Olga Serena

Learning Business, Birmingham & Ningbo

Olga’s academic programme gives her a global mental vista
Olga’s academic programme gives her a global mental vista

IT WAS in midwinter when Olga Serena went to England. Her study stint from January till April, 2013, was part of her BSc (Hons) International Business study at the University of Birmingham. “It was really cold, so we made snow angels outside the classroom!” says Olga who grew up in hot, humid Jakarta.

“I think going to the UK is an eye opener. I saw a totally different culture and learnt how business was done in one of the fastest-growing developed economies.”

Before that semester term began, Olga and her class mates from SIM Global Education (about 50 of them) enjoyed five days of outdoor sporting activities that included mountain climbing and abseiling (sliding down a cliff, “scary but safe”) in the picturesque Lake District. 

Understanding Guanxi In China

After her England trip, Olga attended a semester at the University of Nottingham’s overseas campus in Ningbo, China, from February to June 2014.
“I learnt the in’s and out’s of business management in China,” says Olga, recalling that the most important insight she gained was the value of “guanxi” (the backscratching practice prevalent in China business and politics).

Anyone who needs to get business done, needs to understand how guanxi works. Someone important does you a favour (scratches your back) not because he likes you or you are good-looking, but because you are a friend of a friend who knows someone else who is also important in the food chain.

“Another side benefit of my stay in China was that I learnt to speak Mandarin,” says Olga, an ethnic Indonesian Chinese whose childhood language is Bahasa Indonesia. “My aim now is to learn business Mandarin, so that I could read and write simple business correspondence in Chinese.” 

High Marks In Management

On her academic programme at SIM-University of Birmingham, Olga says, “I chose International Business because it provided me with the knowledge and skill set in managing an organisation. This programme also allowed me to study one term abroad, meet people of different cultures and expand my mental vista.”

Olga, now 23, graduated in late 2014 with high marks in several subjects. She got more than 90 in Corporate Finance and won the prize for Brand Marketing, meaning she got the highest marks among her cohort for this subject.

In her student days from 2012-2014, Olga spent a great deal of time helping and leading the Indonesian students’ club, known as InSIM. “At InSIM, I’m involved in exploring and developing the talents and skills of the members through the production of a musical drama and celebrating Indonesia's Independence Day,” she says.

In 2012, she led the cast and production team that staged the musical, The Broken String. The show was the result of an intense six months of preparation and practice, and played to a full house of more than 400 people.

“All members of the cast and crew worked hard, and practised almost every day, including Sundays!” says Olga. “Lack of time and other obstacles appeared in our way, but we did not give up. The full house was way above our expectations.”

But it wasn’t the first time Olga was involved in a stage production. Back in high school in Jakarta, she was already directing small plays performed in class, she says. 

Passion For Leadership

Olga’s clear-eyed passion is business leadership. “I would like to manage and lead a well-integrated, effective business setup,” she says.

While in high school, Olga demonstrated her leadership as vice-president of the students’ council. “Together with my team, we managed and led high school events such as inter-class competition, Green campaign and the school bazaar.”

In the Green campaign, the students' council participated in the planting of mangrove seedlings along a coastal swamp. It’s a well-known fact that mangroves help protect the coastline from sea floods.

As a scholar at SIM Global Education, she believes strongly in lifelong learning, as reflected in a maxim that she once read in a devotional book, “Unripe apple will grow but the ripe ones will rot”. She explains that one shouldn’t stop learning and growing. “The moment one feels one has ‘arrived’ and there’s nothing more to know, one becomes stagnant and unable to progress,” she says.

In quiet moments though, she thinks of her home town, Jakarta. “It sounds terrible, but sometimes I just miss the city’s traffic jam, the frustration, and the sound of honking cars. Perhaps, I love my home town just the way it is,” she adds.

Essentials Of Sales

In January 2015, Olga got a job as Medical Sales Representative for a German pharmaceutical firm. Sales is essential to any company, she says, explaining why she wants to know the nitty-gritty of engaging customers, creating and fulfilling a need, and actually completing the sales order.

“I want to master selling skills because sales is the very lifeline of the company. If you can’t sell your company’s products or services, then why are you still with the company?”
 

- Story first published in May 2013, updated in 11 May 2015