An Interview With Albert Halim: A Humble Heart Behind The Glamorous Spotlight

I’ve known Albert Halim (Abet) since 2011 if I’m not mistaken. I remember watching Catatan (Harian) Si Boy, laughed so hard every time his character appeared on the screen, and two weeks later I met him at church. Through a friend, I got introduced to him, and we immediately hangout the first day we met. He was very humble and didn’t act like a movie star, even until today now that he starred in even more movies, and remained as one of my good friends.

Most people would think that working in the showbiz industry would make someone a little bit unapproachable. Albert proved it wrong with his sincere heart and over-friendliness. Please enjoy his insightful stories over a delicious lunch at KLTR.

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TPOB20: Who is Albert Halim in your own eyes?
Abet: Albert Halim is a nerd who doesn’t know a thing about computer.. hahaa. He connects easily with people. Rice is essential in his life, and it’s also the same thing with fruits. I have to eat rice and fruits every day. He loves dark chocolate, because he believes those who taste a little bit too sweet in the beginning would end up DRAINING.. hahaha! So might as well have something that taste a bit bitter, yet offers a sweet ending.

TPOB20: Lol! Are you talking about a chocolate or a person now? Anyway, what makes you busy these days?
Aside of being an actor, I’m now currently busy being a digital marketer. Yes, I still have upcoming movie, but at the same time I’m also enjoying this new world of digital marketing.

TPOB20: How did you start this whole digital marketing stuff?
Abet: It started last year when I was hired as an influencer for a watch company in Jakarta. Met up with the owner and I couldn’t help but to give him some creative ideas for his digital campaign. He loved it, and decided to hire me to handle some of his brands. One thing leads to another, at this moment I’m now handling 6 brands already.

TPOB20: Wait, did you have any educational background in this field?
Abet: LOL.. no. I graduated as a bachelor of computer accounting, and I still don’t understand how to use Excel properly. But what matters is I graduated with good grades by God’s grace. Uhm and.. with the help of my friends I guess since it was a group project hahaha.

TPOB20: Now, let’s talk about your career in the showbiz industry. How did you get into acting?
Abet: I remember wanting to be an MTV VJ when I was still in high school. I was a fan of Sarah Sechan, and I thought it would be cool to appear in a tv show. However, there was no opportunity for me until my last year in college. At that moment, I have given up the dream and thought that probably entertainment world is not for me. I even have considered to be an accountant and work in a big four accounting company.

Until one day my friend told me to join a casting for tv commercial, and it took me only three or four auditions to star in a tv commercial. That’s how it all started. I began to build a network with some people from the showbiz world.

When I graduated, I told my family that I wanted to pursue acting. So I looked up for a great acting school. Got introduced to Sakti Aktor Studio, and taught by a great man, Bang Eka Sitorus for two years. And, by God’s grace, I landed my first movie, “7 Hati 7 Cinta 7 Wanita” along with big names like Marcella Zalianty, Jajang C Noer, Happy Salma and Olga Lydia.

The next month, I auditioned for Catatan (Harian) Si Boy, which was directed by Putrama Tuta and starred by Ario Bayu, Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro and Carissa Putri. Gratefully, I got a remarkable role named Herry, which turned out to be quite a milestone in my career path. From that moment on, I started to gain public recognition and got offered to host a tv show and starred in a sitcom.

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TPOB20: What was the initial reaction of your family when you told them that you wanted to pursue acting as your career?
Abet: Well, they were shocked of course. Because, none of my family members ever have a career in this industry. They seemed doubtful at first, but they were willing to let me try, because at that moment I was just graduated from college. So I got nothing to lose. I’m pretty sure that they would have pushed me to work in an accountant company if I failed in this path. Thank God, I did not…

TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you here?
Giving my best in every single thing that I do, no matter whether it’s a big client or not, whether it’s a big project or not. For example, it’s normal to shoot a movie until past midnight, or sometimes very early in the morning before the sun is out. You would feel sleepy and cranky, and probably tired, right? It’s understandable that most people might want to make it quick and just do whatever it is that the director told them to do. But not with me, I don’t care if it’s 4AM in the morning, I would argue and fight for my opinion if I think the script or the dialog doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s sad to see people compromise quality simply because they are tired. That’s why I’d never do that.

TPOB20: Have you ever felt bored doing this?
I’ve been doing this since I landed my first tv ads when I was 20. It’s been a decade now but I’ve never, for once, felt bored about this career path. Because I realize that to be where I am right now, it’s a matter of privilege. I’m not here to take this for granted just because I’ve played in several movies. I realize that a life like this, an opportunity like this doesn’t happen to everyone. So to feel bored about it would be ungrateful.

TPOB20: What’s the most challenging or interesting thing about being an actor?
Abet: Every actor, who understands the basic knowledge of acting, must do an in-depth psychological research about the role or character that they have to play. They need to have a comprehensive understanding on why the character think that way, react that way. It’s like being born into a new persona and trying to live with it before the shooting day.

TPOB20: So, what was the most challenging role for you?
Abet: When I took the role of Andrew Darwis (Founder of Kaskus) in “Sundul Gan: The Story of Kaskus”, which I co-starred with Dion Wiyoko, I had to spend hours talking with the real Andrew Darwis himself to catch his candid expressions and reactions. I had to learn about the way he speaks, what are the words that he uses in daily conversation.

TPOB20: Was it difficult for you to get out of the character once the movie is done?
Abet: It’s a challenge for every actor I guess. The famous Didi Petet once told me that it would be great if every actor started from zero when they are about to dive into a new character. That means they have to leave the old character behind. So you would look different in every movie, or every character you play. It was never easy for me because it would took about 2 – 3 months to really get into the character, it’s like building a new habit, a new lifestyle. Of course it would be hard to change it afterwards. But, when there’s a will, there is always a way. So, no excuse!

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TPOB20: What is your next big dream?
Abet: I used to dream of studying acting in USA. But now, that I’m in the digital marketing industry, I’m so keen to get a master degree in branding or marketing. It makes you look more credible somehow. So yeah I’ve been looking for some universities in US, and also preparing my saving, I even searched for scholarship. Wish me luck…

TPOB20: Who is your inspiration in life?
Abet: It’s my OO (aunt in Chinese). My mom passed away when I was still a little kid, my dad couldn’t support me financially so his oldest sister took me as her son. She’s truly one of a kind. Through her, I learned to constantly be grateful and inspired to work hard in life.

TPOB20: Lastly, what is the perks of beings 20 to you?
Abet: It’s definitely the most fun season to be in! I personally wish I could stay there forever. It’s the best moment where you don’t get tired easily, it’s the right time to pursue what you heart desire. If you’re in your 20 right now, please be more selective in listening to advices, don’t waste your time, you will never regret acting kind to everyone and anyone, and don’t forget to spend enough time with your family.

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Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)


An Interview With Aveline Gunawan: The Clumsy Girl With Secret Obsession Towards Greenday.

I’ve known Aveline Gunawan (Ave), a photographer for Baby Axioo, since her first days in Baby Axioo. We share mutual best friends, and got involved in preparing for their proposal, birthday surprises, bachelor parties, pre-wedding photoshoot and even became one of their groomsmen and bridesmaids.

Although she might look like a high-maintenance princess on her Instagram feeds, Ave is a complete opposite in person. She is very down to earth and far from princess-sy attitude. She is a clown who is not afraid to make fun of herself in front of other people. Her talent in photography is undeniably and inarguably a God’s gift. I remember during our trip to Bromo, she took photos using a Samsung phone, iPhone, DSLR, Mirrorless camera, and Analog camera, and every single shot she took was beautiful! Because of her I believe the idioms that says, “It’s not about the gear, it’s about the eyes and the taste behind the lens.” A real photographer could take the most beautiful photo using any gear, and she has proven it.

Working in Axioo has been her one and only dream since she graduated from University. The journey to become where she is right now was not easy at all and that is why I decided to feature her in this month’s “Get To Know” section. We met at a restaurant after church, and started to the interview over a plate of pizza and desserts. One funny similarity that we share is that we are both an unstoppable munching machine. When we see foods on the table, we don’t even care to ask who owns it, we’re just gonna grab it and start munching!

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TPOB20: Who is Aveline Gunawan in your own eyes?
Ave: Aveline Gunawan is a clumsy girl from Surabaya. A girl who looks very elegant on Instagram, but actually a clown who can’t stop munching, and loves to listen to Greenday.

TPOB20: What do you do?
Ave: I’m a photographer in Baby Axioo, so I’m mostly busy doing photoshoot probably about seven different clients in a week, while at the same time juggling my wedding preparation.

TPOB20: How did you get into this industry?
Ave: I’ve been introduced to photography since I was a kid. Probably because my Dad was also quite passionate in photography. I remember him taking photos of me and my two sisters with his vintage camera, and also recorded our silly actions with a handy cam.

But, it was not until senior high that I finally considered to explore photography. When I was still a little girl, I wanted to be a bank teller because I thought I’d have a lot of money, not knowing that it’s actually other people’s money hahaha… And then I also wanted to be a comic illustrator because I like drawing. When I was in Middle High I wanted to be a part of Emo Band, mainly because of Greenday.

Until one day, I had this Motorolla phone that came with a camera. It became my first camera, and that’s how it all began. I moved to Melbourne for my bachelor degree in Communication Design. One day, a friend of mine asked me to take photos of their kid. That’s when I had the opportunity to build my portfolio.

After college, I went back for good to Surabaya and decided to focus more on photography. I wanted to apply to Axioo but then I didn’t have that much confident in me to actually send out my portfolios. At that moment, it just felt impossible. So I tried applying to other photography services in Surabaya instead, and none of them called me back. I was so devastated, feeling so incompetent. How could I apply for the big giant like Axioo, if no one in Surabaya wanted to hire me.

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

One day, my ex’s sister was having a pre-wedding photo shoot in Bogor with Axioo. Usually, there will be one photographer with one stylist handling the photo shoot. But, that day, I believe it’s not a coincidence, the stylist wasn’t available to come so the owner herself (which happens to be my current boss) came all the way from Jakarta to handle the photoshoot. It’s a very rare situation, probably even the first and the last time ever. Anyway, that’s when I first met Fen Soong. The owner of my dream company. Of course, she knew nothing about me. We rarely even speak during the photo shoot I guess.

Fast forward two weeks later, Fen left a comment on my Instagram’s post, saying that she would love to meet and have a talk with me. Apparently, she found my Instagram through some sort of Instagram baby account, which featured my portfolio.

One month later, in September 2013, I went to Jakarta and arranged a meeting with Fen. She asked me to be a photographer for Baby Axioo. That was really mind blowing, because I’m fine being a photographer’s assistant as a starter. I was so flattered yet quite nervous at that time. She asked me to think about the offer. And so I moved to Jakarta and started to work for Baby Axioo since October 2013.

I realized that it’s totally God’s grace. Fen and I were a complete stranger, yet somehow we crossed paths. I crossed path not with some random business owner, but with the one particular business owner that I’ve been adoring.

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

TPOB20: Why Axioo? And, why Baby Axioo?
Apart from the fact that Axioo has such great name and portfolio, it just seems fun to work in Axioo. The team looks very solid. Apparently, when I joined, everything that I could imagine about working in Axioo is true! I got paid for having fun doing what I love to do, I gained not only good friends, but also a new family.

Why Baby Axioo? Hmmm.. I just love kids. When my sisters and I were kids, the two of them preferred to go to our cousins’ house to play saloon and other girly toys. Me? I preferred to go to my other cousin who was still a baby and play with her.

TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you to where you are right now?
Integrity. I believe that every client has to get the same treatment, the best of me. I can’t play favorites because they pay the same price. Second to integrity would be innovative I guess. I always come up with new ideas for photoshoot, thanks to Pinterest and a lot of brainstorming session with the fashion stylist. Or, sometimes I could get ideas simply by reading magazines, traveling, or looking at a window display.

TPOB20: What kind of thing disturbs or angers you the most?
Ave: I cannot tolerate a fake and sneaky person who always has a hidden agenda for his/her own benefit. I really despise people who act nicely in front of people yet talk bad about them behind their back. I value people who are sincere and kind-hearted.

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TPOB20: What kind of activity do you do to refuel your creative tanks?
Ave: Mostly traveling. Or, taking a time off for a while.

TPOB20: What is the most interesting thing about being a baby photographer?
I got to meet new people everytime I have a photoshoot. Mostly are Instagram mommies with very cute and adorable babies or toddlers. I love hearing their stories and their insights about being a Mom.

TPOB20: What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Ave: When the baby doesn’t cooperate. But, what would be like the MOST challenging is when both the baby and the parents don’t cooperate.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?
I’m a sucker for lover. Thank God I now have a fiance. But few years ago, I could overthink and worry a lot about my love life. As a competitive person, I often compare my life with other and the seeds of jealousy could cripple me. I always want to be better than others and completely forget that the real battle is not against others but against my own self. I learned over time to put aside all the negative thoughts and choose to focus on being the best in what I do. The blessing that is meant for you will always be meant for you. God has designed everything and put each person’s blessing according to their capacity. That thought somehow managed to keep me going everytime I stumble.

At this point I got so distracted by some pizza crumbles that got stuck on her hair. That’s how much she fancies eating. (Don’t worry Ave, you still have time to diet and you’ll fit well in your wedding dress!)

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

TPOB20: What is your biggest dream that you haven’t achieved until today?
Ave: Uhm.. probably being a vessel of blessing to others, like creating a job opportunity for other people so they can support their family, pay the bills, etc. I strongly believe that’s what God wants me to do next.

TPOB20: Who is your inspiration?
My boss, Fen. She is very genuine and caring towards people. She would go the extra mile to make her ideas come to life. She values and appreciates relationship and really take a good care of her employees.

TPOB20: Lastly, what are the perks of being 20 to you?
It’s the season where you can explore a lot of things, or should I say every thing that your heart desires, without being worried because you still don’t have any responsibility towards your own family. You are not yet married and still don’t have kids. Your old days seem far away. You are all fresh and healthy to do the things that you love to do.

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Hopefully her story would inspire you to never give up praying on what you want and pursue your dream until it comes to life.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

An Interview With Greys Polii: The Admirable Story of Pursuing Passion with Perseverance.

The girl who will be leaving 20something season in the next few weeks have been a friend of mine probably since 2009 or 2010. Sharing the same pride of being heirs of Minahasan (one of the tribes in Indonesia, located in North Sulawesi) blood, was one of the things that made our friendship flows quite naturally.

Greys Polii (Gel) has always been kind-hearted, easy going and very humble person, even though she was already a star in the national sports field, when we first became friends. From the first hang out to following each other on Twitter, and even until she finally won her first Gold Medal and ranked Number 2 in the Badminton Women’s Doubles World Rank, Gel remains as humble as ever. Nothing has changed except now that she is more mature and wise in handling challenges. That is why I decided to feature her and get some worth-sharing insights that hopefully could enrich your twenty-something journey.

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TPOB20: Who is Greys Polii in your own eyes?
Greys Polii career-wise she is a very ambitious and strong-willed woman who will give 200% focus and energy to make sure she got what she wants. But at the same time, she knows when and how to rest. For her, working and resting  must go hand-in-hand. In daily life, she’s a very sociable person, easy to make new friends and have high level of curiosity. She loves to learn from other people’s stories.

TPOB20: The question “What do you do” would be irrelevant to you, as most people, especially Indonesians must have heard about your astonishing achievements in Badminton. So, why don’t you share the story of how did you get into this career path.
Haha.. yea, there’s nothing interesting about “What I do” because I spend my days practicing and traveling for championship. I don’t have much time flexibility to do anything else outside of badminton. I’ve spent my whole life living at the dormitory with other badminton athletes, and only got to meet my family and friends during weekend or holiday.

I started playing badminton since I was only a 5-year-old kid. My mom, who was a tennis player, started to introduce me to both sports, but then I loved badminton more than tennis. We even moved from Manado (the capital city of North Sulawesi) to Jakarta when I was 8 to join a club. I remember she challenged the 8-year-old me whether I want to be a badminton player or not, if yes then we have to move to Jakarta so that I can get more serious in preparing myself to be an athlete.

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Three years later, when I was 11, I decided to get more serious in badminton and started to live in the dormitory. It was a total game-changer for me when I got separated from my Mom, which forced me to grow up independently. For me it was like the real moment where I said to myself, “This is it…” When I was 14, I started to wonder about my true calling and purpose. I realized that my life and talent is not only about being a world champion, but there’s gotta be something bigger, which is to be the best at what I do in order to inspire and bless other people.

At that moment I also had to choose which category (Singles, Doubles, or Mixed Doubles) of badminton that I want to focus on. Everyone I know (friends, family, coach) encouraged me to play in Singles or Mixed Doubles category, yet I was so convinced that I’m meant for Women’s Doubles category. When I told them that I chose to focus on Women’s Doubles, they considered my decision as foolish because Indonesia’s Women’s Doubles team haven’t won anything. China have been dominating the Women’s Doubles category for 20 to 30 years. It would be a lot easier and faster for me to become successful to play at Singles or Mixed Doubles. Although everyone I know was against my decision, I decided to continue and believed that I could make a history in this particular category.

TPOB20: How did it go? Did you ever change your mind or regret your decision?
Gel: Although the process and journey was really tough and challenging, I had never regretted or changed my mind about it.

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TPOB20: Tell us more about it. What was your biggest challenge, or your lowest point in pursuing your dream?
Well, 2012 was the lowest point in my life. I was 25 at that time. After 11 years of working hard and longing for a breakthrough, which is to be the first in Women’s Doubles, life decided to turn its back on me. I was disqualified at the Olympic Games for something that my partner and I didn’t do. We were accused of playing dirty in the Olympic Games and the saddest part was that we had to submit to the International Olympic Committee. The government apologized to us for not being able to help us out of the situation despite of the fact that we were not guilty. The IOC insisted that we had to bear the consequences otherwise Indonesia, particularly Badminton won’t be included in the next Olympic Games.

It was an utterly devastating experience. I felt like I’ve climbed way too high for 11 years only to be dragged down and hit the solid bottom. Somehow I lost focus and felt like the dream that I’ve been pursuing with high hopes and perseverance was totally unreachable. As disappointed as it was, I decided to quickly move on. I refused to give up and lose hope, and kept on trying until the promotion finally came in 2014, which has changed my life forever. Together with my partner, Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, won the Gold Medal at Asian Games in Korea, and we ranked number two in World Women’s Double.

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TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you here?
Gel: Perseverance and strong determination. I’ve made so many mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop me from getting back up every time I stumbled.

TPOB20: What kind of thing disturbs or angers you the most?
Gel: Dishonesty. Every one has a problem and past that they have to deal with, but as humans we need to learn how to be bold. Once we live freely in the open, being honest and transparent about our lives we gain freedom. Fear could not conquer us. People who are dishonest can’t enjoy a free live, because fear will sooner or later haunt them.

TPOB20: What kind of activity do you do to refuel your creative tanks?
Uhmm.. I do a lot of stuff in my spare time because I have high level of curiosity so I keep wanting to try new things: reading books, learning how to play a guitar, keyboards, taking a diving lesson, mount climbing, learning about public speaking, and other languages like English and Mandarin.

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TPOB20: What would you do when you stop playing badminton? 
Gel: Being an athlete in Indonesia is not easy. Even though we have sacrificed and gave everything for our country, once we stop our duty we are on our own. We need to plan for our lives if we want to live a life with financial freedom once we retired. That’s where I want to involve myself in after retirement. I want to help educate the next generation of athletes how crucial it is for them to manage their income, to challenge their way of thinking so that they could plan ahead, and not only live for the moment.

TPOB20: Now that you have won a gold medal, what would be your next big dream to pursue?
Gel: Definitely winning gold medal on a higher level, for example at the Olympic and becoming a world champion. Or, perhaps getting the first rank, because currently my partner and I are in number 2 of world rank.

TPOB20: Lastly, now that you are about to leave 20s, what is the perks of being 20 to you?
Gel: Hmm.. what we do in our twenties will affect our lives in our thirties. What we do in our thirties will affect us in our forties. And so on… That’s why it’s important for us not to live carelessly, because what we do today will determine the quality of our lives in the next season. I’m grateful that I have found my purpose and passion long way before I hit 20. By discovering my purpose, I now have a fulfilled life and clear direction of where I’m going.

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She closed our conversation with a simple encouragement for you who is on the run of pursuing your passion, particularly in sports: “Give the best of you in every thing that you do, especially in sports. Give 1000% focus and energy. Don’t pursue your passion and dreams half-heartedly because you will never be able to achieve it.”

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)


Meet The Contributors!

I’ve told you that we have new things coming, remember? So this is it!


I’ve always known from the first time The Perks of Being Twenty was still in the form of a mere idea hovering somewhere inside my head, I didn’t want to create just another project, or another blog. I wanted to create a platform that speaks to 20 something covering the area of lifestyle.

However, the context of lifestyle that I have in mind is slightly different than what most people would commonly interpret in their head. For me, lifestyle is not only about traveling every month taking a good photo of your feet on a sandy-floor, or working from the newest coffee shop in your town, or wearing the current outfits and putting the OOTD hashtag in your caption.

Lifestyle for me, especially during the twenty-something season, also includes doing random kindness to others, being the sort of friend who is keen to give honest opinion, fighting with perseverance to pursue your dreams, not settling for peer pressure and going boldly in life to make things happen. That sort of thing.

Entering the second year of running TPOB20, I’ve decided to share my vision to other 20 somethings who share the same vision and also able to communicate them in the form of writings. Besides, I’ve been reading lots of books and hearing lots of podcasts from inspiring world class leaders. They all believe that one of the keys to building something impactful and long lasting is by having a strong collaboration with others who are on the same page with you. That’s when this whole contributor thing came into the picture. Gratefully they all agreed to step into this platform.

So starting from now, you will not only read what I think about living the 20 something season to the fullest, but also from this awesome friends of mine. Now, let me introduce you to them!

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Jeloy Tirie (@je.loy) a photographer and occasional wanderer, who is in the search of honest stories, work, and people. The guy who shares the resemblance of Spock thinks that he has a pretty gnarly name given by his parents, and still unsure what they were thinking when they had him.

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Levina Christy (@levchristy), has just entered the 20 something season last January. She is now studying in Melbourne, Australia in the mission of completing her bachelor in the fashion business. Having her parents building a non-profit organization called Yayasan Pemulihan Indonesia, which focuses on setting up free kindergarten schools for poor villagers all across the country, ignited her passion in humanity and environment.

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Patrishiela Tan (@patrishiela), an Indonesian model who loves to eat and travel. She is now hosting a TV Show, “Para Petualang Cantik” on TRANS7. She always  make time for travel, because for her, “Earth is too beautiful to be wasted and not enjoyed.” Apart from that, this beautiful lady who turns out to have such a unique sense of humor, is still on the run of finishing her Bachelor Degree.

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Rachel Saputro (@raesaputro), a girl who is passionate about storytelling – whether in producing a documentary film for class or writing news pieces at Voice of America’s Washington D.C. bureau. She is now studying Economics, Journalism and Film at The George Washington University, which often makes people give her confused looks. Rae hopes to return to this country after graduation and work in the intersection of media, business and technology.

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Sarah Callista (@callistasarah), a passionate writer, a wife and a constant day dreamer. Her adoration for writing sparked when she was 13. It’s like inhaling and exhaling oxygen for her. Words are more than just alphabets and phonetics, it’s a realization of what’s within us. So, if you happened to stumble upon her writing, you shall say hello to her imagination.

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Sasha Tjie (@sashatjie), a sunset lover and beach aficionado who claims to have writing as her number one passion. After graduating from the Bachelor of Arts (Creative and Professional Writing) from Deakin University, Australia, she is now enjoying her role as a creativepreneur in fashion / wedding industry who runs a gown rental boutique. Next month, she will publish a book called “Soul Travellers: Turning Miles into Memories” with a goal to inspire the young generation of Indonesia to travel further.

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Sofia Layanto (@sofietyger), a thinker and a writer with a desire to build things. She is currently doing strategy at one of the largest tech startups in Southeast Asia, and would love to meet anyone who’d like to know more about the scene. She believes that we should all engage with the world in a meaningful way, and can be found working on side projects anytime she’s not actively chilling or planning getaways.

Many believe that seven is a lucky number. Is it a coincidence that TPOB20 has a great set of 7 passionate 20 somethings who are on their own race, running towards their purpose and dreams? I don’t know. What I know is, starting from today, this website will be colored with a lot of inspiring thoughts and content dedicated to you, who are still in what so I call, the prime season of life.

Write to you later!

HG. (@gersonhenry)


Iman Usman Is Definitely Not Your Typical Millennial

I knew this guy from 5 years ago when he was still a student in the University of Indonesia. We didn’t talk much back then, as he was mostly busy with tons of positive activities, while I was still busy partying and dealing with my quarter life crisis.

Fast forward now, he has become one of the most inspiring twenty something I’ve ever known. He is exactly where he wanted to be, driven by a noble passion and a box of curiosity. One day, DR forwarded me this video of him giving a speech at the United Nations Headquarter in New York. “I know this guy!” I said to him. We quickly agreed to feature him here, as we believe he must have a lot of insights and perspectives to be shared to us.


Meet Iman Usman!

TPOB20: Who is Iman Usman in your own eyes?

Iman: Iman is someone who is ambitious, in a way that he basically knows what he wants and what he does not. Once he knows what he wants, he’ll try to achieve whatever it is. He will figure out how to get there. He is very persistent. Often he wants a lot of things, which can be quite a distraction for him. He’s also very easily excited about something. Once he’s excited he’ll put everything into it as if there are no other things or no other day. He can also be very predictable and unpredictable at the same time.

TPOB20: So what do you do now?

Iman: I basically spend 90-95% of my time at Ruangguru. Most people used to know it as a private tutoring marketplace. However, what we do is actually a lot more complex than that. Ruangguru’s main product is actually a Learning Management System (LMS) for Primary & Secondary Schools which can be used for free by students and teachers in schools setting. The data that is generated through the LMS is linked to the school and government dashboard to help the government create data-driven policies. This LMS is currently being implemented throughout Indonesia through established public-private partnerships with 15 provincial governments and 80 cities/ regencies governments. We estimate that the platform is going to serve ~1 million students by January 2017. In addition to the LMS, we also provide monetized supplemental products and services (premiums):

(1) The largest private tutoring marketplace in Indonesia with +60,000 signed-up offline tutors

(2) The only mobile app in Indonesia for live on-demand problem based tutoring (through live chat and audio call).

(3) Learning videos subscription, to be launched in December 2016, with ~1500 videos already produced;

(4) Paid test-preparation/ online exams.

TPOB20: What is your role in Ruang Guru?

Iman: I’m the co-founder and also Chief of Product and Partnership. As a Chief of Product and Partnership, I lead the teams who are responsible for: the whole product design, development and iteration process (which includes leading and overseeing the whole design sprint and agile framework); all government relations efforts both in country level and district-level; all internal and external PR & communications and collaboration with third parties. In addition to that, I’m helping some education and youth related foundations as their board of advisors, including: YCAB (Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa) and IFL (Indonesia Future Leaders). In my spare time, I usually speak, run workshops, and write.

TPOB20: And how old are you now?

Iman: 25.


TPOB20: What were your early 20 years old dream?

Iman: I started my twenties wanting to be a diplomat, that was why I took International Relations as my major. I thought that it was going to be a very cool job as you get to travel and represent your country at the same time. That was until I became an ASEAN Youth Ambassador and a Youth Advisor for the United Nations. Those two jobs allowed me to explore everything about diplomacy. I did a lot of travel. I did a lot of advocacies work. There was nothing wrong with that, but I just felt that it has the possibility to block my creativity. There were so many things that I would like to communicate, but then it was not my personal statement.

To cut a long story short, I began to lose interest in diplomacy and decided to do something that allows me to be more hands on. That was when Ruang Guru came into the picture. At that moment I was still not sure whether I want to do this in a long run, because I didn’t even know what a startup is. But I knew that I have spent half of my life in that particular sector as I had a lot of involvements in the educational field and youth movement since I was 10. Also, I had a Master in Educational Policy. I learned a lot through that journey, to the extend that got me thinking about doing something that is very transformative. Something that could actually change the situation.

TPOB20: So how did you first create Ruang Guru? How old were you?

Iman: I was 22 when I started Ruang Guru with my best friend. We started with only two staffs and this free space that we used for IFL. After a year, we raised investment and expanded our team to 12 people with our own office. Now, we are leading a team of 90 people and on the track to serve 1 million students.

TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you here?

Iman: You’ll never know until you try. I always try not to be assumptive in anything that I do. As the Chief of Product in Ruang Guru, I learned that the biggest crap for a product developer is when you think that you have known your users, your products and everything that you are working on. I always create a room to clarify my assumptions. I am never hundred percent sure about anything. I like to try things out and see which one actually works. I’m always curios and eager to learn, which affect so many things in my life.

TPOB20: What kind of thing disturbs or angers you the most?

Iman: When you know that there’s something wrong but you can’t do anything (in your power) to fix it. For example, in my job, when our web went down, I could only manage my resources to fix it, but I could not do anything significant to help them as I could not code. Or, maybe when I’m in a situation that I don’t have the control towards the output. Or, when you know that there’s something wrong, and you can’t do anything about it, and nobody realizes that it’s wrong.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?

Iman: A lot of my struggles are internal, particularly when I’m doubting what I’m doing as I naturally always question everything. If it’s external, like for example, people undermine me or what I do, it fires me up because I want to prove that they’re wrong. But if it’s internal, it normally took quite a while for me to solve it.

What kept me going? Because I challenge myself to meet new people on a weekly basis, I get to have a lot of friends who actually believe in me, support me and will remind me why I do what I do. And I also have people who trust their money resources on me, so it motivates me not to let this people down.

In the past, I sometimes can be too hard on myself. When something went wrong I put all the blame on me. I put all the burden on me. But now, I’m more emotionally stable. For the past one year, I’ve learned that when things goes wrong I’m now easier to surrender. Knowing that I’ve done my best, and just let it go, believing in the best result. I know that what I’m looking for is not a perfection, but rather a progress. I can never be perfect. But at least, I know when I’ve done something better than before.

TPOB20: What is your biggest dream that you haven’t achieved until today?

Iman: Well, my purpose in life. I want to make sure that a good quality education for everyone is actually a right, not a privilege. It’s still a long way to go, and I want to be in the frontline. I want to make this big.

TPOB20: Who is your inspiration?

Iman: Many people know I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and the character has big influence in what I do. However, beyond that, I get more inspiration from the people that I met. This might sound a bit cliche, but it’s true, because everytime I met people, I got excited about new stuff, about their stories, how they live their life, and how they work so hard to achieve their dreams.

TPOB20: Last but not least, what is the perks of being 20 to you?

Iman: It is okay for you to do a lot of stuff, experience failure and then just be okay with it. When you’re at your twenties, people tend to be more forgiving and accepting towards your flaws, mistakes and failures. If you fail, your failures might not affect others much. But once you hit 30, people have higher expectation on you, and you also have higher responsibility. People have less room for forgiveness.

That is why I don’t get twenty somethings who are too afraid to try things out. When I started Ruang Guru, I knew definitely that there would be chances of failing. I don’t even know whether my company would still be running next year or not. But even if I failed, I know that I have tried my best. Being an entrepreneur in your twenties is actually comforting, because you don’t have a lot of responsibilities yet. For me, it’s actually a comfort zone, because I am what I am good at and what I am passionate about. That’s why I push myself every single year to do something new/ better.


Our mind was totally blown by his answers. It’s actually very possible for you to pursue you dream and make it happen when you have a vision, take risks, and pay the price! Who agrees with us that this nation needs more people like him?


Thank you, Iman! ps: You are too inspiring that even us looked a bit blurry being next to you.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

An Interview with the Fabulous Ucita Pohan

I have always been a huge fan of radio announcers. As an announcer myself, I know what it’s like to be in such a packed industry with only very few spots to fill. In every broadcasting class that I teach, I would always wish everybody the best of luck. Their dream job in the broadcasting industry wouldn’t be reached by passion alone.

I can’t clearly explain how inspired I was when I get the chance to sit and talk to the one and only Ucita Pohan. As someone who works in the same industry as I am, she seemed to have done it with such tenacity and class. While most radio announcers sees their work as talking in front of the mic, Ucita Pohan brought her work into her daily life, blending the images of a radio announcer and a sophisticated cultured lady. This representation of herself is what brought her to who she is today.


Meet Ucita Pohan!


TPOB20: Who is Ucita Pohan in your own eyes?

Uchiet: Ucita Pohan is a character filled with my dreams and goals. She’s all about enjoying life, trying out new things, exploring possibilities, living life to the fullest, seeing everything from a no-drama perspective because this world is already full of drama.

TPOB20: So what do you do now?

Uchiet: I host a radio program called Fun Fearless Female on 90.4 Cosmpolitan FM every Monday, Thursday and Friday. I also do some MC gigs in between. And, for the past two years, I’ve also been trusted to host events for some brands.

TPOB20: How did you start your career in the broadcasting industry?

Uchiet: It all started out back when I was still a little girl. As a kid, I used to play in my parents room, at that moment my Mom often listened to Prambors radio. I ended up listening to the airing program, which was hosted by these two announcers, Irvan and Angga. I forgot how, but one day  I decided to record their program with a cassette, and then I kind of memorized every single thing they said. And then I recorded my own voice, mixed it with their voices so it was like I was there with broadcasting live with them. Heck, I didn’t even know how I did that!

Then, as I grew up I started to forget about my interest in radio and dreamed to have my own magazine. But when I entered senior high I joined the school’s radio club, became an announcer and my buried passion in broadcasting resurfaced. The dream grew only stronger over time. I joined the radio club in my campus and knew ever since that I wanted to be an announcer. And so in 2006, when I finally graduated college I focused on becoming an announcer.


TPOB20: What are the values that you hold firmly in life? That has brought you up to this stage in your career.

Uchiet: Fake it ’til you make it. It’s actually my way of saying to never stop learning and preparing so when the opportunity comes knocking you are always ready. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. I played make believe, pretending like I was already a professional and experienced broadcaster. Even during those days when I hosted the show for my campus’s radio. No one listened to my show I guess, but I just pretended like it was a real show with real audience. All of those has prepared me to embrace the opportunity that came before me.

TPOB20: What is the one thing that would easily make you angry?

Uchiet: Dishonesty. Period. I can not tolerate people who tell lies. I’m fine with moody people, with ambitious people but there’s no room for a liar in my life.

TPOB20: What makes you feel bored and how do you overcome boredom?

Uchiet: I got bored easily when I’m stuck doing the same thing over and over again. Luckily, my profession comes with time flexibility, which allows me to do plenty of other things that I like. So to overcome boredom I’d do several things from being a magazine editor, working on some fashion stuff, to making a creative event.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your twenties? And how did you overcome it?

Uchiet: The biggest struggle for me was when I decided to no longer depend on my parents financially. It’s not a myth if you hear people say that being an announcer doesn’t really pay much. It is not much if you compare it to the kind of lifestyle we have to cope with since I work in a lifestyle radio. I have to be wise in my budgeting and try to find ways to keep up with the kind of lifestyle that I need to portray. That was why I pushed myself real hard. I take jobs as freelance writers and MCs. Luckily, my parents were very supportive.

At the same time, my friends are divided into two. Some have already settled down while the others are still enjoying the disco life. That’s what happened when I reached 26 years old.

Even though that phase was very tiring, I never regretted this line of work. This is something I’ve always wanted.
Travel is the key to distract me from these stresses. I would travel with my best friend to open up my mind and to see new places. Once, I took a sudden trip to the zoo just because I didn’t want to interact with any human being. Other than traveling, I would take workshops to learn new stuffs. Whether it’s drawing or lettering, I would give it a shot. Even when in the end I couldn’t master it, at least I’ve tried it.
TPOB20: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Uchiet: Other than my mom, she would be Alicia Keys. I feel like I’ve grown with her since high school. She was just starting her career as I was. As I grew older, her music matured and her lyrics grew deeper. The last time she threw a concert in Jakarta, she already had a child. At that time, I cried in realization that life moves forward. Her messages were always deep. Through her interviews and lyrics, I feel that I truly understand and accept her thoughts and way of life.

TPOB20: What is the perks of being 20 to you?

Uchiet: Having massive energies and loads of time while facing few responsibilites. Once you’ve reached your 30s, you have lesser energy and you don’t push that hard anymore. Once you grow older, responsibilites come.
I just read about social menopause. You know it’s real when disco is painful to you. You start yawning at 11 and you want to start jogging at 6. You really want to join the fun, but you just don’t have the energy anymore.


Ucita Pohan is definitely the most fabulous inspirational person we’ve interviewed so far. This interview reminded me that we always have to start somewhere and enjoy the process. The fabulous Uchiet came a long way since her 20 something struggles. It is definitely a good reminder for us to focus on the goal and enjoy the process as much as possible. Soon, they will come to pass.


Thanks Uchiet! Stay fabulous!

Keep exploring,

DR. (@demasryan)


An Interview with Willem Deliemen (Pancake Adventure): Delivering Joy, One Pancake at a Time

If you think that there isn’t much to do with a pancake, think again.

While I was resting in the middle of my walk down from the summit of Rinjani, 2 foreigners came from the opposite direction with what seems to be a… cooking pan.

Their names are Willem Dielemen & Pieter Dieleman, brothers from Amsterdam. As they were setting up their camp, HG and I had a little chit chat with them and found out that Willem is quite an unusual backpacker. Somehow, Willem manages to mix his adventures and his love of Pancake. That is why he brings a cooking pan everywhere he goes, let it be Turkey, India, Australia, Dubai and many more including Indonesia!

To sum it up, Willem Dielemen and his Pancake Adventures aims to deliver joy by giving back to the people through plates of Pancakes! He started by cooking Pancakes for construction workers in Dubai and continued spreading out happiness all over the world. In fact, when I met him in Lombok, he had just finished a cooking project with the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.


Meet Willem!

We believe that meeting Willem somewhere in the middle of the woods was no coincidence. We took the chance to exchange cards and schedule a Skype interview to get Willem as our inspiring person of the month. What can be more inspiring than traveling in your 20s, spreading out joy all over the world? Check out the interview below!


TPOB20: Who is Willem in your own eyes?

Willem: Willem is an open minded, creative guy who is always looking for adventures and new stories.

TPOB20: What kind of adventures are you looking for?

Willem: I am actually looking for two kind of adventures: one is the crazy, far from the obvious encounters. The other is my pancake adventures.

TPOB20: So what is it that do you do for a living?
Willem: I’m traveling around the world making pancakes. When my money runs out I find another spot where I can sell my pancakes to save money for new adventures. The last place I did this was Australia, soon it will be New Zealand. Those are for working, but for traveling I have traveled from Turkey to the Philipines overland. This includes Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Dubai, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. After Cambodia I ran out of money and went for a year to Australia to sell pancakes

TPOB20: Wicked story! What was your major in college? And.. why pancakes?
Willem: I actually studied Dutch Language and Literature, and took a master in Book Publishing. It has nothing to do with Pancakes and my Dutch language skills haven’t been very useful around the world either.

I started making pancakes as a gratitude to all the beautiful people I met on the road. Just as a thank you for their hospitality. During my travels I was always looking for a purpose and since I was already making pancakes for my friends, I thought it would be great to share that joy with people who could use some positive vibes

And why pancakes… Back home it’s a dish that we eat to celebrate a birthday or something else. For me a pancake dinner is a joyful happening, so I like sharing that joy with the rest of the world

TPOB20: So it all came down to a family. What does your family think of what you do?

Willem: My parents are proud of what I am doing. They really encourage me. Although when I told my mother of the places I still want to visit, she fell silent; she thought I would be back in a couple of months.

TPOB20: What was your early 20s dream like?

Willem: I am still in my 20s…. at least for 7 more days before I turn 30. I never dreamed that I would be 30. I honestly was so scared of being 30, having a family, being a high school teacher, walking my dog, paying my mortgage… I really believed I would end like that… failing miserably.

I actually never dreamed of traveling either, but I knew I had to do something creative. Traveling was actually a way to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but the only thing I found out is that I want to continue this lifestyle, at least for a bit. 

I had no idea this enriches you so much. There is no study that can teach you what you learn when you have to figure everything out yourself. You become streetwise in a very enjoyable exciting setting. 

TPOB20: How do you see the big three coming?

Willem: Yeah, I don’t know.. I think that now I’m nearly there, all the fears I had about that age are gone and thirty is just another number. I still have people telling me, “Yeah but you’re still young, you should enjoy it while you can,” and sometimes those people are younger than me.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?

Willem: My father gave me one incredible advice when I was a teenager. Instead of pushing me to study law, like he did, he said, “You have a curious childlike spark. Try to never loose that.”

The biggest struggle was figuring out life, I suppose. I think my studies were fairly easy. I was figuring out love and career. But when I graduated I thought, “Now what?” I tried some things but you realize that the comfortable status of being a student is gone and you suddenly are a useless citizen, an unemployed. So I tried a couple of things and failed a couple of times and now, because of those struggles, I think I am pretty successful in life.

TPOB20: Can you tell us about those failures and struggles?

Willem: Finding out that I was doing jobs that were below my qualities. You have all these qualities and degrees and there is nothing you can do with what you really like.

So I had a great master degree in Book publishing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, but I thought a PHD was too scientific for me and I didn’t qualify after all. Fortunately. Then I tried setting up a blog while working in a bar. This was alright but it wasn’t gonna work. Then I got a job as a data entry manager, which is the most boring job ever. It was at a great company of my friends though, so the place was fun. I got sadder and sadder that I was wasting my creative talent and I had the feeling that I missed the boat.

I only wanted to travel for two weeks. Looked on the map. And got greedy. Two weeks was never enough for what I wanted. I wanted to change my life drastically while I still have nothing to hold me back.

TPOB20: Super exciting and dramatic change! So after all of that, what is the perks of being 20 to you?

Willem: I think the perks of being twenty is being wise enough to be useful and still young enough to get away with anything.

As a teenager you are a narcissistic little brat who thinks everything yourself. Then you grow older and you find out you have still a lot to learn about the world. And you do that in a way that is not so serious yet, you don’t really care when you fail a course in Uni. As you grow older you start to realize, life around you gets more serious. The time before that is the best: you have your life knowledge but you’re still playing around.


Just like that, our conversation ended. Leaving us to a powerful thought to ponder: What are we doing for the world in our 20s? I know that we don’t have to travel the world to do good, but if you can have a full year long holiday to do good, what could be better than that?