The oil and energy industry have their fair share of ups and downs in the economic cycles. The pandemic disrupted the natural flow of the industry, which caused several companies to be at risk. It was quite a challenge for industry leaders to deal with the adverse impact while trying to make the most out of the opportunities that presented themselves and have widespread in multiple industries.
However, women leaders in the oil and energy industry have consistently proven their authority and influence to impact the industry’s future substantially. Being a shepreneur in the oil and energy industry is scarce, but their significant perspective has always been reflected in taking the industry to achieve newer feats. These shepreneurs are now focused on innovating efficient services and applications to extend their offerings further to stay intrinsic and pertinent.
Imelda Harsono is one such shepreneur who utilizes her years of expertise to facilitate wide-scale adoptions of the services from her venture. As the Vice President of Samator Group, she oversees the technology and compliance along with information technology, asset management, legal, and procurement divisions.
Imelda is passionate about improving working-age Indonesians’ skills and education, which led her to join the Board of HarukaEdu, a company dedicated to providing technology platform solutions that enable affordable lifelong learning. In unison, she is also determined to enhance the digital transformation of her corporate group by establishing SamuderaBiruInternasional (SBI), a renewable energy company, and expanding into business process consulting services.
Let’s unveil her journey in the interview below.
How has your journey been so far till your current position at Samator Group?
I have had my fair share of challenges after I joined this company. Being the founder’s daughter does not mean that I had it plain sailing. Since the gas industry has been male-dominated, women need to work twice as hard as men to obtain the same level of credibility. During my early days in the company, I started from the entry-level position in the procurement department in 2003, just like other employees.
My greatest supporter throughout my journey has been my father. He told me that I could do anything I set my mind to, and he always reminds me that there are no shortcuts in life, that hard work and perseverance are central to success. His work ethic and hardworking attitude that he instilled in me allowed me to complete most of my achievements. Therefore, I am optimistic about actualizing my father’s goal for Samator not only to be a renowned company in Indonesia and Southeast Asia but also worldwide.
Tell us more about Samator Group, its mission, vision, and how you are spearheading its compliance and IT department.
Samator is the leading industrial and medical gas provider with the most extensive distribution network in Indonesia. Our products and services encompass the entire spectrum of the industry through the distribution of air and liquid gases in a variety of packages and containers and include personal and enterprise-grade medical equipment.
Our vision and mission are to become the most coveted company by providing the best for stakeholders, being committed to integrity & quality, and expanding the business area.
To consistently actualize our vision & mission and to cope with digital transformation in an ever-changing world, I established SamuderaBiruInternasional (SBI) in 2015. It is a consulting and renewable energy company with lots of digital projects that helps Samator in achieving an excellent business process by being more innovative, faster, and cost-efficient in the long run.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I try to keep my life balanced. Having some family time is the one thing that I always do when I am not at work. My husband and my kids are the dearest things in the world to me, so spending time with them is my favorite thing to do. We would play together, watch some movies, or even have a little getaway out of town.
Another activity I am most excited about is doing my hobbies. I really love running. It helps keep my body fit and stay in shape. When I run, I feel at peace because it clears my head and allows me to stay sharp at work. My other hobby is learning, be it through books or informal education. I believe in being a lifelong learner because changes are happening at a rapid pace. So, I need to keep up with it by continuously learning.
What drives you or inspires you?
The presence of my family, especially my parents, is exceptionally inspiring to me. Growing up, they always showed me how exactly things work in life. They never spoiled me and always taught me to be thankful for my things and not be selfish. My parents worked arduously for however long to give us the life we deserved, no matter the circumstances.
My father could build a minuscule into a super-mega business throughout Indonesia. Altogether, my mother is a housewife and a serial investor who has notably managed to educate her children. They both instil essential values in life, especially being diligent in becoming a better individual and prioritizing contributing to society. I have embraced not only formal studies through graduate, postgraduate, and certifications studies in 4 different countries but also being nominated as Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum for the class of 2022. I take pride in being a global citizen, and all of those things shape me into who I am today.
What challenges do you and your team face in daily operations? How do you overcome them?
Samator is one of the largest and oldest companies in the gas industry; many employees are categorized as Early Millennials and Gen X, more senior generations with deep industry knowledge and experiences. To pursue my passion for operational excellence and complement, I established SBI, which is full of tech-savvy Gen Z and Late Millennials.
By having these generations as one of my significant challenges, I need to encourage cross-generational collaboration effectively. I need to harness the respective strengths of their workforce to excel in the new digitized business processes and compete in the marketplace. Additionally, I also founded SamatorEdu as a corporate online learning platform to train every employee. With such implementation, thousands of employees of various ages can work well in multiple areas and is more efficient and scalable.
What are the achievements you are proud of?
Implementing GCG (Good Corporate Governance) and creating an appropriate legal, risk management & compliance system for the company.
Designing and implementing a centralized and integrated procurement system. This has resulted in a much better level of efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness which eventually led to strong synergies between companies under the group.
Bringing significant changes to the business by leading the end-to-end digital transformation of the group.
What is your opinion on diversity, inclusion and equity? How have you implemented it at your company?
I think it is a vital thing to take note of. Living in Indonesia makes me even more aware that we are tremendously diverse, or I can say that we are unique. My family is diverse, too, in terms of religion and race.
About my company, I believe that everyone has equal opportunity. We welcome everyone to work with us here, be it race, religion, gender, and more. What matters is the contribution to achieve the company’s goal together. Our employees are also diverse in terms of religion and race. Being a woman myself, I have seen how my company has regarded women’s opinions, looking at our board of directors. I personally believe in putting more women in the boardroom, too. That way, women are more included to make their voices heard in essential decision-making.
How do you maintain a balance between your personal and professional life?
I have set my priorities and boundaries. My personal interests should not interfere with the goals and plans of the company. That is the principle that I have been holding on to and has helped me so far. When it is the time for me to unwind, like when I am spending time with my family, I put away work-related things and just focus on them. It is like doing one thing at a time. Delegation is an important point too.
What are your future plans for yourself and your company?
To give maximum contribution to the company and country in this new environment amid the COVID-19 crisis and actualize my father’s dream to expand the company to a larger scale into a multinational company, I need to accelerate the digitalization transformation successfully. I want more young people to be part of our company achieve this goal, as they are more agile and more aware of technology development. It is because I believe that digitalization is inevitable and will keep on going at a rapid pace.
Therefore, I want my company to always be ready to face it. We do not just pertain to our existing digital initiatives since it does not rule out the possibility of adopting others to reap the benefits of both current and future technologies continuously. Additionally, I expect more branches across Indonesia to intensify our reputation, serve, and be available for more customers nationwide.
What is the best advice you have ever received in your life? What advice would you like to give to the upcoming shepreneurs?
The best advice I have ever received is from my father. He said that leading a company is like commanding a ship. The captain must be wise, firm, and always protect the crew. The captain is an example of the crew; in his hands, the ship’s fate lies.
To the upcoming shepreneurs, I know that many people will look down on you just because you are a woman thriving in a men-dominated world. However, that fact should not be a reason for you to back out. You do you, just keep going. Remember why you started all this. I can say that being persistent is key. Many shepreneurs are starting to get recognition nowadays, especially in Indonesia. You might be the first woman at the top, but make sure you won’t be the last woman at the top.