Familiar and Unfamiliar Territory

By Michelle Tan

I was part of the second Resource Global Chicago Cohort (2017-2018). And recently, I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker in one of the workshops at the LEAD conference in Jakarta. The vision for the LEAD Conference is creating better companies, lead to better cities, and ultimately a better world. This was an initiative that the Jakarta Cohort Alumni had proposed to help their own employees in Jakarta.


Therefore, I had the privilege to talk about how to improve finance processes with technology. Preparing for the presentation was challenging because I realized that although I identify myself as an Indonesian, I have never worked in Indonesia and have limited knowledge about what the marketplace in Jakarta is like. 

Fast forward to the day of my workshop. My presentation went smoothly, but I quickly became aware that the business environment in Indonesia is so different. My audience consisted of mainly mid-management workers and below. And not till after my workshop did I realize that most of them only really used Microsoft Excel as their main technology tool and even some others who worked in family owned businesses still just used paper documentation. 

Although my main goal of participating in the conference was to give back to the people in Indonesia, I felt like I was the one who gained valuable perspectives. I started to understand what work life is like outside of the United States and learned about the roadblocks that are preventing businesses in Indonesia from advancing, ranging from financial to cultural reasons. Last but not least, I gained an appreciation for the values that we so often take for granted in the States, whether that be values of equality, fair pay or even general business ethics. 

In contrast, during the conference, I was also able to meet some of my amazing peer presenters who were working for corporations in Indonesia. These were young leaders (all from previous Jakarta cohorts) who were just a couple of years older than me, but many were leading billion dollar companies and affecting the lives of thousands of employees. I am amazed at the things that God is doing through these young leaders, and amazed to see their heart for the city of Jakarta. They were a real life example of Jeremiah 29:7 where God asked us to seek the prosperity of the city where we are sent exile, for its welfare will determine our welfare. Not to mention their incredible humility, courage and faith while taking up such challenging roles in a difficult business environment and climate. 

I am coming back to the US with an encouraged and excited heart; knowing that God has given me the strength to make a change that God has given my peers in Indonesia. My battlefield and challenges here may look different, but my heart for the people of the city where I live in remains the same. I am blessed to have been able to participate in the LEAD conference, my physical body is exhausted but my heart is so full!

Michelle Tan was part of our Chicago Cohort in 2017-2018. She is originally from Indonesia, but currently resides in Chicago with her husband Sean. She currently works for an consulting firm specifically in the finance and accounting area.