Farina Situmorang on Founding AI Startup Pensieve Technology and Navigating Career Journey

Cake's Talent Connect is a monthly segment where we invite speakers to share their experiences in their field or industry. In this episode of Talent Connect, we invited Farina Situmorang, a prominent Indonesian entrepreneur (CEO and co-founder of Pensieve) who has made a name for herself in the technology industry. 

Despite her impressive credentials, Farina had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to achieve her goals. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned professional, or simply someone who is interested in the world of technology and innovation, Farina's story is one that is sure to inspire and motivate you.

Farina’s Career In Tech: From Selling ATM Machines to Founding an AI Startup

farina situmorang

Farina's career in technology began soon after she graduated from the University of Indonesia. She started her journey at IBM where she held various sales and product specialist roles. Her first job was to sell ATM machines, which she succeeded at with flying colors. 

My first job was to sell ATM machines. Though it’s 20 years ago if there's a broken ATM machine, I could probably fix it.” Farina mentioned.

During her tenure at IBM, Farina gained extensive knowledge in the field of technology and honed her skills in sales and marketing.

After a few years at IBM and Microsoft, Farina decided to pursue her MBA degree at Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management. After graduation, Farina landed an offer to go back to her internship place at a company called BlackBerry. She worked for BlackBerry in their corporate headquarters in Canada for a couple of years before moving to Silicon Valley to work for a startup there. 

However, after being laid off in Silicon Valley, Farina's career took a turn when she returned to Indonesia to participate in the 2014 presidential election campaign. Inspired by the successful 2008 Obama campaign that used technology and social media to mobilize voters, Farina was fascinated by the potential impact of AB multivariate testing, a strategy she had experience with from her previous technology work.

She worked for Mr. Jokowi in the presidential election campaign and eventually started her entrepreneurial journey by founding her own consulting company called Catalyst. At the end of 2020, Farina decided to leave Catalyst and start her new AI startup, Pensieve Technology.

In the following sections of this article, we will delve deeper into Farina's story and explore the lessons that we can all learn from her experiences. 

4 Lessons on Navigating a Career from CEO Farina Situmorang

1. It's okay to be unsure

Farina admits that she did not know what she wanted to do in life initially, and it took her years of exploration and trying different things to figure out her calling. 

We as young people sometimes get too caught up and get too close-minded. Especially after you spent four years in school and you decided that, hey, I already studied this for four years and I have to make a career out of it. Remember that this is a decision that you made when you were 16 years old or 15 years old. You're trying to pick a major in college. Do you think you would do that for the rest of your life? That's impossible. Some people do choose the right thing, and maybe it's absolutely right for them. But most people still need time to explore.

She emphasizes the importance of being open-minded, trying new things, and exploring our talents. It's okay to be unsure about things and to test out different ideas before committing to a career path. By doing so, we can discover our true calling and achieve our goals. 

2. Be open to learning from others

Farina highlights the importance of having an open mind and being receptive to learning from others. She believes that mentors can be valuable assets in one's career journey, providing guidance, feedback, and fresh perspectives on various situations. However, finding a mentor may not always be an easy task, and you can still learn a great deal from others in different ways, for instance reading books, joining online classes, etc.

The most important thing is the mindset of being open to listening to ideas or asking questions. You don't necessarily need a formal mentor. Meaning like, I'm going to pick this person as a mentor and then it's great as a checkbox. No, the most important thing is if you go to an event, you meet someone interesting, ask them questions. And then if that develops into having a formal mentorship or relationship, that's okay, right? But the most important thing is to have that mindset first.

3. Mastery is not a destination but a journey

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we know everything there is to know about something after learning it for a period of time. However, Farina stresses that becoming a true master of skill is not something that can be achieved in a year or two, but rather something that takes years of practice and effort.

People get really bored in the middle because the increment of learning when you are in the middle is very small. You are going to stay in that medium zone for a while. And the middle is where most people give up. The middle is when people tend to just stay there and they don't ever become an expert or a Master, because it just takes time. And not enough people are willing to do that. Some people get bored and move to other things. That's why not everybody becomes Roger Federer. Because it takes that much time and every hour of your life to think about that one thing to become that great.

It's not necessary for everyone to become a Master in one specific area, but once you find something that sparks you can either continue pursuing that passion or reach a comfortable level of expertise and move on to exploring other interests. It's important to make these decisions consciously, rather than blindly or arrogantly assuming you know better. 

4. It all goes back to self-awareness

While it may be tempting to try to become an expert in many fields, focus on one or two areas that align with your strengths and interests. When we perform tasks that align with our strengths, we tend to find them more enjoyable and engaging, which can fuel our motivation and allow us to achieve greater success and fulfillment.

At the end of the day, it all goes back to self-awareness. Becoming more aware of who you are, and what you do best. The habits and the patterns that you have, the reactions, the emotions, the fear. It's going to make you better at your work, in your career, and also in your relationships once you understand yourself.

After years of building her career, gaining experience, and discovering more about life, Farina took a turn and established an AI startup called Pensieve. In the next section, we’ll unravel the story of when she stumbled upon a customer problem and turned it into a business opportunity.

The Founding of AI Startup Pensieve: A Story of Seizing Opportunities

Pensieve is an Indonesian technology company that specializes in big data analytics and enterprise-level software. Pensieve works with government agencies in areas such as defense, intelligence, and public services.

It is similar to Palantir, one of the leading technology companies in the United States that originally worked with the US government before expanding to other areas. However, Pensieve focuses on the needs of emerging markets, such as Southeast Asian countries. These areas have different needs than highly developed countries like the US or Europe. 

pensieve indonesia

Life's Unpredictability Led to the Founding of Pensieve

When reflecting on the company’s establishment, Farina expressed that the timing, location, opportunity, and customer were all aligned perfectly. 

To be honest, it's probably the right time, the right place, the right opportunity, and the right customer. Everything is just what you call everything falls into place. Yeah, everything falls into place. It's more like providence or serendipity. Farina added.

Having worked in the technical side of the industry, including consulting for government agencies, she stumbled upon a customer problem that Pensieve could solve. Farina acknowledges that she could have never predicted founding Pensieve, particularly given her background in fixing ATM machines. She advises that sometimes one must be open to what life presents.

How Pensieve is Positioning Itself for the Future of AI

One of the most practical applications of AI that exists today is chatbots like ChatGPT. The emergence of chatbots is an exciting development because it opens up the possibility for endless features and products to be developed on top of it. This means that AI has the potential to evolve in many different ways, offering more creative solutions to solve customers' problems.

Pensieve Technology is among the companies that recognize the potential of AI and utilize it to solve organizational issues in the government sector. The company's focus is on automating manual work and providing insights that would normally take hours of manual analysis. 

One of the notable projects that the company has undertaken is providing assistance to web three or blockchain projects for government EP procurement during the G20 summit in Bali. While the company cannot disclose much information regarding other agency-related projects, they have also developed prototypes for the Land Certificate Agency and provided assistance with intellectual property rights validation and traceability.  

Like any AI startup or technology company, they are constantly incubating ideas to keep up with the latest trends and remain competitive in the market.

Work Environment at Pensieve Technology

pensieve indonesia

Accountability, Empowerment, and Trust 

At the foundation of Pensieve's work culture is a strong belief in accountability, empowerment, and trust. The team is trusted to do their best to achieve the set outcomes, and are encouraged to take the initiative and be proactive in achieving them. While questions and help are always welcome, employees are not restricted to only doing what they are told to do. 

Fostering Creativity and Learning in the Workplace

Pensieve believes that physical interaction still plays a huge role in terms of creating the best work environment possible. “We mostly work from the office. Because we believe that interacting with people in the office creates ideas to be compounded."

The company organizes Brown Bag sessions or sharing sessions where employees can share what they have learned about a particular topic. These sessions encourage learning and growth, and employees are encouraged to always think about how they can make things better.

Prioritizing a Positive Work Culture

Pensieve values collaboration and mutual support, and believes that success should not be achieved at the expense of others. The company wants its employees to feel empowered to succeed and recognize that they can contribute to the overall success of the company.

As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, it's no secret that job seekers are looking for more than just a steady paycheck. Pensieve not only provides cutting-edge technology solutions, but also prioritizes a strong work culture that fosters creativity, accountability, and mutual support.

“We are looking for high performers who do want to make things better. Because what I want everyone here is that they can be inspired as much as from me, from the people around them, and from the people they work with.” - Farina Situmorang

Pensieve is Hiring!

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