Mentoring while being mentored by ‘Ibu’
How do you ensure the constant flow of ideas in the world of business transformation? Listen to the junior colleagues, says Betty – otherwise known as “ibu” (a term of respect in Bahasa Indonesia) – to Edbert, a Young Bankers programme alumnus.
Betty Goenawan, 49, Head of Business Transformation at OCBC NISP, has been with the bank for over six years and is responsible for the execution of business transformation and process improvement projects across the organisation. Edbert Tionardi, 26, an Enterprise Banking Credit Analyst, has been with OCBC NISP for two and a half years – he joined the bank under the Young Bankers programme and is at present responsible for assessing the creditworthiness of corporate clients.
We spoke to both Betty and Edbert to understand how their unique relationship blossomed through one of the mentoring programmes championed by Group Human Resources.
How has your mentorship experience shaped the way you view your career?
Betty Goenawan (BG): I’m the Head of Business Transformation and I oversee three teams – Project Management Office, Quality Process Improvement, and Product Management Unit. Besides my day-to-day job responsibilities, I spend much of my time mentoring project team members and young bankers.
I’ve been in the banking industry for a long time and while the younger bankers see me as their mentor, in truth I’ve also been mentored by them. I’ve learned plenty from the junior colleagues, especially in terms of their perspectives. It’s like I’ve been given a new pair of glasses to peer into their world.
Because I run business transformations, my mind has to be perpetually open and constantly evolving. I cannot afford to have a fixed mindset, but rather, the need to appreciate the ideas of the junior colleagues and include their perspectives during discussions. They offer fresh ideas and solutions instead of merely regurgitating or refining old solutions; their daring spirit ignites my own thinking!
How has your communication style evolved as a result of this mentorship journey?
BG: I’ve learned to listen carefully to the junior colleagues. Instead of immediately drawing on my experiences, I’ve trained myself to be open to new ways of doing things, marrying my own experiences with their ideas.
I have become a better communicator by observing them and modifying my own interaction style. Unlike the time when I was their age, the younger generation today are more open and transparent. Yet, they are able to communicate respectfully, which makes it easier for the more experienced, like me, to be receptive.
How would you describe your mentoring relationship with Edbert?
BG: Edbert, whom I work with on the LIFRR project, is one of the Young Bankers I mentored. He gave me a lot of fresh ideas which I might not have naturally thought of. Over a casual coffee meeting, he shared practical suggestions on how we could implement LIFRR and how the bank could change its mindset. It was very refreshing!
In Indonesian culture, the term used to respectfully address an older woman is ‘ibu’. During the work-from-home (WFH) period (as a result of COVID-19), he would send me notes such as, “Ibu, are you still WFH? Why don’t we catch up? I have things I want to tell you.” He maintains the right balance between being open and casual; yet remaining respectful at the same time.
I initially thought the junior colleagues would love WFH. I was surprised that Edbert prefers to be in the office where he can frequently interact with me, bounce off ideas and offer new insights to challenge my way of thinking.
What are your thoughts on having a more ‘open-minded’ policy?
BG: Our casual chats are heart-warming as we both genuinely listen to and learn from each other. There is a lot of talk about having an ‘open-door policy’. However, for me, this is not only about having physical doors which are open, but also having an open mind and an open heart. The doors of the mind and the heart must be open to receive and learn!
When I look at the junior colleagues, I intentionally stop myself from thinking ‘Oh, he’s just a kid’. Instead, I recognise that they may be able to provide me with fresh perspectives. I have to be open to criticism. I know the intentions of my team and, with self-awareness, I am able to take sincere criticism. I have to be mature enough to learn from the junior colleagues, how ironic!
How has Betty impacted you as a mentor?
Edbert Tionardi (ET): When I joined the bank in 2018, Betty was assigned to be my mentor. I felt privileged because apart from Indonesia, she has deep experience in international markets like Singapore and Tokyo. Betty was more than a mentor to me; she was my advocate. She pushed me and gave me the exposure that I couldn’t have otherwise obtained if I were left on my own.
I used to think that conventional banks operated on a rigid hierarchical structure. It is not the norm, nor is it easy, for junior employees to approach senior bank staff. As a result, I had viewed mentoring as a one-way relationship. For my mentoring relationship with Betty, I’ve never considered that mentoring my mentor was even a possibility!
During my early days in her team, she gave me an opportunity to give a presentation to our senior management. The board of directors eventually took in some of the ideas I presented, which was very encouraging to a junior employee like me.
What has been the one thing that Betty shared, which really made a difference?
ET: During my first few days in OCBC NISP, Betty told me to remember the three Ps – Performance, Platform and People. She re-emphasised the meaning behind ‘people’ and constantly reminded me to be a team player and work with people instead of doing it on my own. On top of that, she made an emphatic point to avoid politics while working with people. These lessons have remained with me.
Betty is not the kind who sugar-coats things, she tells it like it is. At the same time, she doesn’t use her position or seniority to her advantage or force her own ideas. She makes us feel like we are part of the same team, and she gives me the confidence to speak up.
How did you strike a comfortable balance with Betty, despite the difference in seniority?
ET: The Indonesian corporate culture is, to some extent, still hierarchical, but she would always tell me to drop the term ‘ibu’ and call her by her first name. Betty and I would meet twice a month for coffee. Besides work, we share personal stuff such as our hobbies, likes and dislikes. She shares her insights with total candour. She taught me how to be confident, gave me career growth advice and encouraged me to explore future possibilities. Through this, I began to relate to her both as a boss and as a person.
She was a great influence and gave me a leg-up during the early part of my career; I will always remember her influence!
What’s your advice to your fellow young bankers?
ET: Learn to speak up, but don’t speak without thinking. It is vital to think before we speak, so that we can gain the respect and confidence of our seniors. Don’t gloss over details or be lazy. In the beginning of your career, read all emails and get into the nitty-gritty. The smallest things matter!
Learn to listen to everyone. Be a smart listener but do also learn to listen to your instincts as well. Communicate widely. It is important to listen respectfully and carefully, as this will help broaden our horizons.
Now that you are more experienced, what would you say to younger bankers at OCBC NISP?
BG: Strike the right balance between the OCBC corporate culture and the culture of Indonesia and be sure to always listen and communicate respectfully to senior colleagues in the bank. It’s the job of my generation to find that right balance between being progressive and being traditional, and young colleagues play a role in helping us strike the right balance.