Jun 25, 2014

My Project Catalyst Experience

In the last two weeks, I joined a program called Project Catalyst as one of five Indonesian Social Entrepreneurs. The program was run by Jolkona Foundation in Seattle, and it gave an insightful and incredible experience. To me personally, at least.

And as I spend more time reminiscing and thinking about my “a-ha moments” during the program, it really is difficult to make a list of just top three moments, or even just to come up with one from each day. But now that the program has ended and I am back home from the chilly hilly Seattle, I realize that my a-ha moment was something a lot more powerful. I realize that it is less of a moment, and more of a momentum. And that, I think, makes Project Catalyst my most favorite program thus far, in so many levels.

Part of it is the timing. Wangsa Jelita is five years old—actually six this year. And just like observing a toddler grows, I can see how Wangsa Jelita matures through an exciting pace. In the past months in particular, however, Wangsa Jelita has been going on one challenge after another. And it is so tempting—as well exciting—to me, to get straight to the issue and tackle them one by one. Too exciting sometimes, it can get very draining. Project Catalyst was the much needed caesura; giving me time to be away and watch from a far, seeing how the system in the business runs without much of my involvement, and having some zen time to think more thoroughly about the next steps. Two weeks well spent.

The other part is the content of the program. Not only that I learned something new, the messages I got from the program were rich too, and they helped me make sense of the last few years of both my professional and personal life. I did a lot of introspection and got a few reminders. Here are my two main takeaways.
  • Understanding our own value(s) is essential—because it is something we will hold on to tightly whenever we make decisions in life, both personal and professional matters. I feel fortunate for some circumstances recently have allowed me to be more appreciative with the time I have. And I believe, in order to not taking time for granted, knowing priorities is important. And this program has taught me that priorities can only be set once I know what my values are. I’m beyond thankful for this particular lesson. 
  • We are all in a relationship business—no matter what kinds of products and services we offer. I was hit by this statement when my mentor, Heide Felton, first told me, and I was so intrigued that I kept thinking about it. When I met Charles of Theo Chocolate for the second meeting, he gave me an advice which resonated well with it, I quote, “you gotta know your people” (customers, stakeholders..) – to me, it was like an epiphany. No relationship (business) can grow without continuous efforts to know more about its significant someone (stakeholders). Truer than true. 

And last but not the least, there were the people; from the super successful mentors, the insightful lecturers and coaches, the thoughtful team of Jolkona, the passionate batch folks I have, not to mention the fieldtrips to some of the most successful companies worldwide (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Geogache, Google, Microsoft, Theo Chocolate, and many others) which allowed us to sit together and ask questions to their top management level people so that we can learn from their experience. They all make the program even more enriching. I feel inspired and moved.

Gates Foundation Visitor Center is the best example
that shows how powerful story telling is.
Jolkona is full of radiant people like Nancy,
who radiate positive energy and have beautiful smiles.

4th day debrief session with Adnan at Kerry Park.
The view was uh-mazing!

But guess what, my respect and love for each and every one of them goes beyond what they do and extends to the beauty of who they truly are.

First and foremost, my batch folks. Dino is the techie guy who is committed to capture every moment with his camera. The tripod and some memory cards can speak on his behalf. Hendri is the compassionate young man whose positive energy is just contagious. Mirah is the caring person who always made sure that I didn't feel cold due to one layer I wore. Nobody asked me the way Mirah did. While Nadine, her love for environment is so big, so much so that everytime she talks about it I feel like the responsibility of taking a very good care of the environment is mounting on my shoulders. And I think it's good. I'm so looking forward to collaborate with her and her team.

Not to mention,
the mentors, the coaches, the professors, the lecturers, the businesses, the NGOs, the host families, and the people in Jolkona.

In the middle of the packed schedule, Heide is the loving woman who messaged me in the middle of the night not only to check my assignments’ progress but also to ask what my plans for the weekends are—just so she knows I’d make the best of my stay in Seattle. I love her.

Last meeting with Heide. Her words touched me deeply.

Kyle is the freak'n genius entrepreneur who sat on the table while leading the workshop, and still managed to set us in a very contemplative mode which somehow made some of us shed a tear. When I told him that he probably won one of the most favorite sessions award, he replied, I quote, “I just tried to be as human as I am.”

Charles is the kind of CFO who congratulated me after my business presentation and genuinely asked what I will do once I get home. When I told him that I learned about one app named Trello (thanks, again, to Kyle), which I’ll be using to share tasks with my team, he thanked me for sharing that for he thought it was a great app and might want to use it too. Isn’t it humbling to know that the person you look up to actually learn something from you? Ah, I guess Theo Chocolate will always have a special place in my heart..., as well my mouth.

2nd meeting with Charles. Always full of food... for thought.

Nadia (yes, same pronunciation, different spelling) and Adnan are attentive hosts who knew how much I love going for a picnic and took me to three different parks in Seattle. Not to mention, they know how foodie I really am and made me tried most of their favorite meals, if not all. I blame them for my weight gain, nonetheless my tummy can’t thank them enough. Nadia’s pizookie and smoothie would be terribly missed.

I know I don't do justice for not mentioning all names one by one, but that does not mean that I respect and love those who weren't mentioned any less. For all the lessons which each and every one of them has shared, I'm thankful and wishing the very best for all of their endeavors.

I have couple of hours to get back to work (it’s almost 5 in the morning, and my jet lag still got me wide awake) and I hope to make sense of what I just made sense of by sharing my experience with my team soon.

Again, big big thanks, for sure, to everyone who was involved in this program (as well the US Department in Indonesia), and I look forward to stay in touch!

Let’s keep the momentum going.