Great time in Jakarta for Frank C.S. Pedersen

His name is Frank C.S. Pedersen. He lives in Jakarta and feels great. So great that he has been living in the country as an expatriate for two years, even though the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had encouraged Danish people to leave. On top of that he has just been promoted at P.T. Siemens Indonesia.
     Frank C.S. Pedersen grew up south of Aalborg with his grandparents. His grand dad took care of his garage and not at least the very important customers during the working hours. However, in the spare time he showed a big interest for history books about the near and the far and that particular interest was passed on to his curious grandson. When the boy from the northern part of Jutland was not busy with school or soccer he was wrapped up with worldwide events either when being alone or with his grand dad.
     This perhaps explains Frank C.S. Pedersen’s urge to travel when he had finished his degree as a civil engineer at Aalborg University.
     “I had sent out four applications to Danish companies, though not all that whole-heartedly. It was sure that I wanted to work abroad. I also applied for five positions in Canada however at the end of the fall of 1989 I decided that I wanted to go to Switzerland. And now that I had the application and the CV in German why not send it to Siemens?”
     Out of seven applications on his own initiative, he got four job offers – the best one, according to himself being the one from Siemens. The company who had more than 400,000 employees offered him a job with the opportunities of traveling while implementing high voltage plants.
     “From the very first day I was sent on training courses and after only two months in Germany I met my wife Martina. And then I started as promised by Siemens to travel the world and setting up plants.”
     It did not take the Danish engineer more than a couple of years to realize that he was capable of doing much more than this. It was organization and management that were his strengths.
     In 1995 he became a site-manager in the USA. At first in Los Angeles and later in Las Vegas. The job was fitting well with his private life together with Martina who was now concentrating on being a wife and an expatriate.
     “Already in March 1995 I was contacted by another person from Siemens who wanted to hire me as a project leader. But I could not do it. I had promised Siemens to be a site-manager on the two projects in USA. When I met him later he asked me if I wanted to go to Malaysia. The government was in the process of building a new airport 55 km south of the capital Kuala Lumpur (KL) and we were supposed to build the train service between KL and the airport.”
     After having finished the project, the Pedersen family, now including also Frederik who was born in Malaysia, moved back to Germany where it all started. Two years later, in January 2000 they moved to USA and in November 2001 Frank C.S. Pedersen was encouraged to go to Jarkarta to take up a general manager position, which he started doing in January 2002.
     Even though he had been working with trains it seemed a little more difficult to stay on the right track with the projects including 400 employees, sub suppliers and customers within the oil, gas and metal industry.
     “The Indonesian people are afraid of conflicts but it is hard to make an omelet without breaking the egg shell. They seem to automatically avoid responsibility. It is very hard for the Indonesians to stay with the situation, take responsibility and take the initiative to solve the problem right now.”
     “If two employees are having a conflict they come to me and suddenly they are the best friends in the world. They simply do not know how to show their disagreement to a third party when they are both present,” Frank C.S. Pedersen raises an example.
     “It is the same case when some of our local managers have an uncle or a cousin working for any of our distributors. Then it should not result in the delivery being late or us being charged too much – but in fact quite to the contrary,” he continues.
     It is things like those that sometimes troubles Frank C.S. Pedersen.
     “It can be hard to be in the middle of it. But I must never think that I am better than they are. They are just different and had another upbringing than we foreigners from Europe. When I was in Malaysia, we had big problems with some of the Europeans acting like kings.”
     “Don’t get me wrong. I do take my part of the struggle here in this organization. But the important part is how I go about doing it. I have to talk to the Indonesian employees and stakeholders so that neither they nor I will lose face. And how do we make it all work so that we can maintain the very high standards which Siemens represents. And then I think of my time in the Dall Villabyernes Soccer team,” the former soccer players says.
     When he was a little boy playing soccer on the Dall Villaby team, his mom however always told him that it was better to be a big fish in a small sea than a small fish in a big sea.
     In spite of his mom’s words the same “boy” is today a member of one the world’s biggest teams “The Siemens team” with more than 400,000 employees, which is by far more than the number of inhabitants in Aalborg and that area.
     As it had already been stated previously in this article, the company is almost like a society of its own with an independent labor force. All positions are announced to the public; however the recruitment often takes place within the organization. When the decision makers are looking for new people they are in the cafeteria, on training or in the reports which are given to the management every year.
     “My time here in Indonesia is very important for my career at Siemens. And it is a great chance. The possibilities are many and while my contract has just been extended I have also been promoted to a position which gives me an even bigger area to work with.”
     And maybe the success can be assigned to what the international “boy” from northern Jutland learned from back home in his grand dad’s garage in Dall Villaby south of Aalborg.
     “He always said that the office was a place in which to write out bills. The customers did not come automatically. Look after your customers and keep the quality to a fair price. That was the most important whether running a small or a big company,” Frank C.S. Pedersen remembers.
     And when I ask him about his contribution to Siemens in Indonesia it is almost like listening to the talk in the garage in Dall Villaby.
     “I have added more focus on the individual customer and more openness in the organization, which has led to better results.”
     For the second time an expatriate program has resulted in adding another member to a family in the Far East. The son Frederik was born in Malaysia and in May 2003 the wife of Frank C.S. Pedersen gave birth to a girl called Louise. The Danish/German family is happy in Indonesia despite the fact that the family has experienced the country during the bombing of Jakarta and Bali. Both places innocent people died.
     “The bombing of Marriott hotel in Jakarta was of course a very disturbing experience. Two days before the bombing we ate lunch at Marriott Hotel. The next couple of days we thought a lot about what would happen in the future. Were more bombs to come? But as time goes everything becomes business as usual. We do no longer think that much about it,” says Frank C.S. Pedersen.
     “It does not affect my expatriate program. If the international school my son attends or if one similar school was bombed, things would be different. But as things appear right now, high safety is very encouraged no matter where in Indonesia you go,” he continues.
     When asked directly Frank C. S. Pedersen joins the herd of expatriates in Indonesia who wonder why western countries warn people against traveling to and staying in the country. The western countries’ traveling guidance, including the Foreign Affairs in Denmark, encourages Danes (foreigners) to avoid or leave Indonesia if possible.
     “What I find the most paradoxical is that I was in USA on September 11th 2001. At that time there was no encouragements to leave or avoid traveling in the USA. On the contrary people were encouraged to go to New York to avoid letting terrorism bullying them.”
     Frank C. S. Pedersen also points attention to Spain where the ETA has bombed dozens of times.
     “As far as I know there have not been any warnings in any traveling guides to leave Spain. The safety has never been better in Indonesia. Even at malls mirrors are used to detect cars, trunks are being opened for safety control, etc. The safety in this country is ok, which is why such traveling guides and attitudes pain me.”

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