What My Former CEO Taught Me to Become A Future CEO

I’ve always been a firm believer that having a mentor is the most efficient way of learning any subject. It prevents us from unnecessary trials and failures. With their abundant experience, a mentor would know how to maximize our potentials by helping us focus on acquiring the crucial skills and knowledge to succeed in our respective career path. Through mentorship, we can accelerate our learning process by absorbing years of experience lessons that our mentor has to offer.

During my college life, I am grateful to have enjoyed mentorship from my seniors, be it in Model United Nations, debate, or organizational activities. Those mentors of mine have been my role models, as well as advisors, to strive both inside and outside of classroom. I constantly benchmarked my achievements to theirs and learnt various lessons from them. Even after I graduated from university, I always seek a mentor to become my professional role model. This is why, when I saw the opportunity of mentorship that I could attain in one of the most well-renowned global chat messenger companies, I knew that I had to apply and join them right away. Long story short, the Universe was being really kind to me—I was accepted by this prestigious company as their Business Analyst.

After 3 months working in the company, I mustered enough courage to ask the country’s Managing Director for a 1-on-1 session with the purpose of attaining feedback and asking several questions related to my personal development. Much to my surprise, he welcomed the idea and was willing to set up an appointment with me. During the session, we discussed my work performance and talked about my aspiration for a mentorship. The Managing Director told me to ask anything, so I asked the following question—what should a fresh graduate learn early in our career to strive in the future? The answer he gave me was priceless. Based on his experience, he said that there are at least 3 things that I need to learn if I want to lead a company someday.

Know How to Make Decision

Early in our career, most of our duties usually revolves around executing a certain task. Usually, people from the senior management level are the ones who make the decisions, and they will assign some tasks to us for execution. This method often results in us focusing too much on how to best deliver our work, without trying to understand why and how the decisions are made. Now, this isn’t the wrong way to go. However, if we are aiming to be a great decision maker in the future, we should learn how our leaders and the company make a decision. That includes the steps to make the decision, aspects to assess, and the risk management involved.

By learning how the leaders and the company make a decision, we would gradually learn how to replicate the process on our own. We know what we should do before making a final call, we know what sort of information that we need to have, and we know how to make a decision with calculated risks.

In an established company with multiple layers of decision-making process, we can learn a lot from the procedure, as the company already has a mature system to assess options and minimize risks. However, if we work in a startup, chances are you need to take more initiatives to ask the decision-makers why and how they make the decision, because oftentimes we will be faced with a situation that requires you to be more independent and swift in the decision-making process. Furthermore, we need to also learn the bigger picture behind every decision that our company makes. Learning those things would strengthen and accelerate the improvement of our decision-making capability.

Learn How to Learn

With the world changing so fast—especially in the tech industry—we cannot simply rely on our past experience. Instead, we need to have the skills that help us adapt with any situation we are in.

The second skill that we need to acquire early in our career is learning agility. It is a skill to be a quick learner who is able to rapidly study, analyse, and understand new situations and business problems. In short, it means being adaptive and creative in solving problem in a new environment.

To strengthen our learning agility, we need to learn how to learn. Knowing the right learning techniques suitable for ourselves will accelerate our learning process when we face a new subject or field. More than that, we need to sharpen our creativity. This means that we need to be open to a wide array of ideas and accustom ourselves to see a problem from different angles. By doing so, we should be able to come up with a fresh idea as a result of combining our past experience and current challenge.

Without learning agility, an experienced person might face a failure, simply because the past strategy no longer works in the new situation. For example, someone who previously worked in an established company and moved to a startup might not be able to apply a proven successful strategy from their previous job because the startup doesn’t have the same financial or human resource capabilities. It also applies when we get a promotion. Sooner or later, we will get promoted to a new position or field which we are not familiar with. In that case, only those with a strong learning agility can consistently perform well.

Master How to Present Ideas

Lastly, this is a basic yet crucial skill: communication. As a fresh graduate, we often overlook our communication skills. We think it’s people’s fault that they couldn’t understand our million-dollar ideas, while it actually stems from our failure in presenting the ideas to others.

Communication skill is definitely something that we need to learn early in our career. In presenting our ideas, it is important to have a clear structure, sound reasoning, and well-thought out details. This applies for both written and oral communication. Whether we are presenting our ideas in a meeting or in an email, we need to always have it. On written communication, we need to remember that we have less control over the audience. This means that we should explain our ideas in a more detailed manner to prevent any misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

In an actual meeting, we might have more control over audience. However, in oral communication, other factors become more important—our voice, intonation, emphasis, and body gesture play big roles to strengthen our message. Here’s the Managing Director’s favourite video which he usually watches before going on stage.

I worked with Pak Ongki Kurniawan for 5 months and have learnt so much from him within the short amount of period. Indeed, am so grateful for the opportunity and the mentorship he gave me. Wish you the best for your next journey, Chief!

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