I define success as being able to reach my goals but at the same time, making those people you are working with feel that they are being appreciated, valued and heard. I don’t define success as just being able to achieve those goals. In particular in the context of my leadership journey, success also means empowering others around you during your journey. Successful leadership is not just about reaching performance goals, it’s about reaching those goals whilst making absolutely sure that my team feels that they are valued, and treated with kindness and respect.
For me, I have always looked at democracy as something that I lived, I didn’t really learn it from a textbook. I have lived it. That’s where I come from. I was born in Indonesia and I’m Indonesian, but I grew up in the United States as a child and I really experienced an open society and education, where I was able to express myself freely in the classroom and I saw leaders also expressing themselves. So, I have always been very interested in this realm and the space of democracy. This led me to study Political Science and International Relations. I found I really liked learning and being around people. I loved exploring communities and learning more about different communities. I also enjoy being in a space where I am able to help others, where I am taking an active part in building communities, deepening the values of diversity and inclusion.
I am a Malay, Muslim woman. So ethnically and religiously, throughout my career in Indonesia I have always been part of the majority. And I was a minority as a woman. However, I am grateful that I have been surrounded by people who are supportive. I am the youngest daughter of 3 and my father was always very supportive. He always wanted us to get the best education and opportunities. I don’t think he was aiming to be progressive, I believe he was being a good Muslim by giving his daughters the best opportunities and encouraging us to do our best. There is a misconception that in Islam, women aren’t given the rights and opportunities but actually, if you look closely at the values and history of Islam, you will find that women are entitled to the same rights and opportunities. I got that strength from my dad and my mom, so I never felt held back. I took advantage of the opportunities afforded to me, and would always fight for a seat at the table when I’m denied it.
When I moved to Singapore, the dynamics changed. I am now a minority in both the country and company. There aren’t many Malay, Muslim women in leadership roles. I decided to use this as an opportunity to be in a privileged position of leadership. Therefore, I did have a role to play from that position and that as someone in leadership I have the power to be the reason someone feels valued, welcomed, seen, heard, and supported.
Be confident and know what you are doing. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard to get a seat at the table but once you get your seat at the table, be absolutely clear to use your voice and really know your stuff. Don’t waste that opportunity.
I would like to tell my younger self to know that my career is a marathon, and not a sprint. I can set certain goals and expectations for myself, but I also need to always remember to be kind to myself, and never, ever be afraid of failure. Failing is also an important part of growth.
I said yes to this photoshoot because I have a story, and I hope that my story can empower others. And if it can empower just one person, I am good. If it inspires more people, then that’s better! I have always and will always keep my door open for people looking for help or advice.