9 Questions For Indonesian Risk-Taker Paulina Purnomowati
“The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition” is just around the corner, and like fans all over the world, Indonesian businesswoman Paulina Purnomowati is excited for one of the biggest unscripted reality shows in recent years.
The calm, collected, and cheerful Purnomowati has a wealth of experience in the business world. Now, the Jakarta native leaves her comfort zone to embark on a new adventure, and she is ready to work together – and compete – with other handpicked candidates from across the globe.
“Pungky,” as she is affectionately known, holds an MBA in International Business & Marketing from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She has held multiple key leadership positions in various companies and organizations, and now, she hopes to become ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong‘s apprentice.
Before the show premieres on 18 March, we asked the Indonesian risk-taker nine questions about her incredible life journey, what motivated her to join the toughest version of “The Apprentice” yet, and more!
ONE Championship: How would your close friends and colleagues describe you?
Paulina Purnomowati: My close friends and colleagues know me as a patient, calm, and demanding person, but in a nurturing way. I guess that’s why I have held various leadership positions in multiple companies and organizations.
I am a very retail-oriented person because I mostly worked in the retail industry since I earned my master’s degree in 2005, so I have around 16 years of experience in the industry.
ONE: How did you jump into the business world?
PP: Actually, I hold a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, but when my friends and I were in our last year of college, we opened a coffee shop in Bandung, West Java, where we studied. The idea came after we thought that the city didn’t have a cozy place for us Jakartans to hang out while studying.
I handled the brand promotion and fell in love with brand management since then. Back then, the coffee shop was booming, and I felt that brand management was exciting, so I pursued an MBA in the U.S. Many people in the offices [I worked at] were surprised to know that I actually studied engineering.
ONE: Outside of work, you practice meditative dance and participate in triathlons. How did that start?
PP: I was a junior gymnastics athlete when I was a kid and had to train 11 times a week as part of the preparation to participate in the Asian Games, so before and after school, I took part in the training. I guess that has helped shape my body because I was built that way and my physique is now demanding me to train regularly.
I started dancing after I lost my mom and dad. A friend asked me to join a dance class. I didn’t have a dancing background, but the flexibility and strength remained in my body because I’ve been doing sports since I was a kid. Apparently, dancing could help release emotions.
Some people prefer writing or running to release their emotions, but for me, it’s dancing and choreographing to channel my emotions. My first choreography was when mom passed away. I felt there was some part of me that healed when I danced.
ONE: Do you think those activities also help you as a businesswoman?
PP: I think it’s compulsory. Any kind of work can generate a high level of stress, and retail, particularly, is a fast-paced industry because it is a daily business. What’s going on today may be different than tomorrow.
For me, dancing is balancing my head, so I’m like switching. If I do not switch [my focus], even in my sleep, I will think of work.
ONE: Those activities and experiences seem to make a perfect combination for “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition,” where your physical ability and business skills are put to the test. Speaking of which, what motivated you to try out for the show?
PP: I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and for me, it’s a big deal because I quit my job to join the show. I left the company and quit my job without knowing what’s next, but maybe it’s because I am a risk-taker who loves to throw the dice, and I feel that I am going to gain a lot from this in terms of learning.
In this stage of my life, I am already too comfortable with what I am doing, so when an opportunity comes in front of my eyes, I take it as a challenge. For me, it’s another opportunity to learn.
ONE: Do you feel a certain degree of pride knowing that you’ll be the only candidate to represent Indonesia?
PP: Of course! Big time, especially because I am the only one while the other candidates are coming from the U.S., Germany, Russia, and other countries. Of course, it’s a big pride to carry the Indonesian flag.
ONE: From your perspective, how different would you say “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition” is from previous versions?
PP: It’s truly different! I watched the entire first season of its original series, so I am familiar with the routes.
I’d say the differences are in terms of values instilled. Something that I admire about Chatri [Sityodtong] is his values. He built ONE Championship out of very good values. That’s what makes this edition different. It’s not only about gaining profit or money, but it’s all about values. Besides, there will be physical challenges, too.
ONE: How is the preparation going?
PP: Something that I really prepared for – on the business side – is to open my mind.
I have been in the business world for a long time, but I have always worked with my own team. Now, I’ve got to work with people with different backgrounds and ages, so you need to be really open-minded. I know in the end it’s a competition, so you cannot really talk about teamwork. Meanwhile, I am a team player.
In terms of physical preparations, since I am already 41 while some other candidates are in their 20s or 30s, of course, they have better stamina, right? I took some time to train to increase my endurance – I’ve trained three to five times a day.
ONE: Finally, what kind of unique values are in Indonesia that many global business players may not know about?
PP: I think Indonesians have high nationalism. We are taught to have gotong royong (mutual cooperation) since we were kids. I think that’s a unique value that is authentic to Indonesia. I think this is different even compared to other Asian nations like Hong Kong, Singapore, or even Malaysia. When a disaster hits, many individuals will make social charities, and these kinds of things really affect how we do business.
The sense of familyhood makes a good team. It’s a different culture compared to the U.S., Singapore, and France, and Indonesians should be proud of its gotong royong. In doing business, of course, there are politics and competitions, which are normal and happen anywhere. But somehow, our sense of mutual cooperation is stronger than the rest of the world.