Prior to leading the social startup pemimpin.id as its Chief Operating Officer, Benarivo had the opportunity to work in Germany. In this article, he shares the six lessons he learned from his work experience in both Indonesia and Germany. Hopefully, these lessons can help everyone in navigating the professional world!
When I was thirteen, I used to stare at a photo that my father took when he visited Germany for work back in 1989. He told me how innovative and open-minded the people are especially in the field of science and engineering, which made Germany one of the most powerful countries in the world. Inspired by his story, I was determined to one day be able to work there (I even bought a pair of sneakers with a German flag to motivate myself).
I was lucky that my dream came true in 2016. After a year joining Siemens ASEAN Engineering Graduate Program, I moved to Germany for an on-the-job training. After the training ended, I proceeded to work as a Project Manager in Siemens Germany. In the end of 2018, I decided to move back to support the business in Indonesia. I am currently leading a social startup, named pemimpin.id as Chief Operating Officer, focusing on providing self-development programs to the masses.
In this article, I will share three learnings I’ve gained from working in Indonesia and three learnings from working in Germany, which helped me to develop myself as an individual. I hope you’ll find these learnings useful in developing yourself.
Let’s start with the three learnings I’ve gained working in Indonesia:
1. Being culturally sensitive
Indonesia is a vast country with population of over 260 million people who are speaking more than 300 different languages and coming from 633 different ethnic groups. This reality can be seen in where I worked in Indonesia. Some of my colleagues are soft-spoken and some are quite loud. Some colleagues prefer direct communication, and some prefer to communicate indirectly. These diversities helped me to be culturally sensitive, which means I can acknowledge cultural differences.
This attribute came handy when I was living in Germany, because apparently people who came from different parts of Germany has their own distinct regional ‘mark’. For example, people coming from Saxony will have a different accent and dialect compared to people from Bavaria. Another example is to understand that not all regions celebrate a festival as festive as other region. Acknowledging these little dissimilarities has helped me to navigate my way in Germany.
2. Nice guys can finish first
In Indonesia, especially in Java, most of us are practically being taught to be nice all the time. Though people say nice guys always finish last, I would say otherwise. The teaching to be nice all the time has helped me to build my network in Germany.
One of the most taught act of niceness in Indonesia is conducting small talks. The stereotype that Germans have is that they do not like small talks. However this is not the truth, they like different topics of small talks than what Indonesians like. If Indonesian like to be asked about their family or whether they have had lunch, Germans prefer to talk about the weather, their last travel and their hobbies. Small talks have helped me to create a stronger bond with my colleagues and to understand them as individuals. I am still in good contact with most of my colleagues until this date.
PS: Please do not be nice only for the sake of being nice, but be nice because you really want to invest in others.
3. The power of hustle!
As a young professional starting my career in Indonesia, I am used to work extra hours. This turned out to be a great advantage when I was abroad. Because I needed to learn a lot of new things in Germany (i.e.: new process and tools, new language, new culture), I needed a high level of endurance, which I have trained and built through my experience in Indonesia.
Now, let’s talk about three things I have learnt from working in Germany:
1. Be open-minded
It is great be culturally sensitive. However, it is not enough, we need to be open-minded. This is crucial to be able to understand the reasoning behind people’s action.
Actions that might seem bad in Indonesia, may have different meaning in Germany. For example, in Germany, if there are two opposing ideas between two colleagues, open confrontation between them is expected and sometimes encouraged to reach consensus. This is something that is not widely accepted in Indonesia.
2. Please say No!
“Sorry, I am busy. I cannot help you”.
“Ben you should have said that you are overloaded. You are making us wait for you, this is a loss for all of our time”
These are the two conversations that I would never forget. I have been always the person who tends to say yes to almost everything. However, in Germany, it is important to keep in mind the consequences of saying yes to too many things. If you cannot reach the promised deadline, not only you are jeopardizing your reputation, but also the whole organization.
Note: Coming back to Indonesia, it is a lot more difficult to say no without any clear reason or negotiation. I find this as a positive thing because this condition challenged me to take my time to analyse and negotiate the deadline or the scope of projects before saying no.
3. Embrace being alone
Germany is an individualistic country, which means people tend to do activities alone as an individual. For example, eating lunch or roaming around the city centre on your own are not frowned upon in Germany.
At first, I was not comfortable of doing things on my own. However, I have learned to embrace and enjoy it. Being on my own has taught me to be more self-reflective. Moreover it taught me to be able to think on my own feet and not giving up to peer pressure. There are the attributes that I found beneficial along my personal and career journey.
All in all, having worked in Indonesia and Germany has given me a lot of life lessons to be a whole person. I hope you can use these learnings to your advantage, either in pursuing your own international career or in any other aspect of your life.
Don’t forget to always remember the lesson you acquire from your life journey, because as they say: experience is the best teacher
Photos provided by the author