Chasing Snow in the Winter Wonderland

Karen is a consultant in Maverick, who has been working for almost three years. She has been handling clients from different industries, including Microsoft and Sennheiser. Karen is a big fan of the K-Pop culture and sceneries. In December 2016, she took her Personal Development Fund to visit South Korea, the country that she has been dreaming of. This is her journey.

Living in the hustle and bustle of the capital city for almost a quarter of a century, I had been aiming to spending some of my time off in a much more tranquil place. A place where I can soothe my mind and gratefully rejoice the magnificence of nature. I usually relish this dream by watching movies at times, movies with beautiful nature as the setting.

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A Trip to the Star

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“There are two possibilities: whether we’re alone in the universe or we are not. Either way, it’s equally horrifying” – unknown

My interest towards space started not so early in life. As a kid, I was a coward. The slightest image of extra-terrestrial life can scare me to a sleepless night. This happened even with the popular ones like Star Trek and Star Wars. I always think it’s better if we are the one and only intelligent beings in the universe. As I grow up, I started to think otherwise. This earth is not expanding, but the people, on the other hand, are. Maybe the only way of mankind survival is an expansion to other planets, other solar systems, and other galaxies.

This is the main reason I wanted to see the Milky Way, our closest neighboring galaxy: to reassess my whole view about life.

And that’s what happened during the course of 10 days in a trip I took to Flores. I’ve never been to Flores, nor have I seen the Milky Way. That’s why when the trip organizer stated we’re going to “chase” the Milky Way, I know this trip is going to be extra special.

This trip is made possible by Maverick’s PDF – Personal Development Fund. As the name clearly stated, Maverick prepared a designated amount of fund for its employees to try something new, do something different, or travel to new places. This is a policy I rarely see anywhere in Indonesia, and its purpose to increase the productivity of the employees works very well with my colleagues. I have seen how some of my office-mates got home from their PDF-funded travels or activities feeling all refreshed and renewed; and this time, it’s my turn.

 

Overland Trip

For this trip, I know only the bare minimum information, keeping the suspense, just like how I did before watching any movies. I didn’t search my way through the internet about our destinations, I didn’t tweet or post anything about this trip online until two days before, to keep people from spoiling it, I didn’t even check the full itinerary. All I know: we’re going across from Ende to Labuan Bajo on a car, and then living onboard a boat. I didn’t even know how long each trip will be.

Arriving in Ende through a two-transits trip (Surabaya and Kupang, both are cities I never set foot before), the first thing I realized is the poster with the words “Ende, the city of tolerance” hung on the wall, a clear sign that I’m going to like this trip. And boy, was I right.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this trip is an open trip, which means there are 9 other people traveling together with me, from different backgrounds, different ages, and even different cities. It took us less than 24 hours to actually bond as a group. Even when three other persons were added to the group on the LOB (Living on Board) part, the friendship is still so warm.

On our way to Wae Rebo

On our way to Wae Rebo

 

The highlights of the trip:

  • We hiked Kelimutu, as early as 4.30 in the morning. The way up is nothing short of exhausting, but the view from the top is worth all the sweat and tears. I’m joking of course, there’s almost no tear involved.
  • I lived without any cellular signal and communication with the “outer world” when I was in Din Tor and Wae Rebo. The trip to Wae Rebo is twice as long as the Kelimutu hike, and almost twice as steep; But the view, the serenity, and the friendliness of the locals, left me with nothing else but gratefulness.
  • We got onboard the boat on the 7th day, and it’s nothing like I imagined. The boat was totally comfortable, enough for the 13 of us to sit around doing nothing comfortably.
  • During the island hopping to great islands such as Padar (where I witnessed one of the best view in the world as depicted below), Rinca (where I finally see a komodo dragon up close), Gili Lawa Darat (where I witnessed the Milky Way with my naked eyes), and many others, we took a short stop at the Manta Point. I can’t even swim properly, but I jumped into that strong current area to see the majestic Manta, and I regret nothing.
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Padar Island, one of the best view I saw while island-hopping.

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Sunrise in Lake Kelimutu

In one trip, over ten days period, I did more new things than I have done on the last 10 years of my life. That is where it hit me hard, that there are so many new things that I haven’t done. From the depth of the ocean, to the sky and beyond, humans are but a tiny speck of dust in the galaxy; and it really puts life into perspective. I went home from this trip feeling refreshed and renewed, ready to handle what life has prepared for me.

The Milky Way over Gili Lawa Darat

The Milky Way over Gili Lawa Darat

I thank Maverick for the opportunity. I never have imagined I would be lucky enough to be supported on doing something like this by the company I work for. Paying the employees with salary good enough for them to save up and plan a holiday is one thing, but setting aside a separate sum specifically for the purpose of doing something new and expanding horizons is extraordinary, at the very least; an extraordinary thing that I can’t feel thankful enough of.

Korean Bikini Girls and other memories

Andrew Seow decides to notch up some work experience and spent some time at Maverick soon after graduating. This is a story of what he encountered in the four months he was with us.

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What Non-Millennials Recruiters are looking for in Millennials

Maverick’s most awaited internship program, The Recruit, is back in its fifth year and still looking for passionate and fearless young individuals who are game for a one-of-a-kind internship program.

The Recruit offers final year students and fresh graduates an opportunity to fast-track their entry into the communications industry in a learn-as-you-go competition of PR skills that involves interning at Maverick, and then at prestigious workplaces at Microsoft Indonesia and Femina.

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A Second Home called Maverick

by Sylviana Tanery

“And when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” – Paulo Coelho.

It may sound a bit mushy but I so believe in this saying by Coelho, especially when what I want for my work experience came true.

Since I decided public relations as my major at London School of Public Relations Jakarta years ago, I have always wanted to become a consultant in a communications firm. And of the entire communications firm I know, I’ve always wanted to work at Maverick because of what I’ve read about how they think and work through their blogposts and having had a conversation with one of the Mavericks.

Knowing this fervent wish, the Universe probably conspired to make it come true. Through a friend of mine at LSPR came word one day that Maverick was looking for a part-timer. I immediately contacted them and one thing led to another and I was accepted to work there from November 2015 – January 2016

The task that I was given – data entry – was ostensibly not the most exciting, but I was hungry for new experience and plunged into it with enthusiasm. I’m glad I did because I soon realized that the seemingly mundane task of data entry was not just for any cut and dried database but for Maverick’s Community Database. Maverick keeps these data so that they can help communities in need of help or sponsorship link up with their clients, and vice versa.

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As I entered the data I came to discover which communities did what, whom among them are considered influencers and in what areas and so on. It was eye opening but little did I know that my experience in Maverick was about to get deeper and more exciting. I got to participate in organizing some of their internal and client events.

The first event that I was involved in was for the internal program called Catalyst. Maverick has been running this program for years and it is aimed at using Maverick’s expertise and networks to empower Non-Profits with skills and knowledge about how to communicate better. I performed the support functions such as preparing the certificates for participants and registering the participants at the day fo the workshop. What was important for me was that I got to observe close up how professional consultants functioned in the 1,001 things that one has to do before an event to ensure its success. I also got to observe how they interfaced with the participants to make them feel relaxed and involved.

I was also involved in helping to organize a Pecha Kucha Night Jakarta session with Technopolis as the theme. Maverick has held the license to hold Pecha Kucha events since 2010­. The Pecha Kucha Night event is a networking event which brings together creative minds from various background to share their experiences and insights in unique 20X20 format – 20 slides timed at 20 seconds per slide.

For a long time, I’ve always wanted to join Pecha Kucha events but didn’t have a chance to do so. And now I was not only at a Pecha Kucha event as the member of the audience but of the organizing committee! I was given the task of registering the participants but again it gave me a window into event organizing, the interpersonal skills needed to make guests feel at home and the amount of attention to details that went into making an event a success.

I was also lucky to be involved in one of Maverick’s many internal events – the Year-end and Christmas party. Even though I was an intern I was treated as a full-fledged committee member and had a great time learning and getting things done.

One other aspect of Maverick that I loved is the Sharing Session. They hold those regularly in between training classes so that Maverick resembled a campus where you are constantly learning, but with one major difference – you get to practice what you have learned right away when you go back to work. I learned a lot and it was particularly captivating learning from practitioners instead of just academics.

During my work experience, everyone was always attentive and ready to help, which really made me understand how to work effectively at the job I was doing. Everyone at Maverick inspired me to dream more, and on how to be a good communicator. I have become more familiar and confident with learning new skills, being punctual and came away with a deep understanding of working ethics.

All in all, Maverick has taught me many things. To always have an open mind and be willing to work in any type of work environment. To be willing to adapt in a new work place; and to always be respectful and kind to everyone in office.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.03.07 AMWhat I have learned in the span of less than three months will always be a big part of me growing up. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I am very grateful to all the Mavbros and Mavchicks for giving me the opportunity to work at Maverick and for making me feel welcome. Maverick for me is not merely a communication consultancy, it was more like a home away from home.

And when I complete my studies, I wish I will be able to come home.

 

How to be happy and grow a business with low staff retention

There was a time when we fretted about staff retention.

Like many others we adhered to the conventional wisdom that if you did everything right as an employer, then you’d have people working for you for a long time. Having people quit on you before they’ve served five years or more was an indication of bad management.

Not any more. These days we work on the basis that about 70 percent of the young professionals that we employ,  most of them being fresh graduates and coming into their first jobs,  will leave Maverick anywhere within 2 to five years – and this high turnover is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact we see this as something positive that will help us grow even more. let me explain.

Zul and Jojo's "Graduation Day" - Photo from Zul's Facebook Page

Zul and Jojo’s “Graduation Day” – Photo from Zul’s Facebook Page

You’ve heard about the Millennials and how they have different values from the older generation. They expect quick successes, they are taken up by causes and wanting to do good for society, they have options and they know it, money isn’t always important to them so long as they can pursue the lifestyles and goals they set themselves…

Much of this is true so, as employers what can we do about it? After much experimentation and making many mistakes, I think we’ve hit on a winning formula by embracing the limited “shelf life” of our recruits – most of whom come straight from universities because it is so difficult to get good, experienced professionals in the communications industry.

What we now do is to be extremely fussy about who we hire in the first place. We look for a can-do attitude, we look for intellectual curiosity, a growth as opposed to fixed mindset, and increasingly we look for grit. The young today grow up in relatively privileged and cocooned settings. Its not their fault. Even middle class parents these days can afford and do give their children a cushy life. And growing up in modern cities, with their share of criminals, predators and perverts, also means that their lives are protected in some measure.

The result is that very often they are insulated from failure or difficult choices and their consequences. Many of them may be very urbane, fun and even witty but when they face failure or pressure they crumble, succumb to anxiety attacks or take it personally – and become a pain to work with.

So these days we make it a point to ask job applicants to tell us about their failures and how they embraced them.  This sounds deceptively simple but I am amazed by the number of interviewees who cannot describe their failures, and consequently how they managed to embraced these failures. I remember recently interviewing a bright, articulate woman who had studied overseas and held several jobs but who could not bring herself to describe her professional failures. She could describe difficult times she faced but always added how she surmounted the difficulties. But she could not describe her failure that knocked her down to the extent that she had to pull herself up by the bootstraps.

Those that passed the grit test , however, generally tended to do well and suited to what we have in store for them – a fast and furious process of onboarding them with skills, experience, risk-taking and responsibility that will see them challenged but able to lead teams with great flair within one or two years. It then becomes their responsibility to onboard the fresh recruits, that we jokingly refer to as their “pets”, to become like them. And these “pets,” once they make it, will do likewise for the next generations.

And when it comes time for these Maverick-tempered professionals to leave us, we look at it as more of a graduation ceremony rather than a farewell ceremony.

Last Friday was the turn of two of the Mavericks who distinguished themselves over the past few years to leave. One of them was Zulfikar, a lifestyle journalist who joined us with a lack of confidence whether he would be able to make the transition into communications. He not only made the transition but went on to lead the team serving one of our largest and most demanding clients to the extent that they not only renewed our yearly contracts with them year after year but gave us a second account to handle earlier this year. He also managed to win the respect of his colleagues and almost everyone in the office with his mentoring and training of the new recruits, to the point that his “graduation” became a crying fest for those who felt indebted to him and would miss his leadership. But like many in his generation, Zul has an itch to scratch. His particular itch is in his feet and he wants to spend a year on a Work and Travel visa in Australia. We thought it was such a good idea that we gave him a Sabbatical – go forth and enjoy yourself and have many adventures, we said, and if you then want to come back to Indonesia and work in communications the job will still be open to you with all the privileges you earned intact.

The other Maverick to leave is Josfhine, aka Jojo. She had grit written all over he even from her first interview. She came to us unencumbered by the privileges of a well-off family, a straight As student, a volunteer in a teaching program for less privileged children and she took to the job like a duck to water. She was so good that within a year we were putting her, on light supervision from seniors, on one of our largest and most demanding accounts. And when the opportunity came — because a senior person left —  she was ready to take on the leadership of the team. She did that well, managed to onboard two other team members and train them and won praise from the client’s regional boss who was not known for his praise for “agencies”. And in the meantime she also headed a second team for an IT client. Jojo is leaving us because she won a government scholarship to the London School of Economics. When we hear the news all we could do was to share her joy, be extremely proud of yet another accomplishment in life and wish her all the best.

We’ve always tried to make working at Maverick a special experience for anyone who’s joined us. “Graduation Ceremonies” are no less different. On their last day of work, their colleagues organised a special day for them, getting them dressed in traditional clothes and getting them to perform specific assignments before holding an office-wide party to say bon voyage to them.

It is touching to see the outpouring of emotion by both of them and their colleagues, reminding me of the saying that our staff have coined about our workplace: “At other places you have colleagues, but at Maverick you make friends”.

Listening to them, I couldn’t help but feel plaintive but also contented that, according to them, no matter where they go and become in life, Maverick would always have a special place in their hearts because it it is to them all at once a finishing school, a training centre, a family and a repository of largely pleasant memories. Godspeed Zul, Jojo and the generations of Mavbros and Mavchicks that will be treading in their footsteps.

Both Zul and Jojo might come back to Maverick or they might go on to other things and places. Whatever they do, however, its kind of cool to think they they will always consider themselves as Mavericks for life, like their predecessors who form a great alumni faculty to share experiences and help train the next generations of Mavericks. And thus the wheel turns.

 

Saying No to the almost perfect candidate

We’ve been interviewing many candidates for our consultancy lately and this week we came across a seemingly perfect candidate.

She was a communications major from one of the best schools in Indonesia. She had drive. She knew what she wanted. Unlike most in her generation, she was also knowledgeable in socio-political issues and she had idealism and passion. She even researched us and read all our blogs. Yet we turned her down and here’s the reason why.

When the interview conversation got to what she saw herself doing over the next two to three years, she had it all planned out: “I want to get two years job experience and then I want to go for my masters. After that I want to be a special staff in the government.”

That’s all fine for you, I replied. You get to chalk down that you have two years experience and that would put you on a good platform to get to go to a good graduate school. But what about us the employer? What do we get out of it.

She was a bit stymied and replied something along the lines of how we’ll get a hard-working, quick learning employee bla…bla…

I liked her and sought a compromise: “There is little benefit for us to take you on if you only want to stay two years. Time passes very fast and in 1 and a half years you mind will already be on applying for graduate school. In our experience you would have mastered the basics by the end of two years and begin to come in on your own as a professional consultant by the third year.

“So if you can commit to three years,” I said, “I could probably see you fitting in at Maverick.”

She wouldn’t commit. It then became obvious to me that all she thought of us was that we were a stepping stone in her career. To be stepped on to reach for something else, no emotional investment, on loyalties, no gratitude in this transaction.

It was then that I decided to turn her down because, as I explained to her, we invest a lot of energy in developing every candidate we take in to Maverick.

Once we decide to hire them, it then becomes out obligation to develop and train them in hard and soft skills and vest them with the ethics, integrity and mindset that we think would be becoming of trusted advisors to our clients.

If the candidate works out, we expose them to opportunities, training courses, even scholarships abroad and push them to be able to do things that they sometimes never dreamed of. And if, somewhere down the line, they decide to pursue their careers elsewhere we take pride in them carrying the Maverick values and work ethics wherever they go.

If a candidate does not quite work out  we would spend a lot of emotional and professional energy getting them back on track, coaching and mentoring them. If it still does not work out then, we’d find the best way for the candidate to carry on their careers elsewhere. Sometimes we even find them jobs with others where we think they’ll be able to perform well.

We do all this and more, and will continue to do so, even if it often feels as if this generation of job seekers take too much for granted, feel too entitled and as such has no space for values such as gratitude (of a firm that would take a chance on you – a new graduate with little knowledge and fewer marketable skills – perhaps?), loyalty and responsibility.

So we said no to the almost perfect candidate. But I can’t help wondering if we are just being old fashioned or are we doing the right thing. What do other employers and job seekers out there think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget Generations X,Y and Z; we have Generation E to contend with

The inspiration for this article is a post I wrote in Facebook after a university student wrote in to apply for internship via email.

The email looks like this:

CVAs someone who would decide whether to employ her I felt offended. Who is this person who would assume instead of ask for my attention? Why does she feel entitled to it with an email like that?

But being the softie I am I thought I’d better look at her cover note, just in case she might have been a diamond in the rough.

So I clicked on the attachment and saw this:

CoverIt’s not too bad a cover note as cover notes go but it also failed to impress, something she definitely had to do after dissing me off with her email. So I sent her a regret email with instructions on what not to do. I will be very pleasantly surprised if she replies to my email but somehow I think I would not.

Was she just ignorant or does she represent the youth of today that I shall call Generation E? For Entitlement.

Generation E are the kids of well-off, often educated parents. The parents can afford to send them to the best schools, employ maids and houseboys to do the chores at home, take them on holidays and buy them toys up to their early adulthood – X Boxes and dolls for the little boys and girls, sports cars and Hermes bags for the bigger ones.

I exaggerate here but the point is that this is a generation of kids that do not know what it is like for the family to worry about shortage of money or opportunities. The parents are also often well connected so opening doors for them is no problem. So life comes to them free and easy and they do not have to toil at things. There is a huge big safety net for them at all times that they would not need to pick themselves up after a fall, dust themselves off and get on with life.

The result: a generation of kids that feel that they are entitled to the good life, to jobs, to opportunities and to success, sans the hard work, sacrifices and grit that most of the older generation experienced to get where they are.

So when they write for internships, they assume that they are entitled to the attention. There is no evidence that they would put in some extra effort to learn about their target audience before writing in (if the intended intern had she should have come across this posting in this blog advising against some of the biggest mistakes committed by job applicants).

She is not alone. When I wrote on LinkedIn that we were looking for consultants I got responses from interested people with the following entry in the comments section: “I’m interested. Checked my LinkedIn profile [url]”. This persisted even after I commented that we would really appreciate them writing in so we can have a better understanding of how their minds worked through their writing.

There is also evidence of the more privileged feeling more entitled. Nia, who runs our internship program called The Recruit, tells me that there is a discernible difference in attitude between applicants from the prestigious University Indonesia and other universities such as Universities Gadjah Mada.

The UI students tended to take things for granted, seemed more self absorbed, were more confident (hubris?) and certainly less hungry to win the competition in The Recruit. The UGM and other “lesser” university students, however, were more hungry, grateful at being given the chance and worked their asses off. We had two interns, Ken and Rara from UGM with us last year and they were a joy to work with. Hard working, industrious, anticipative and intelligent they left us hankering for them to return to us after they completed their studies.

The Kens and Raras are a minority among the recruits, however. Most of them seem oblivious that one of the rules of life is that you have to pay your dues before you can be successful – and remain successful. Seduced by boy entrepreneurs ho made it big, we now lose a lot of employees who think that with a year or two of working life experience they can now be the wunderkind in start-ups or become entrepreneurs themselves.

So what to do with them? For the new intake we can only try to impress on them that success does not come easy, that there are not shortcuts in life and that grit and resilience will be invaluable when life throws a few lemons at you.

I keep thinking that we can perhaps do more to help them. (There is an interesting divide between those who think that we should mentor the intern mentioned at the start of this post, and those who think we should lose her. Read this thread. Its fascinating.)

But I also think that this process should start at home and it is for this reason that I’ve assigned my son to write a 1,00 word essay on what he thinks his life would be like if he exhibits all the qualities of Generation E. This is for starters. I’m devising other ways where he’ll learn not to take life and the good times for granted.

What do other parents do to make sure that their sons and daughters will have a successful career when they are no longer able or around to provide the safety net?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Whole New World in The Middle East

At Maverick, the employees are entitled to take Personal Development Fund (PDF) that can be spent to do anything to develop themselves personally. It can be attending a cooking class, undertaking a music course or even traveling to a destination you haven’t been before. The company realizes that professional development is not enough to make somebody a good consultant; personal development matters.

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Translating Values Into Action

Open. Creative. Innovative. Balance. Responsible. Respect. Happiness… you name it. Some companies and organizations adopt inspiring words and exciting ideas as their values: a set of words or ideas to live by—to guide them while they’re running their businesses.

Companies with strong corporate culture translate their values into action really well. For instance, when you’re coming to a company where the office “seems so friendly”, and everyone from the security guard, the office boy, the receptionist, to the staff, will smile at you and throw a friendly “Good morning!” at you while you’re sitting on their waiting room. You can definitely see how something is at work there. That something is the company’s values, well-translated and well-adopted at all levels in the organization.

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