Born out of her uncertainty about her career aspirations after deciding not to pursue her dream of becoming a diplomat, Syarifah Armilia‘s career journey was a coincidental one. But she didn’t let this uncertainty hold her back. Instead, she took on various opportunities, including volunteering in organisations and working part-time in institutions and companies, to explore her interests.
Before entering the tech industry, Syarifah worked in an advertising agency in Istanbul, which would eventually become the foundation of her career in tech. It was here that she discovered her passion for digital marketing and honed her skills in social media management.
Syarifah’s first tech job was at HappyFresh, where she applied for a UX Researcher position due to her interest in human psychology and behaviour. However, the recruiter noticed her experience working in an advertising agency and offered her a role in Online Marketing instead. It was a risk for Syarifah, but she decided to take a chance and accepted the offer.
For the next four years, Syarifah thrived in her role in Online Marketing and Growth, but she felt it was time for a new challenge. She decided to take on a new role at Ajaib, one of the leading fintech companies in Indonesia, where she currently works as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Lead.
The pandemic forced Syarifah to work from home, which led her to seek more human interaction. She accepted an opportunity to teach digital marketing classes and be a Career Coach at RevoU. Syarifah occasionally visits Jakarta to meet with her colleagues, friends, and students.
Through her journey, Syarifah has learned that taking risks and trying new things can lead to unexpected opportunities and a fulfilling career. She believes that the work-from-home environment has enabled her to be more productive while achieving the work-life balance she has always desired. Here is Syarifah’s journey in finding her purpose.
#1 How did you first become interested in technology, and what inspired you to pursue a career in this field?
I think it was destiny. My dream was actually to become a diplomat or to work in the UN. That’s why I studied Political Science and International Relations. During my study I tried to actively participate in international forums and conferences, I was also very lucky to have worked together with fellow Indonesian diplomats in Istanbul. However, after much contemplation, I came to realise that I wanted to do something else. In my last university year, one of my friends offered me to work part-time at an advertising agency remotely.
Since then, I fell in love with the concept of remote working and started dreaming to live this long term. After a while, because of social media, and basically how everything around us is suddenly becoming more and more tech-friendly, I got curious about the tech industry and thought working with data is somewhat interesting (thanks to the YouTube videos that I binge-watched!). To be honest, I did not intentionally apply to work at a tech startup company, but HappyFresh was the only company that hired me. Long story short, I started working as an Online Marketing Analyst, where 70% of my scope of work was actually on CRM.
As my interests grew, I thought this is the time to be consistent with my career of choice. One thing led to another, I joined a digital marketing bootcamp to improve my technical skills and embraced the challenge to take a role as a Campaign Lead, where I basically learned many things including growth, brand marketing, social media marketing, performance marketing and campaign operations.
Now I am at a phase to put a focus on my career as a CRM and Growth Marketer.
#2 What are the biggest challenges as a woman in tech, and how have you overcome them?
Culture-wise, there are still a lot of stigmas that women should be this or that, or should not be this or that.
Strangely, sometimes I can still feel this pressure even from my family, no matter how supportive they actually are.
To overcome this, I practised self-awareness more, I met and talked to a lot of people trying to understand and empathise with their backgrounds and life’s mission.
Years ago I came to realise that every person, no matter what their gender is, comes to this life with a different purpose and path of life. I am just staying true to myself, doing my best for what’s in front of me, and being grateful for what I have.
Once I got to understand myself, my values and my purpose, I knew that I needed to learn to be more assertive and diplomatic at the same time. I did not realise this, but eventually, when this was impacting my working performance, I knew the reason was I often felt intimidated and inferior compared to my other colleagues.
However, I was lucky enough to be placed in a working environment that encouraged me to speak up more. I did not know that I lacked this, actually, so it’s nice knowing that you had the support you did not know you needed.
I think communication skill is key, and it doesn’t matter where you’re at now, I believe that this can be learned and trained.
#3 How do you see the tech industry evolving over the next few years, and what opportunities and challenges do you anticipate?
It will be exciting! Tech will always evolve, there’s always something new every day. Opportunities are wide open. It’s important to allocate time to learn every day, but also to pause and ponder on your next step.
Being an instructor myself, I can see that talents are blooming. Great talents are ready to participate, and the question we continuously need to ask ourselves is: how do I give value to others? Once we become irrelevant, it’s difficult to fit in. Moreover, with AI technology nowadays, I think this question becomes more significant to ask.
There’s a saying: if you can’t be the best, be the first. In this context, I believe that in parallel, we also need to evolve. Meaning, never stop learning at the right time: staying away from your comfort zone. All in all, while it comes with pressure, I am also trying not to stress myself too much to be the best nor the first. At least be better each day, and continuously look for self-improvement and opportunities. I believe that there will always be a place for great talents.
#4 What advice would you give to other women who are just starting out in tech?
Find great mentors, it will accelerate your learning curve! Find some people who can make you feel inspired, learn about their life, try to get to know them and ask a lot of questions. Mentors can offer invaluable insights, advice, and guidance that can help you avoid pitfalls, identify opportunities, and grow your skills and knowledge.
In addition to finding mentors, it’s important to nurture your own curiosity and passion for your career. Make a habit of regularly seeking out new information and learning opportunities, whether through reading industry publications, attending workshops or conferences, or networking with other professionals. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in your field, and be willing to take on new challenges and responsibilities to continue growing and developing your skills.
Last but not least, always nurture your curiosities about your career, daily tasks and this industry. They’ll take you far.
#5 How do you balance work and life, particularly as someone in a demanding and fast-paced field like tech?
First of all, I want to say that this has not been easy, and I am constantly learning how to do so.
The first thing I did was try to understand what keeps my heart singing. Are there things from my work and personal life that can be aligned?
After some rumination, I understand that the answer is relationship. Relationships with my family, best friends, colleagues, etc. are vital to keep me motivated and feel supported. Then, my mission was to find a working environment in which I can meet the people I feel comfortable working with, whose values align with mine although not necessarily need to be 100% the same, and whose strengths complement my weaknesses.
That’s why, in my interviews, this becomes my top priority mission where I will ask as many questions as I need to get this answer: will I be comfortable working with these people? Do I understand their direction? Can we joke and vibe? Can they help me grow to become a better employee?
I believe that stress and pressure will come, but if you’re surrounded by the right people, at least you know that you’ll be supported, nurtured, and can laugh together too!
Next, no matter how busy I am, I will allocate time for my family and best friends, within my capacity. Not gonna lie, WFA arrangement is probably the main factor that helps me in this area.
On physical health, there was a time when I had chronic back pain, and I was unable to sleep. I realised that movement and working out are also important to keep me sane. So I try to prioritise it in my daily life as well.
Last but not least, I’m trying to work on and nurture my spirituality too. I make plans, but oftentimes they do not work out. Learning how to surrender and believe that there’s a Higher Power who knows best brings the most comfort in difficult times.
#6 What is the advice you’d like to offer to others who work in tech?
Enjoy the ride! It’s very cliché yet holds some truths worth remembering. This industry can be overwhelmingly fast, with the pressure and stress to always keep up. So expect difficult times and learn how to enjoy every moment.
Syarifah’s Cent of Thought
12 years ago I met someone who taught English for my TOEFL preparation. I was struggling a bit at that time, and I remember him saying:
“Do you know the military philosophy? Train like you fight, and the fight will be like your train.”
Since then, whenever I struggle to catch up, or whenever I face new challenges, I always remember that the first time is always difficult. I need to be disciplined & be patient in training myself with new skills/challenges.
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