A sunny Saturday afternoon spent indoors all suited up and shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers seems like a mediocre event. But PPIA Monash’s Australia Indonesia Business Conference (AIBC) at Monash University Conference Centre was anything but that!

The inspiring lineup of speakers guided us all through the tasks for the day (21/04): breaking barriers and building connections. After the opening address and welcome, everyone headed off to hear from speakers in one of two panel rooms. I was fortunate enough to hear from 2Tor Co-Founder Lawrence Tann and AIC Engagement Coordinator Ghian Tjandaputra.

From b-boy to 2tor

Lawrence focused on how he found the courage to start his own successful business called 2Tor, an app for peer-to-peer mentoring. Dressed in a smart white shirt, he surprised us all in explaining how his idea for this newly launched app came from breakdancing. As a b-boy (break-dancer) he wanted to help his friends get recognised and find work.  From this humble beginning he was quickly shut down because the idea was too niche.

Along with friends, he went away and took on a ‘normal’ office job, but just could not let go. They took their Monash business studies to task and built a business case and plan which lead to successful seed funding. Now, they have 4,000 pre-registered tutors eager to teach what they know across Melbourne. 2tor is focused on making sure these people are quality and safe while rolling the company out. Lawrence said he broke into this space by never giving up and staying humble. This ensured he continued to build a community to support his app and personal growth.

From student to diplomat

After a bite for morning tea and a chat with new friends, I sat with Ghian from AIC for his talk. He provided a lively talk that went to space with Elon Musk before finding his ikagai (which is Japanese for purpose based on a very intersectional approach). Ghian got the audience to question their bias through Musk’s ‘first principles thinking’ approach. From this interrogation of fundamentals Ghian elaborated on how he applied this to question his own assumptions about seemingly being fated to go from Monash directly to Indonesian Government diplomat.

In question time, Ghian elaborated that nine years of being outside Indonesia has been important in developing the critical distance needed to see the first principles of his thinking. This made it easier to establish ikagai, which is about more than passion. He emphasised that people need to do more than do what they want to do – do what you enjoy and help the world.

Using this nuanced self-awareness, he has launched into a four-year (and counting) career with the AIC, diplomatically strengthening the bilateral relationship. Further crowd questions uncovered that his key value is diversity; this has enriched his ability to embrace different people and ideas in his work. Diversity and community launched these two careers through persistent barriers.

“Failure is learning, and humility is hunger”

Meanwhile, AIYA Victoria President Stephen Sebastian Tedja listened to innovator and businessman Alexander Rusli, before we both sat down with him for his thoughts on breaking barriers at the end of the evening. This was an exciting talk that covered his interesting career, tips for students and graduates plus some ideas on the Australian-Indonesian relationship.

Alex has worked in many different companies and industries, liking being someone who solves problems by taking action. Alex explained how opportunity and personal interest drove him to move between diverse roles, including as Australian academic, Indonesian government advisor, technology innovator and more. Alex enjoys using quick concrete decisions to be constantly impactful by addressing core issues. An awareness of the market is essential, which is why he praised government culture shifts that promote people faster so they are better able to make realistic changes for Indonesia.

This man of action stressed that failure is learning, experience is growing, and humility is hunger. These three maxims combine to make a graduate a powerful recruit who adds value to an organisation. His other ingredient is speed; the world is fast, so make mistakes quickly, learn quicker and get the next opportunity faster. Alex stated “the fear of failure needs to be erased … to pivot quickly” towards the next opportunity.

He also stressed that if you aren’t working, make plans and connections constantly – just like the conference attendees. Alex emphasised that students must balance study with getting on-the-ground insights; study and then work to chase your passions with experience.

Building resilience through shared communities

After a short snack and room change we were back to the plenary to be delighted by Monash Business School’s Director of Engagement Professor Edward Buckingham. Despite the casual presentation sprinkled with Indonesian and Mandarin, he gave our minds some serious work.

Everyone explored Donald Rumsfield’s known-unknown matrix to build strategies that get us out of routines and address the unpredictable. Professor Buckingham urged the students to find commonality in the uncommon, to go beyond their familiar friends, and to seek new experiences. Professor Buckingham closed with how getting of your comfort zone is about getting in touch with ideas you have not thought of before. Transforming the uncomfortable and the unknown is the professor’s advice to break barriers.

AIYA later chatted with him and focused on strategies to build resilience through shared communities. He discussed how getting in early with a network like AIYA is important to make lasting connections. This gives students the opportunity to have new experiences they would have never dreamed of, and also to build resilience. He added that sometimes, diving into the deep end can be too much, so you need to know your boundaries and be aware of others’ limits too. His advice is for students to record their experiences, set regular goals to expand their world, and reflect on change often.

More poor Indonesians than the Australian population

The day didn’t end there! Pak Eko Putro Sandjojo, Indonesia Minister of Village Development, Disadvantages, Regions and Transportation, captivated the crowd with a detailed explanation of his Ministry’s work. Pak Sandjojo made it quickly clear that he is a hard-headed man with a head for facts.

He draws motivation to act from the fact that more Indonesians live in poverty than the population of Australia. His passion keeps him calm under immense pressure. Mr Sandjojo stamped out corruption in his own department, lifting them up national public service ranks and gaining acclamation. One thousand employees were found corrupt according to an official investigation. He had no problem standing by his decision, which is admirable given the months of protests and legal proceedings against him.

Mr Sandjojo emphasised it is up to strong government administration at a village level to lift people out of poverty. That is his focus in delivering training, audits and targeted construction works across Indonesia. Yet just as he focuses on Indonesia beyond the city limits, Jakarta awarded him a prestigious public service medal. They recognise that strong villages reduce the strain on cities like theirs, which are already overworked.

He finished with a reminder from Made Utari Rumyanti that it was Kartini Day, and explained how his wife has been instrumental in his extraordinary efforts to break barriers in his work.

Final thoughts

Over some delicious dinner (thanks Bu Diana!), AIYA got the exclusive chance to chat with Lutfi, PPIA Monash Co-Project Manager for AIBC 2018. The motivated team leader is studying a Bachelor of International Business and Political Science to get a hard start on his future in the Indonesian public service. For Lutfi, this was a chance to get inspired and discover some real skills in project management.

Mr Sandjojo made it clear to him that you need to lead with faith and surround yourself with great people to make excellent things happen. This clearly was already in his mind as evidenced by the quality international event- speakers came from across Australia and Indonesia to inspire people on this day. Lutfi made it clear that PPIA Monash has responded to their members interests when selecting this topic. He discussed the trick in balancing studies with passion to make a future for yourself.

The idea of getting out of your comfort zone requires breaking barriers such as fear of unknown. That is what Lutfi hopes people got from the conference; a bit of confidence and insight to do what you want to do.

With the day done, it was all about what we can do. Going forward, how can we break barriers every day and reach the next goal? If you attended the event, this proved not too hard to do with so much semangat on show and new friends for a passion-filled future.