Nugraha Abdillah: Career Pause, Master’s Degree, and PPI

photo from interviewee

Nugra, an LPDP awardee studying in University of Manchester shares with us his experience and challenges of leaving his fast-paced career and pursuing a master’s degree.

Hi Nugra, can you please tell us about yourself?
Hi, I am Nugra, 25 years old, LPDP awardee (batch 140). Currently, I am studying Human Resource (HR) Development at the University of Manchester. Previously in 2016, I completed my undergraduate study from Universitas Indonesia (UI) majoring in Communication.

photo from interviewee
Nugra in front of his University of Manchester – photo from interviewee

After the completion of my undergraduate study, I started my career at Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia (CCAI) as an HR Graduate Trainee. After graduating from the trainee program, I got a promotion to be an HR Business Partner Analyst in March 2017. I managed HR related matters for 3 Departments, in which there were around 2000+ employees. Later on, I got another promotion to be an HR Business Improvement in July 2018, which was my last position in CCAI before my movement to Unilever Indonesia. I started my career there as an HR Business Partner in January 2019. I resigned in July 2019 to pursue my master’s degree in Manchester.

Apart from my job, I like to be active. I like to participate in organizations, including the ones that allow me to volunteer. Back in 2014 when I was still in my undergraduate program in Universitas Indonesia, I joined AIESEC (International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) and had a chance to volunteer in Poland.

As a student in Manchester, I am involved in two organizations. The first one is the Indonesian Student Association in Greater Manchester (PPI-GM). I was elected as a president since October 2019. The second one is the International Society, a part of the University of Manchester students union

So you had a bachelor degree in Communication, what made you turn to Human Resource?

I’ve always loved working in a communication-related field, since I love to deal with people. However, to be more specific, I am more interested in the internal communication part. I wrote my bachelor degree’s thesis on internal communication at Garuda Indonesia. Moreover, I also got two internships in the internal communication division in Prudential Indonesia and also in Central Bank of Indonesia. Those experiences sharpened my interest in internal communication.

When I got the opportunity to be an HR trainee in CCAI, I accepted it right away since the sector was my interest and I believed it would be a very good opportunity to develop myself as a person. Deep inside, I am totally aware that communication is an interdisciplinary field, and I believe that I need to expand my knowledge beyond that field. That is one of the main reasons why I chose to pursue a career in HR.

The other reason is in HR I have a big opportunity to be a “people person”. I can meet a lot of people, from the Board of Directors to the staff, especially in the diverse environment in the multinational companies. I love it when I can help support them to achieve their objectives and for me it is addictive. Without any doubt, I can say that after 3.5 years of working in HR fields, I love it more each day.

Nugra with Indonesian students in Manchester - photo from interviewee
Nugra with Indonesian students in Manchester – photo from interviewee

You’ve passed years working in big groups and international multinational companies, why did you choose to pursue your master degree and not on your career instead?

I always believe that education is very crucial. For me, pursuing a master’s degree is essential for my personal development. It is very important and will be useful for my career itself. I didn’t have any formal education in HR before this and I am certain that my HR degree is one of the key ingredients for my career progression. Moreover, studying abroad is a new thing for me. I took it as a challenge that needs to be conquered. This is a life-changing experience that will improve myself as a human being since I will need to take care of everything by myself, or in other words, to be independent. It also equips me with a global mindset which is very important for this globalised and very diverse world.

Working in several MNCs were precious experiences for me. It taught me a lot of things and it shaped me to be a better person. One of my plans is to work again in MNC after the completion of my master degree. Learning by doing is the best way to learn and I definitely can’t wait to go back.

Nugra in front of the University of Manchester
Nugra in front of the University of Manchester – photo from interviewee

Did you have any doubts before you quit your current job and do your master degree? What motivated you to finally make the decision?

It’s obvious and pretty normal to have a doubt. Deciding to do a career pause is not easy, especially when we are in the stage of a rapid career progression. However, I did not have any doubt about doing my master degree abroad since it was my top priority. For me, it was inevitable, it needed to happen, sooner or later.

I applied for the scholarship while working. Since the beginning, I had planned to pursue my master degree after 2-3 years of working. I wanted to be a better person, more qualified and competent, capable of doing more in order to support my future job.

The journey was not as easy as you would think. I got rejections from the scholarship body, I had to retake the IELTS test, I applied for several universities, added by a mixed feeling because I needed to leave my job, the job that I always dreamed of since the very beginning. Moreover, I needed to bid a farewell to a lot of supportive colleagues in Unilever. But who knows, maybe I’ll come back one day in the future 🙂

Getting rejected from scholarship bodies is totally normal. I’ve been through it, a lot of people too… I want to say that it is a common thing. For all of you who also got rejections, please do not give up. For me, the main key to winning a scholarship is by doing proper preparation. So, I did a lot of research and I did a consultation with my friends who were a scholarship awardee and it helped me a lot. I am sure that there are many scholarship opportunities nowadays and each of them has different requirements. Do proper preparation, do not forget to pray, and hopefully, your time will come.

You had a lot of volunteer experiences in the previous years, do you think it helped you to become a scholarship awardee in some way?

Yes. I think volunteering is really beneficial for our career. I got my first volunteer experience from AIESEC. In 2014, I went to Poland for the International Kindergarten project for 2.5 months during the winter break. My main responsibility was to teach them basic English and share some knowledge about Indonesia. But for me, the main important objective for that kind of program is to share friendship and diversity and to promote Indonesia to the international society. The other volunteering experience that I have is Indorelawan, an online-based volunteering community, where I can choose which kind of activity I want to participate in.

Volunteering really helped me since it always reminds me that we need to think not only for ourselves, we need to contribute more to society. It also helps me to expand my networking because I meet a lot of great people in my volunteering community. As a student in Manchester, I am still able to meet with my host family during my time in Poland, who is currently working in one of the “big 4” accounting firms in London. He helped me to settle in the UK, even prior to my departure. So once again, please do volunteer.

For me, students need to be fully aware that there are a lot of problems in Indonesia, and we need to be a problem solver after the completion of our study. I always believe that If I give more, I will gain more.

Several months after settling down in Manchester, you joined PPI Manchester and elected as president / head of this year’s batch, what motivated you to do so?

Yes, I have a big responsibility here 🙂 I want to help and support Indonesian students and citizens (approximately more than 450 people) in Greater Manchester. We have a lot of activities, both academic and non-academic, which hopefully can provide a memorable and meaningful experience for all of the PPI-GM members. I also want to promote Indonesia to the international society and I want to expand my network since there are a lot of talented students in the UK (both Indonesian or International student) which I believe will be a successful leader in the future.

I always think that networking is crucial to my life. I always try to create a genuine and mutually-beneficial relationship with people that I have met. We never know when we can help them or when they can help you in your life, so I always try to not only create a business-related relationship but also a personal one. Maintaining networking is one of the most difficult parts, which we need to put our focus on aside from creating it.

IM-Nugraha Abdillah4
Nugra with PPI members in a local event – photo from interviewee

What are your plans once you’ve finished your master degree? Will you go back to Indonesia and get back to the previous company you’ve worked for?

I will come back to Indonesia, I am looking for an HR-related job either in the Government sector, owned-state company, or a private sector. I need to wait and see what will come for me 🙂


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