By Pamela Chan
Margharetha “Etha” Siregar was born and raised in a remote town on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan. Here, department stores, movie theaters, and supermarkets were nowhere to be found. The airport was only built when she was in junior high school. It was the type of place where she knew every person’s name on the library checkout card of the sole Harry Potter book in the vicinity.
But Etha devoured every book she could get her hands on. Along with teaching her the English language, these stories introduced her to a bigger world than what she had known.
“Since I was young, I had this drive and big aspirations that none of my friends could relate to, but one that I knew would take me beyond my town,” she says.
So, at the age of seventeen, she left home for the first time to attend the Universitas Pembangunan Nasional Veteran in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She recalls, “I loved this time because I had all the freedom to learn anything and figure out what interests me the most.” Fueled by her eagerness to see the world and aiming for a career where she could utilize her English language skills, she chose to study International Relations & Affairs. “I dreamed of becoming a diplomat or ambassador,” she details, “But by the time I graduated, I wasn’t so sure.”
Launching Her Career
The pieces of the puzzle took some time to fall into place. Landing a job as a Human Resource management trainee at Kompas Gramedia, a multimedia conglomerate in the capital city of Jakarta, Etha spent the first months of her professional career learning the ropes of employee relations.
“I was doing well in this role but wasn’t motivated to excel in it,” she states, “So I confided in a trusted mentor. She told me: ‘Etha, you’re someone who finds the most motivation from a task with a clear-cut target. Try leaning into an HR role that’s less abstract, like recruiting.’”
And the rest was history.
Not long after the conversation, Etha dove straight into recruitment at a boutique consulting firm. Finding patterns between open roles and their requirements came naturally to her. She even closed a major position within her first month at the firm.
The Road to Gojek
Though Etha was finally excelling in her role, she began questioning if her work was meaningful. She remembers, “I wanted to do more than just make money for a company.” It was during this period of reflection that she came across Mapan — a social enterprise technology company whose services enable low-income Indonesians in remote areas, primarily women, to earn a side income.
Thus entered Etha into the tech world. Fascinated by Mapan’s business model and keen to experience a less “corporate” work culture, she eventually took up the mantle of tech recruiting at Mapan. Just a year and a half later, Mapan was acquired by GoPay (now known as GoTo Financial), and Etha’s job scope broadened to include hiring for Gojek too. She remarks,
“When I joined Gojek in 2017, each team was hiring in silos. There were no playbooks or intake discussions. But there was a method to the madness that excited me. We were thriving and running the fastest-growing financial platform in the country, and I knew I was at the right place.”
Etha has since assisted the organization in establishing a centralized recruiting process and pipeline. As the Talent Acquisition team’s Technical Recruitment Lead today, she manages the Center of Excellence for four technical domains: Growth, IT Infrastructure, Information Security, and Research & Insights and acts as a people manager for the Jakarta recruitment team specifically.
She adds, “I get to hold unique responsibilities here, like the time I was assigned to build up our IT Infrastructure team.” In its early days, the IT Infra stream was a rudimentary subgroup of the wider Engineering vertical, but one that needed to be fortified for our public listing. Fielding a seemingly crystalized legacy of culture and mindset that made hiring changes less than welcome, Etha spent months convincing hiring managers to prioritize these new requirements. She relates, “I can’t always present candidates that they’ll give an easy yes to, but ones who can challenge them back and bring additional value to the team. This isn’t always well received.”
But her efforts weren’t in vain; Gojek’s IT Infrastructure team now stands at 112+ members strong and has been described as an “entirely new beast” by several organization leaders. It has since managed and scaled infrastructure capabilities with innovative technology deployments to solve key business challenges for the GoTo Group.
Recruiting in Retrospect
After her nearly decade-long career as a recruiter, Etha summarizes why she enjoys this field: “Recruitment is critical because as long as the business grows, their teams will need to as well. As a recruiter, you’re exposed to multiple stages of a company’s journey and gain insight into the business by helping its leaders build effective teams—a special position to be in.”
She also notes a key factor that has underpins Gojek’s recruitment outlook in particular:
“This is the first company I’ve worked at where I’m measured not by my level of education or where I came from, but my abilities and accomplishments,”
She reveals, “Some of my teammates came from business, hospitality, and engineering backgrounds, and some had never worked in recruitment until now. This unconventional perspective not only enhances our team dynamic but also our hiring approach and ultimately the people we hire that move our company forward.”
And working within what she describes as the “golden moment” of the Indonesian tech landscape is the cherry on top. “Hundreds of tech startups have emerged within the last decade,” she describes, “We have the resources and now need the talent to build this landscape even further. If you want to be a part of this growth quite literally, recruitment is the way to go.”
Etha’s story is a prime example of just how far personal drive can bring you professionally.
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