boys and men. We see too many aggrieved men who project their own frustrations into misogyny in all countries and cultures. It is being projected in systems, at the workplace, through traditions and jargons. My advice to all young ladies is to stay true to yourself and follow your heart. Never accept to be treated unfair or unequal. Demand the same opportunities as boys and men. And support each other.
Stay focused on achieving your goals, keep your eye on your own prize, not others, so that you don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to someone else’s success story.
Maybe most important of all: I don’t believe you can be successful in something you don’t enjoy. So have FUN in your work, because work and fun must not be two separate or opposite things, it should be one and the same.
Always believe that you have the same opportunities and are able to be as good a leader as men can be. Be honest, humble and polite. Be confident, professional and know your stuff. Do not be afraid of asking for advice and learning from your peers and superiors. Most of all, be kind and have fun while you are working and making your way to the top!
I believe that the true strengths of a leader come from education, knowledge, experience and continuous learning.
I started my career as an intern in the PR department, and I’m genuinely grateful for that. I went through every step and level to be where I am today. I got to learn and understand more in every process. Start your career from the ground up. That way, you’d have better knowledge and appreciate every achievement.
Thank you, we could not have asked for more sincere and enlightening answers. We hope you can continue to be successful for many years and prove through your success that the way is open for the young women of Indonesia to pursue their own careers.