Many dream of going to prestigious universities such as Harvard and Stanford. Adamas Belva Syah Devara, co-founder of Ruangguru, an education tech startup in Indonesia, is one of those who achieved that dream. Not only that, he holds a dual degree–an MBA from Stanford University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. Despite the brilliant academic achievements, he says that what provided him useful skills to be an entrepreneur is not his university education but his first job as a McKinsey & Company consultant.
“At McKinsey, for the first time I truly experienced what is is like working at a big organisation. Colleges were more of a place to learn how do I best learn,” said Belva. There are at least two lessons from working as management consultant that Belva deems very useful, especially when applied to running and developing his company, Ruangguru. The first lesson is structured problem solving. As a consultant, Belva learned to always use structures in solving any problem. This structured approach has shaped the way he works.
“I believe that every problem can be solved as long as we have the right structure. Big problem could be divided into bite-sized problems. When we have solved the small ones, the big problem will be solved automatically,” Belva shared.
The second lesson he deems useful is the client relationship skill. This skill, according to Belva, is very important in consulting, since no matter how great the recommendation given to a client, it all comes down to how convinced the clients are. “It is not enough for you just to be smart. You have to also be able to influence and there needs the right technique. Consulting is often an art of involving people so the clients do not feel as if we instructing them to do A, B, or C. We have to make them feel like the solution is a result of our collaboration. The level of buy-in is important as the actual solution itself.”
On the other side, there are things that are new for Belva–things he otherwise wouldn’t have learned if he did not run a startup.
“At my job at McKinsey, I didn’t get to make very difficult decisions. Normally, a project is well-defined and the most difficult decision I had to make was only around analysis and recommendation–there was no real consequence. At startup, I have to take difficult decisions. Deciding to fire or hire somebody is difficult. You need to build that thick skin and there is a high level of accountability involved.”
Written by: Raisa Nabila
Community Manager at Bukapintu (Indonesia)
Raisa is Community Manager at Bukapintu, a career network for Indonesian students and fresh graduates. She believes that storytelling and pop culture are powerful tools to change the world. Raisa is always on board for any cause that encourages people to find their life purpose earlier.