LESTARI MOERDIJAT

Lestari Moerdijat, Deputy Chair­man of Me­dia Group, has held top po­si­tions in more than 15 com­pa­nies. Her se­cret: “I’ve al­ways em­braced new things and op­por­tu­ni­ties.” HANDAYANI TANUWIJAYA re­ports

Prestige Indonesia - - Contents -

Em­brac­ing the un­fa­mil­iar

LESTARI MOERDIJAT IS no su­per­woman. At least thats what she says dur­ing a lively con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­tige. Very well known as Rerie to the peo­ple around her. Cur­rently, she sits at the top po­si­tion in Me­dia Group, her day job, and out­side of that, she’s highly ac­tive in pol­i­tics. She’s also a breast cancer sur­vivor and she has been rais­ing four chil­dren. If su­per­woman is not the right word for her, it’s hard to de­scribe what is.

Surabaya-born Rerie comes from a welle­d­u­cated and cul­tured fam­ily. Her father is an ob­ste­tri­cian and her late mother was a house­wife who spoke four lan­guages. “I learned how to em­power oth­ers from her. She used to help lo­cal mer­chants dis­trib­ute their goods,” says the el­dest of four, who was raised in Pur­wok­erto, a small town in Cen­tral Java.

Since 2013, Rerie has been Deputy Chair­man of Me­dia Group, a group of com­pa­nies founded by one of the most pow­er­ful busi­ness­men in In­done­sia, Surya Paloh. Its business lines in­clude me­dia, cater­ing and food, oil and gas, nat­u­ral re­sources, hospi­tal­ity and foun­da­tion.

Rerie plays a piv­otal role in the sub­sidiaries. She is Pres­i­dent Di­rec­tor of Me­dia In­done­sia, Surya En­ergi Raya and CS Me­dia In­vest­ment. Pres­i­dent Com­mis­sioner at Metro TV, Pan­gansari Utama and Emas Min­eral Murni.

Among those ti­tles, her par­tic­i­pa­tion in CS Me­dia In­vest­ment (CSMI) is a high­light. CSMI owns In­done­sia 1, which is go­ing to be one among high­est build­ing in In­done­sia. Due for com­ple­tion in 2020, (fyi: top­ping off 2019, project com­ple­tion 2020 – please re­phrase) the two-tower build­ing is lo­cated in Jl. MH Tham­rin. Its north tower is set to rise to 304 me­tres.

Rerie started her ca­reer with Me­dia Group in 1993 as a mar­ket­ing su­per­vi­sor in the ad­ver­tis­ing depart­ment of Me­dia In­done­sia, a na­tional daily news­pa­per founded in 1970 by Teuku Yousli Syah and Mr. Paloh. It is In­done­sia’s sec­ond-largest news­pa­per.

“How I ended up work­ing at Me­dia In­done­sia is a se­ries of un­ex­pected events in my life,” she smiles. “I as­pired to be­come an ar­chae­ol­o­gist. I stud­ied ar­chae­ol­ogy at Univer­sity of In­done­sia. My mother sub­scribed to Na­tional Geo­graphic and I grew up read­ing the mag­a­zine. I’ve loved old tem­ples, an­cient sites and his­tory since I was lit­tle. I never imag­ined to have a ca­reer out­side ar­chae­ol­ogy.

“But the mo­ment I was about to grad­u­ate, an un­for­tu­nate event hap­pened. Deeply hurt and moved by it, I de­cided to not to pur­sue ar­chae­ol­ogy. So, af­ter fin­ish­ing my stud­ies, I de­cided to work as Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­duc­tion As­sis­tant at Roy­alindo Ex­po­duta in 1992. Know­ing I didn’t have any back­ground in this field, I took a pub­lic re­la­tions course at Lon­don School of Pub­lic Re­la­tions in 1993. That was when I met a group of friends from Me­dia In­done­sia, in­clud­ing Paloh’s sec­re­tary. Even­tu­ally, they of­fered me a po­si­tion at the news­pa­per.”

In 1992, Me­dia In­done­sia launched a se­ries of news­pa­per sup­ple­ments, an in­no­va­tion at the time. “They planned to launch one about tourism,” says Rerie. “I was in­ter­ested be­cause writ­ing is one of my hob­bies. Dur­ing my col­lege year, I worked as a part­time re­porter at Ed­i­tor, a weekly news mag­a­zine man­aged by Tempo, and as a copy­writer at Wahyu Pro­mo­spirit. I also took a re­port and writ­ing course at In­ter­na­tional School of English in Cam­bridge.”

Rerie joined Me­dia In­done­sias ad­ver­tis­ing depart­ment in 1993. Her du­ties in­cluded copy­writ­ing. It was not un­til 1995 that her tal­ent and good in­stinct for business stole Mr. Paloh’s at­ten­tion. That year, she had an op­por­tu­nity to man­age In­do­cater, a cater­ing com­pany founded by Mr. Paloh in 1978. The cater­ing and food pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, are part of the “bread and but­ter” of Me­dia Group. (wel­come to re­phrase but please no com­pany names for this part).

She started her role as Business De­vel­op­ment Man­ager at In­do­cater and even­tu­ally be­came Pres­i­dent Com­mis­sioner in 2010 through hard work and ded­i­ca­tion. Dur­ing her ten­ure, the com­pany re­ceived an ISO 9001 2000 cer­tifi­cate in 2008.

Now the com­pany has be­come one of the lead­ers in the cater­ing in­dus­try with clients mostly from oil, gas and min­ing com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing BP.

Since then, Rerie has re­ceived many op­por­tu­ni­ties to man­age and lead other com­pa­nies within Me­dia Group. “That’s one thing about me. I’ve al­ways em­braced new things and op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she says. “I use my free time for cour­ses or train­ings to en­rich my knowl­edge.

“When I had an op­por­tu­nity to man­age the business de­vel­op­ment of In­do­cater, I had no idea about cater­ing in­dus­try. So, I took ‘Fi­nance for Non Fi­nance’ for Ex­ec­u­tive of The Ser­vices In­dus­try at Lem­baga Pen­didikan dan Pengem­ban­gan Man­age­ment. Cur­rently, I am tak­ing a Doc­toral Pro­gram of Re­search in Man­age­ment in Univer­sity of Pelita Hara­pans Ex­ec­u­tive Education Pro­gram.

“I’ve been with Me­dia Group for 25 years now and I have learned that be­ing a leader doesn’t mean you have to be great at ev­ery­thing,” the co-founder of In­done­sian Philanthropy So­ci­ety con­tin­ues. “You have to know your lim­its and not over­power things. I am aware that I am not an ex­pert when it comes to numbers. That’s why I hired the best peo­ple to deal with that. If you don’t know about some­thing, don’t be ashamed to ad­mit it.

“I think a leader should have a he­li­copter view, which is be­ing able to see the big pic­ture. A leader should be able to see from many per­spec­tives and be able to con­nect the dots. I am lucky that I stud­ied arche­ol­ogy be­cause I was trained in dig­ging up the past, which is in­ter­pret­ing the mean­ing of an ob­ject from its sur­round­ings.”

Talk­ing about her men­tors, Rerie says Mr. Paloh has in­spired her the most. Their first project to­gether was in 1995, when the Me­dia In­done­sia of­fice moved from Gon­dan­g­dia Lama to Ke­doya. “He led the move and that was when I found out about his en­cour­ag­ing per­son­al­ity and great work ethic,” says Rerie.

“As a leader, he’s very hand­son and de­tailed. He taught me that mis­takes should be em­braced as long as they’re not coming from bad in­ten­tions and dis­hon­esty. He’s a vi­sion­ary. He es­tab­lished (the first na­tional news tele­vi­sion chan­nel Metro TV) and grew In­do­cater.

“The most valu­able les­son I learned from him is not about money. He be­lieves that the sus­tain­abil­ity of a com­pany is not solely based on prof­its, but on ide­al­ism and com­pas­sion. He’s also a phi­lan­thropist by na­ture. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be part of In­done­sia Me­nangis (a hu­man­i­tar­ian aid pro­gramme for Aceh’s tsunami vic­tims of 2004). That dis­as­ter com­pletely changed my per­spec­tive on life. The fol­low­ing event was cre­ation of Sukma Foun­da­tion, which is one of the things that I am most proud of.”

“A leader should be able to see from many per­spec­tives and be able to con­nect the dots”

Rerie is the Chair­per­son of the foun­da­tion, which has built school com­plexes in Bireun, Pi­die and Lhok­se­u­mawe in 2006. “Paloh said that Aceh had lost one gen­er­a­tion and that we needed education to re­build it. I was stunned by that idea. This foun­da­tion has been my fo­cus for years.

“In 2015, we sent 25 teach­ers to get Mas­ter’s de­grees in teach­ing in Fin­land. How I got the schol­ar­ship deals was a funny story. I shame­lessly bar­gained for the price and they ac­cepted it! I be­lieve if you want to do some­thing good, there must be a way.”

What about the clas­sic dilemma for a woman of bal­anc­ing ca­reer and fam­ily? “I am not a su­per­woman. We are not su­per­women. We can’t have it all,” says Rerie. “When I chose this path, this ca­reer, I was aware I wouldn’t get any best mother or house­wife awards. I can’t be the ideal mother to my chil­dren. I can’t at­tend most of their per­for­mances in school. But that doesnt mean I am ne­glect­ing them.

“Thank God my hus­band is very un­der­stand­ing and sup­port­ive. We split roles when it comes to school­re­lated mat­ters. I ex­plain what I do for liv­ing to my chil­dren. I of­ten bring them along to my work­place, in­clud­ing to Aceh af­ter tsunami. Now, as they’re get­ting older, they un­der­stand what I’m do­ing and they grow to be these in­de­pen­dent, smart, and kind chil­dren.”

An­other un­ex­pected event af­fected Rerie in late 2016. She was di­ag­nosed with stage-two breast cancer. “I don’t de­lay things. That’s one of my life prin­ci­ples,” says Rerie. “When the doc­tor told me, I ar­ranged the op­er­a­tion date and chemo­ther­apy right away.

“I was shocked, but I didnt feel dev­as­tated. My mother sur­vived thy­roid cancer for 10 years and she died when she was 51, which is ex­actly my age right now. And dur­ing those 10 years, from I was 9 to 19 years old, I never saw her whine about it. I learned how to be strong from her. It’s also be­cause I have a strong sup­port sys­tem, my fam­ily. I am for­ever grate­ful to have them in my life.”

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