Making an impact at home

Two Indonesian HR veterans share with HRM Magazine why they returned to Indonesia after long stints abroad.

Pambudi Sunarsihanto, Vice President of HR at Danone Aqua, and Reno Rafly, Talent and Organisation Manager at Accenture Indonesia, have each returned to Indonesia after long stints studying and working abroad.

They are among those who have answered President Joko Widodo’s call for Indonesians working overseas to return home to help accelerate the nation’s quest to become a knowledge and skills-driven economy.

Reno Rafly

Talent and Organisation Manager

Accenture Indonesia

Having worked in New York City in academia and as a professional for the previous 10 years, Reno Rafly says she moved back to her home country in 2017. She say it was the right time for her to contribute towards developing a stronger Indonesian workforce.

“I believe Indonesia has a lot of potential in building a stronger and more competitive workforce. What we need is the confidence, critical thinking and innovativeness,” she says.

Having been away from home for such a long time, Reno initially found it challenging to adapt to what she says was going from a low-context culture in the US (“telling it as it is”) to a high-context culture in Indonesia (“relying on context and unspoken norms”).

In addition, she also had to adjust her expectation on the concept of time, having to take into account Jakarta’s famous traffic jams.

However, she says there is still a sense of community amid the chaotic life in Jakarta.

“I know what I do professionally will make a difference in helping leaders and organisations to be ready for a better future. That, to me, is pretty rewarding,” she says.

Reno believes there should be a “string” between Indonesian talent overseas and their home country.

“As an Indonesian and a working professional, I know other people would love to return home. It’s just a matter of when and whether they believe they would get the same appreciation and acknowledgment,” she says.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunities to make a difference in peoples’ lives. If they are looking for a sense of purpose, now is the time to make a real impact to the Indonesian economy.”

Pambudi Sunarsihanto

Vice President of HR

Danone Aqua

After completing high school in Indonesia, Pambudi Sunarsihanto earned a scholarship to France, where he completed his Bachelor and Master’s degrees.

What followed was a long overseas-working stint which started at then French telecom giant Alcatel.

After moving to Nokia, Pambudi worked in Germany, Singapore and Thailand.

He went on to complete his MBA in Finland, and swapped his technical work for an HR role at Nokia.

“Moving from one country to another shifted my cultural understanding and that helped me influence others,” says Pambudi.

He says the countless overseas experiences have also built up his confidence and communication skills.

“Some companies try to send Indonesians overseas, but the talents are hesitant,” Pambudi shares.

“I wish Indonesians talents would be more willing to take risks, get out of their comfort zones, go to places they have never been, and discover things they never knew. Only then can they bring back their experiences and upgraded skills to Indonesia.”

This excerpt was part of HRM Magazine's HR Country Report on Indonesia, published in the July 2017 issue and available online here.

From South Korea to Australia, HRM Asia delves into the specific issues keeping HR awake at night in key Asia-Pacific markets. Check out all the other HR country reports here.


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