In developing countries such as Indonesia, the lack of jobs can be debilitating for its youth population. In 2020, the national youth unemployment rate stood at 17.4%. Many blame the deficiencies in its education system, which failed to develop skills and provide career planning.
This is why Vito Sutrisna, an MBA student at Columbia Business School, co-founded AIMZ — a career accelerator based in Jakarta that offers a practical upskilling programme for fresh graduates.
“We believe that everyone should have access to high-quality mentorship regardless of their socio-economic background,” this 24-year old explains. Through personalised career coaching and a practical curriculum designed with industry input, participants get valuable insight from professionals for 12 weeks.
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Below we speak to this Columbia Business School student on the importance of bridging the skills gap, his undergraduate degree in Australia, and what life’s like in the Big Apple today
Where does your interest in commerce stem from? Why pursue an undergraduate degree in Australia before heading to Columbia?
It was mainly for the time efficiency given Australia’s three year undergraduate curriculum. I effectively graduated in two and a half years from Monash University.
What I like most about Australia, specifically Melbourne, is that the city has a good mix of tranquility and extroversion. There’s always something to do for everyone.
Why did you choose Columbia Business School for your MBA?
I’ve always wanted to experience living in North America so it was not really a difficult decision for me to make.
Do you think it would be different if you got your MBA at a local institution instead of Columbia Business School?
I’m afraid the answer would be yes. Although one could argue that the education content is somewhat a commodity. For instance, I’ve heard that MBA at Institut Teknologi Bandung uses Harvard casebooks but the academic experience is only a small aspect of this programme.
You actually learn a lot outside of the classrooms through talking to different people from various industries and geographies. Unfortunately, an MBA in Indonesia has yet to reach the sufficient level of heterogeneousness. At Columbia Business School for example, my cohort consists of people from over 30 nationalities.
Tell us more about AIMZ. How does it help Indonesian Gen Z graduates find jobs?
In short, we built AIMZ to be the career accelerator that democratises access to high quality career advice and mentorship in Southeast Asia. I first had the idea back in 2019.
I was reflecting on how arduous it was for me to discover what career aspirations I had and navigate the job market. My father is a small contractor and my mother stays at home. As a first-generation college student, my parents were not well-positioned to give me sound career advice.
I called up more than 10 people in various industries to shape up my career aspirations. To add to this, I made silly avoidable mistakes such as having a seven-page CV. So, AIMZ is my way to help students and graduates out there who are in the same boat as I was.
It’s crucial to help upskill Gen Z in Indonesia (and even the wider Southeast Asia region) because it has the potential to be a skilled worker powerhouse in the next 10 to 20 years. The average age of population in emerging markets is approximately 25-30 years old.
This stands in contrast to the US which is at 40 years. Education is the key to unlock the capitalisation of the demographic bonus of the region.
Besides your studies, what have been your most memorable, non-academic experiences in the US so far?
I would say my out-of-state trips, but more than that, it would be launching AIMZ remotely from my small bedroom. We started this in March along with the other co-founders in Indonesia working on this on top of their day jobs.
Because of the 12-hour time difference, we had multiple online customer interviews and workshops scheduled at 2 a.m. for me. I would sleep for four to five hours, go to class (half awake) and work on this project in my spare time.
Although it was gruelling, this experience is something I would do all over again. It’s exciting that in the four months post inception, we managed to enrol over 250 participants and sign more than 50 mentors. Building a venture to solve a problem that you really care about is one of the best ways to accelerate your learning and self-development.
What are your top three favourite things about New York?
The city has so much energy! People are just naturally outgoing and generally open to new ideas and experiences. I like biking a lot here so I enjoy scenic rides the city has to offer. Last but not least, the speakeasy bars are just phenomenal.
What’s the local food compared to home like? Tell us your most and least favourite.
In general, I think the taste is a bit muted compared to back home which I prefer (sorry Indonesia, you’re too spicy and salty for me!). The most and least favourite of mine is the good old bagel with cream cheese and meat over rice respectively.
What’s one thing from the US you’re planning to bring back home?
A friend introduced me to a wine brand from California called Meiom. Hands down, it is the best ever.
What’s one thing you miss from home and how do you substitute it?
It may sound weird but I miss my time at Boston Consulting Group solving client problems. I deliberately picked my colleagues there to be my co-founders to replicate the set up (just kidding!).
Do you have any advice for international students looking to study in the US?
I think it’s important to strike a balance between making a conscious decision about how you spend your time and opening up to a new experience. On one extreme, you could fully engineer your schedule to your liking but this would probably prevent you from going out and experiencing different things. This is because natural discomfort goes along with everything new and unknown. On the other hand, you could be a “yes” person but this might be risky because you could lose sight of what your objective in coming to the US is.
What budgeting tips do you have for other international students? What can you get in a month with US$100?
My approach is to ruthlessly prioritise your budget based on what you like doing. For example, if you like trying new restaurants, you may want to cut back on your day-to-day usual food budget. For me, US$100 would probably get you two weeks of groceries as a single person if you’re a smart cook.