From LA to Indonesia: Opportunities, E-Commerce and the Unknown

With special edits by Jocelyn Kaylee Neo

Whilst waiting for our chat, I had the impression that Yody might be a reserved person. Our very brief and short-lived email exchanges certainly had me fooled, because I later found out for myself just how chatty Yody can be. He was extremely willing to share about anything I asked – from where he studied to his experiences working in startup environments. Most of all, he’s knowledgeable in his field, is approachable and is very kind.

Yody is our Project Manager. He spent 9 years in America studying and working, before deciding to return to Indonesia for a new challenge. In our conversation, we discussed how he switched gears from engineering to business, and the deciding factors behind moving back to Indonesia for work.

Here’s how our conversation transpired.

A family portrait on the grounds of Purdue University to mark the end of Yody’s university education

Jessica: Hey Yody, thank you for meeting me today!

Yody: No problem at all, Jessica. I do love a good chat.

J: I’m so glad to hear that. Shall we begin with your time in the US? I heard you studied and worked there. How did it all begin for you?

Y: Yeah, I was in America for a total of 9 years. I took an Engineering degree there, began my career with a medical device startup company and later continued my studies by doing an MBA. I figured it would be a solid mix to propel me for my future endeavors. 

Start-up life: Yody stands proudly representing his company at a recruiting event at a University

J: Medical device, wow! Hey, I’ve heard something about this… The company was very new at your time of joining and the local regulations hadn’t even allowed you to market the product yet, right?

Y: Haha! I don’t know where you get your information from, but that’s right! Authorities take medical devices very seriously, and with good reason too. There were many levels of permission that we had to overcome, before we could begin marketing and selling our product. My role back then mainly surrounded conducting multiple clinical trials and getting us in line with Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. As with all startups, my team and I experienced a real sense of urgency and worked our hats off to make the business goal become a reality.

J: How exciting! Did your guys manage to get the necessary stamps of approval?

Y: Yes! We passed FDA’s requirements, and later got acquired by Boston Scientific. Pretty cool, don’t you think?

MBA: Yody together with his friends at Kellogg School of Management.

J: Very cool indeed! I can’t imagine how that feels like though – going through the whole nothing-to-something process and journeying along with the company towards its success. Did everything make sense to you as a 20-plus young adult?

Y: It certainly took awhile to me to comprehend the good news. Not every startup comes out of the deep end breathing and still alive, you know? We were one of those companies that were blessed beyond measure to have caught the eyes of investors who believed in us and our cause. No success comes without hardship – I’m just amazed that I had the opportunity to experience such an accomplishment so early on in my life.

The BCG Indonesia Team celebrating their victory at the annual BCG All-Hands Competition

J: That does sound like a rare experience, and an incredible one too! What’s next for you?

Y: Indonesia, which is why I’ve moved back now haha! I’d like to think that in order to truly grow, we ought to constantly challenge ourselves. The medical device industry in the US was getting too familiar, and I wasn’t exactly learning anymore. I decided that I’d move back to Indonesia, seeing as it’s one of Asia’s hotbeds for business.

Upon my return, I joined Boston Consulting Group (BCG). That brought me on quite the adventure. I got to work with so many talented teams, had access to many learning opportunities, and gained valuable knowledge along the way. I became equipped with skills and experiences that are now helping me with my current role in Shopee – strategising, forecasting needs, giving presentations, managing people et cetera.

Yody convincing the crowd at a Young Leaders for Indonesia event to apply for Shopee’s Regional Management Trainee Program

J: No season is a wasted season, yeah? But hmm… Jumping from a consulting company to the e-commerce industry is quite the leap though. Was this a purposeful career move or an opportunity-based one?

Y: My liking towards this industry began long ago, when it was just beginning to be on everyone’s tongues. There’s always something new happening each day; companies grow and shrink all the time. The way I see it, everyone chips in to build the industry. And yet, there will only be one winner who will ultimately emerge and end up usurping everything – users, market shares, talent. So yes, entering the e-commerce industry was a deliberate move.

As for Shopee in particular, I chose it primarily for its speed of growth. It really fascinates me how it has taken only a very short amount of time to become able in competing with other e-commerce companies, which have been around for a comparatively longer time. It’s interesting, though. Every e-commerce company participates in what I’d like to think of as a presidential campaign. The players pitch their ideas and strengths, and everyone else votes by taking their side. Joining an e-commerce company is a little like that. So yes, I definitely did my research before voting for Shopee!

Tumpeng for all: A traditional tumpeng (yellow rice dish) to commemorate a big celebration, this time it’s for the opening of the warehouse

J: Aah I see… I’m so glad that Shopee won your vote! Working with a company that’s growing so rapidly, has there been a particularly mountainous challenge you’ve faced so far?

Y: Hmm, it’s difficult to define that, because my capacity grows together with the difficulties of my challenges. And as my capacity enlarges, so do the demands of the challenges. It’s a chicken-and-egg kinda of thing. But to give you a concrete answer… Perhaps my challenges are often found in doing projects that I’ve never done before? What I have on hand right now might make a good example. Someone mentioned to me, “Yody, I think we need to build a warehouse.” That sentence right there became the challenge for me to solve. I didn’t know where to start! Haha!

That’s when I was forced to get creative and be resourceful. I quickly acquired people and formed my pioneering team. From there, everything fell into place one puzzle piece at a time. At this point, I must stop to thank Shopee’s supportive system – here, I’m provided with everything I need to get my job done. From a one-sentence initiative, this warehouse challenge has became one of my greatest accomplishments thus far.

Posing proudly with the team: together at the launch of Shopee Express.

J: Wow, that’s an inspiring story. I can’t believe you built our warehouse from scratch!

Y: Well, my team and I did. Yeah, it’s nostalgic, thinking of how we first began and where we are now. Being present with the company and experiencing success through various projects, I definitely feel like I’m a part of this place. It really reminds me of when I was at Kellogg, doing my clinical trials and finding all ways to get the FDA approval. We started with very little back then as well, and went out with a bang. With Shopee, the narrative is similar. I started small here, and have since worked my way towards many big and small achievements. Nothing is insignificant – we’re all cogwheels in a large engine and every contribution makes a big difference.

Excited for his projects: the one sentence vision, slowly become a reality

J: That’s a wonderful way of putting it. You’re a very insightful person! At this point, perhaps you might have a few words of advice for readers who’re interested in joining Shopee but are afraid of stepping into the unknown?

Y: You’re saying it as if I’m this ‘guru’ haha. Well, how should I put it? Start by removing the word ‘unknown’. If you don’t know what’s in it for you, ask around. There’s bound to be someone in your social circle who’s either already working in Shopee or knows someone who does. Try to get the information you need from us and don’t be afraid to reach out. We’re pretty friendly and we’ll tell you what you need to know.

Another thing to consider before joining would be to think of the “give and take” aspect. What can you give to Shopee that you’re sure will somehow add value? And ask yourself, what is it that you want to take from Shopee? What is it that you want to learn? Maybe an opportunity to create a team or even influence one? Maybe being a mentor? The options are endless! Try changing your lenses and ask yourself these questions. It will be rewarding to take that leap and find out how you can become a great impact to our company.

Thank you, Yody, for your wise words! This has been a great conversation. For career opportunities, check out our website. To find out more about our life at Shopee, check out our LinkedIn page. To read more articles like this, watch this space or follow our author Jessica Sihite. Till next time!