Alumni: Hartanto Santosa (alumni angkatan 1972)

From English Department to Top Management Positions

Hartanto Santosa (alumni angkatan 1972),
Taken from Morning Star Magazine (Alumni’s Magazine)  Reuni 2002 Edition

Hartanto Santosa, Jakarta

After I finished my high school studies I never expected to study English as a major subject. Most of my friends wanted to study engineering, medical science or chemistry, and so did I. The first subject I had in mind was medical science and second was psychology. But God’s plan was different than mine! When I was registering for medical studies at UNDIP Semarang and STKM (Malang) they found that I suffered a minor color blind. Ghost, this was the first time I knew it and got shocked.

Both medical schools in Semarang and Malang recommended me to study engineering as supported by my best grades in math and stereometry, but deep in my heart I didn’t like the subject so much. Under such a pressure to decide what to study I came to Salatiga with a few friends, all wanting to register for Satya Wacana Electrical Engineering Faculty. The night before the registration day we stayed at a student dormitory. Something strange things happened that night! I went through the night dreaming about my future with questions such as: why should I study a subject I don’t really like?, What will happen if I drop out in the middle of the study? I like English as a foreign language, but why should I study it for 5 years, etc., etc. All of a sudden a flash of idea came into my mind: Why don’t I try to study English and get my bachelor degree in 3 years before I study something else? I challenged myself with this idea almost the whole night, but I still couldn’t decide until I fell asleep. The next morning when all of my friends were ready to leave for the Satya Wacana campus, I told them I might not join Them. They were surprised and asked “Why?”. I told them, “I have changed my mind and now decide to study English first”. They asked me again, “Do you want to be an English teacher?”. “No, I want to study another subject such as Psychology, but I still think English is important for me as a basic subject for further studies. You know, almost every advanced study needs a lot of readings in English”. My friends got surprised with my determination, but none of them expected that such determination would one day bring me up to the top.

After I graduated from the bachelor-program, I changed my mind again to continue my study to the ‘sarjana lengkap’ program instead of taking another major study. But this is parts of God’s plan upon my life! If I had not continued my study at ED-UKSW I would not have met and married my wife Sherlly who was my junior (ED-er 1975).

Leaving Satya Wacana at the end of 1976, I started my job search in Jakarta. The first priority in the list of job prospects was foreign embassies. The first embassy I came to apply for a job was the Australian Embassy. I was so lucky to be accepted right away and start working the next day after a formal interview. I was assigned to the registry & filing section of the Australian Trade Commissioners. I did enjoy the job only for a few months as I realized that there was further prospect for career enhancement there. However, within the 5 months period I worked there I did learn quite a few things: English correspondence, filing system, diplomatic relations, legal contracts, and ………..last but not least alcohol drinking habit (don’t laugh!), something that may have helped bring me years later to the CEO position in one multinational beer manufacturing company.

In the second round of my career growth, again English proficiency proved to be so important. During my short employment at the Australian Embassy, I met a Malaysian businessman who was the managing director of a joint venture logging and wood-working company operating in Sumatera and Kalimantan forests. At first he asked me to do part-time translation for his company, translating business contracts and notarial deeds from Indonesian to English or vice versa. Very soon later he offered me a permanent position as office manager for his group of companies (with 11 subsidiaries altogether). Here I really learned a lot of diplomacy and lobbying. The Malaysian partner requested me to play the role of a “secretary general” to lobby the 11 Indonesian partners who were mostly retired generals from the Army and Police. Not only that, I also handled legal, labor affairs and ………in the later stage also domestic marketing. It was so exciting! This is the first time I got to know about sales: how to sell sawntimber to the timber traders and wholesalers.

I don’t know whether fortunately or unfortunately my timber company had to be closed down in 1982 due to legal restrictions in log-exports. God knows! This is the beginning of a new era for me to move forward to a real sales & marketing arena. I was offered the position of assistant marketing manager in Wicaksana Group who at that time still owned Indomie-instant noodle factories . Again, English proficiency was a supporting factor in the job search, as my direct boss was a Singaporean. With all my previous knowledge and experience I learned very fast in this new company until I was promoted to the group marketing manager position within 1 year, and it took me another year to reach the group marketing director position. Another “jump” happened in 1985 when I was offered the position of Finance & Administration Director of PT Wicaksana trading & distribution division. I challenged by boss by asking “Why me? I have no financial background whatsoever!” My boss answered, “Well, I think you’ve got the foundation to cross the bridge. Anyway, you will learn it pretty fast!” At no time (after asking God in my prayer) I decided to take the challenge. But you know, being in finance department for 2 years cost me my hair! I started losing my hair piece by piece until half the original thickness at the end of the period. I told myself, “No, no more boldness!”. Does any one of you ever think that boldness means sexy? At least my wife does.

The story went on. I had to leave the company, bringing a new experience in consumer goods trading & distribution. I was offered a new role in general management (sales, marketing, finance, human resource, information technology, legal affairs, etc.), but this new role got something to do with women, i.e. Oh my God, this is the 3rd time I was surrounded by women: the 1st in my family where I have 6 sisters and only 2 brothers; the 2nd in ED-UKSW with majority female students. Not only that, I was appraised by 3 female bosses, supervising more than 20 female managers, keeping an eye on a few hundred sales promotion girls and beauty advisors, and last but not least working closely with beauty models. Where else in the world could you combine work and leisure like this? This made me stay for 10 years in this business. But I tell you what, I was lucky that my wife didn’t get jealous about my surrounding, perhaps because there were just too many of them to be jealous about.

After 10 years in the cosmetics business and its beautiful environment, I started to worry about myself. The longer I stay there made me understand women better, but understanding too much may make me one of them, too, ha-ha-ha. So, I got to make a move, back to men’s world where I belong. Under the strong appeal to stay on by my females bosses and managers, I hardened my heart and said “No”. I told them that I had built the company for 10 years and now it was their turn to continue building the blocks. By chance, my former boss in the Trading & Distribution company asked me to come back and help him pave the road to new business ventures such as modern logistics and hypermarket, which again require English proficiency as the businesses deal with multinational partners, particularly Americans and Australians. I like such a challenge! This was the first time I used CEO after my name. Nevertheless, I never forget that I owe ED-UKSW, as these 2 new business lines again require English proficiency, for I got to deal with foreign partners particularly Americans and Australians.

Though challenging enough, I only stayed for 2 years in the trading & distribution business. I thought it was high time for me to enter the professional circle! I got to combine everything in one basket: business portfolio, relationship, career, challenge, financials, etc. With this in mind, I tried to take a new challenge in a new, unexpected industry, i.e. the “beer” industry. But before I made up my mind, I “challenge” God by asking Him “Please cancel my plan and put something in my way to block me in”. It’s so funny, right? People always ask God to grant them what they want, but this time I was asking the other way around. You know, some of my close friends even called me personally, asking me to change my decision. They asked me, “Don’t you know that business carries a lot of risks and danger?”. “Yes, I do,” I replied, “but don’t you know that danger is my business, too? As long as I am confident that I can conquer the danger, I’ll be there!”. It was finally God who endorsed my decision by clearing away all obstacles. The more I tried to run away from this path, the more the company ‘choked’ me in. 4 years passed and I finally proved to my friends that I could pass the danger area UNHARMED and UNSPOILED. I did win the game! Even during this period I realized that most of my high school classmates who studied engineering were suffering so badly from the economic crisis. They commented, “We never think that English studies have brought you up to the top”. Many years ago they thought that English studies were just for would-be-teachers. They were among those who looked me down at that time.

The ball keeps on rolling, not only in the World Cup tournaments, but also in my career life. Again I enter a new era: moving FAMILY interest ahead than career. I have been separated from my family for 4 years ever since they migrated to Australia in early 1998. So, a joint decision with my wife was to start a new business which can bridge career and family. My wife and I prayed for it, and finally we received GOD’s answer. One of PT Air Mancur’s shareholders who lives in Melbourne did offer me the CEO position in the company whilst I am allowed to start a similar business in Australia within 2 years. That’s a very nice compromise, isn’t it? When I have started the business in Australia, I can continue serving the company as a management consultant , but more importantly REUNITE with my family.

To my juniors in ED-UKSW who are still in the campus, to follow my path is not really difficult. It’s just like building a new house. You have to start with its foundation. Indeed, English proficiency is a foundation already. The next thing to do is to find the right CHALLENGE AND PROBLEMS as a tool in your hands to shape yourselves into something you can be proud of (no matter how high). To delay a decision can be a solution already.

A more important tip is always remember that you must always involve GOD and FAMILY in every step. Never leave them even a second. My career stories show that God has changed my personal plans every now and then. I always ask LORD in HEAVEN, “Have I made the right decision, Father? If not, then correct me and guide my way.” This is the real key success factor, my friends! I can not imagine, suppose I insisted on studying medical sciences back in 1972, I may not become a successful medical doctor with a color blind defect. God knows me better inside out. As with family, though comes 2nd after GOD, He has made our family part of our life, too. We must involve our spouse or parents in every big step that may influence the family life. With GOD in our right hand, and FAMILY in our left hand, we should worry about nothing!

To finish with, I’d like to thank all ED teachers, my seniors, classmates and juniors for your contributions in my life and career. I am proud of being an ED graduate, without which I would not have become what I am today.