Friday, January 31, 2014

Personal Development: How I Made My First Million

At this early stage of my life I am still experiencing many “firsts” in my professional life as well as my personal life, but less and less frequently these moments come to me. I search for these “firsts” wherever I can because they accelerate my personal growth and make me more prepared for what is to come. Not all of these experiences will receive their own blog post, but making my first million is one that does.

I have been working with a local consulting firm in South-East Asia since 2011 and mainly my work has been conducted in large cities such as Jakarta and Singapore, but I have been very lucky to visit several villages and rural communities in my time here. I have also travelled across the region in my spare time with my beautiful wife. I have gotten to know parts of Indonesian culture and learned a lot about living abroad as a Norwegian and a foreigner in this country, but I am in no way a “veteran” in the expat-life yet.

I have received several emails, private messages and Skype calls on the topics of immigration, job-hunting and living as a foreigner in Indonesia. Generally, my advice is to look for a job in a large company in your home country and aim to get posted abroad. My recommended approach however takes time and may mean that you have to spend many years “paying your dues” before you get the opportunity to be stationed abroad. In this blog post I have noted some of my opinions, pointers and experiences for expats and especially for those without a company placement, the “Local-Hire Expats”.

I think of myself as if I was a foreigner in my home country
I come from Norway and have always found our public services to be great, welcoming, accessible and easy to use. While this may be true for Norwegians and any visitors who have already learned how to speak Norwegian, this is definitely not the case for all foreigners. I had the privilege of volunteering with the Norwegian Red Cross in a program called “the Refugee-help” (name sounds better in Norwegian). I spent some time every week with an African man, a father of one who had recently arrived in the country with his wife. He had a master’s degree from his home country and was a chess-player far beyond my skills (which really doesn’t say much, but that is the only indication I have of his skill level). 

For my friend and his family, English was their third language as his local language and French were the two he was the most familiar with. As most (all?) immigrants in Norway, he was enrolled in a mandatory Norwegian class sponsored by the government and had little opportunity to improve his English as he mainly socialised with his countrymen and spoke his native tongue. This left him in a limbo with limited English skills and very limited Norwegian skills which led to many challenges related to both paperwork and basic communication with the Norwegian government, not to mention the Norwegian neighbours and work-colleagues. I am now personally very aware of the humbling feeling that lack of communication skills can lead to, but my interactions with my African friend taught me that communication is only partly about which language we speak and mainly about openness and willingness to work towards mutual understanding.

I am replacing a local talent, why?
As a foreigner, I am bringing knowledge and experience from Norway and other countries where I have worked and studied. This combination of experiences is a unique commodity. This knowledge should be (and must be according to Indonesian law) shared and used to empower local colleagues. Taking a moment to think about my unique experiences and my unique skillset has helped me identify the best role for me and the best place to begin a job-hunt. Is my greatest asset in life “Being an experienced English speaker” or “Having education from a fancy school”? I thought beyond my CV and certifications, to discover what it is I bring to the table that nobody else in my host country or maybe the whole world can.

Do I add more value than a “real” local hire?
There are many tax and immigration papers that need to be prepared in order to secure work permits and legal requirements here in Indonesia. As a general rule, the employer pays for these processes and covers all of these expenses. This of course comes in addition to the considerably higher salary level expected and received by most “western” foreigners here. I kept this humbling fact in mind as I compare what I was offered to what I would be offered in Norway. Until my talent becomes fully developed, I am prepared to accept local terms. If you are a spread sheet addict like me, do not forget to factor in lower living-costs and tax levels in your host country when comparing offers.

I am a visitor in Indonesia, a guest of its people. 
I hate traffic-jams, they make me tired and drain my energy. In my hometown, Trondheim, the total number of vehicles is the same as in a small Jakarta neighbourhood. This made my meeting with Jakarta traffic quite shocking and I found myself comparing Jakarta to Trondheim. Reality however is that there is no comparison that can be made because the differences are not black and white. One way of doing things is not always right and the other is wrong. In Jakarta, the options that worked best in Trondheim may not be available nor apply. As a guest in someone’s house, would you complain about how they have chosen to decorate their house or why they made that choice? I took a few deep breaths and applied my sense of logic to the situation: When possible I bring my fully charged smartphone and laptop along for a long taxi-ride in heavy traffic.

I landed a job with a local firm through applying these and similar lessons. Coming here and getting a job has been highly rewarding and like all things that are worth pursuing: it has taken a lot of effort as well.

Oh, if you clicked this blog post to read about my million: Indonesian salaries are paid in IDR. This is indeed the story of how I made my first million Indonesian Rupiah…

If you would like to comment here or on my Facebook-page, I would like to know: “What are your questions or tips related to working and living abroad?”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Personal Development: My Marriage, an Asana Project
If you look at your last few disagreements in your marriage or relationship, how many of those were based around tasks? Things you said you would do, but forgot? Tasks you gave your partner, but they failed to follow-up on according to your expectations. 

My wife and I do not plan every activity on and I do not think that would be an effective way of dealing with all of our planning needs. Asana has however enabled us to successfully plan and execute an amazing trip recently and I am eager to start our next “project” and see where that takes us.

Some of my favourite features and reasons to use Asana both professionally and personally:
  • Using email from my phone, I can create tasks at any time without being near a computer. I have created tasks while offline in the jungle or high up in the mountain (once I get back into network coverage, the email goes out and the task is created) and use Asana to make note-to-wife, note-to-self or note-to-colleague;
  • Commenting on Asana tasks can work the way an online discussion forum does. You leave messages, questions or notes whenever you have time and your spouse or your colleagues can read them when they have time;
  • I never agree on terms of purchase over the phone, but always request to have it in writing. Asana provides the same accountability and transparency when it comes to tasks. There is no use in arguing with a timestamped record of one party giving detailed information to another;
  • Tracking progress on large “projects” (such as a trip to Nepal or development of a business case) allows the team (My wife and I or my colleagues and I) to clearly see what preparations have been done and what tasks are still pending. As a project manager, it allows you to view in-detail what your team is working on and at what times each task or subtask was completed;
  • Sub tasking allows another level of detail (you can use task-headers , tasks followed by ":" such as "Taskheader:" to add another level of detail and sub tasking); and
  • Diligent use of Asana in combination with a timekeeping tool, makes timesheets easier to complete in detail. The team will value this as revising timesheets is a dreaded task and getting it right the first time is always the preference. Managers will value this as each task can be assigned to a project, allowing firm control over time estimates and billable hours.
Asana like any other tool is useful if used right, if used wrong it can give a false sense of security. Making sure that your whole family or team is using it correctly is one of the keys to success. 

The largest draw-back of Asana is that it is an online tool. Meaning that in some cases you cannot access it at all. We had to make sure we had extracted all of our important notes before heading to Nepal where connectivity can be a challenge and I cannot access my Asana right now as I am on a plane with no WIFI. Please note that I am using the free version of Asana (For up to 30 members) and that some features are available for a small fee (currently $50, $100, $300, $550 or $800 per month depending on desired team-size and features).

Check out Asana at: 

If you would like to comment here or on my Facebook-page, I would like to know:

“How do you use your work-skills to improve your marriage or relationship?”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

10 Tips for an Enhanced Trekking Experiece

As some of you may know, I recently returned from a trek in Nepal with my amazing wife. We reached Annapurna Base Camp 4130 metres above sealevel and had a great trip with impressive nature, local culture and new friendsIf you want to test your relationship and your stamina as a couple, trekking is highly recommended. We always have a great time at our challenging treks despite ups and downs. We always find that our relationship is healthier and stronger as a result of overcoming great challenge together. Pictures are mainly for personal use, but I do want to share some tips here that may help you:

1. Safety first, always.
2. Walk 2 steps behind the person in front of you, not on their heels
3. Be respectful of both local culture and nature
4. Joke with words only, not with sudden movements or loud sounds
5. Be clear in your body language and intentions, "Is he going left or right?"
6. Take only memories, leave only footprints behind
7. Branded hats will not save you, excellent shoes may.
8. Keep it simple, but do not ignore all personal hygiene...
9. A group or an individual is never stronger than the weakest link. (Your friend or your painfull knee)
10. Water-resistant and water-proof are NOT the same thing (Might wanna bring an umbrella)

Feel free to add to this list and I would love to hear some experiences from others who love hiking and trekking. Look forward to a new business-related post coming soon as I get back into work-mode.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Personal Development: PBSC

I have written many places about how I am always looking for ways to improve my own performance and how I enjoy exploring new tools. Today I wanted to introduce a tool that is proven to work in business and that I personally am using right now in several aspects of my life. It is the well-known balanced scorecard...with a personal twist. I am no expert in using balanced scorecard… In fact the only reason I stumbled onto this personal improvement technique was because I needed to refresh my business school knowledge about this strategy tool.

I spend an average of 80 hours working, every single week. Some weeks it is a lot more and some weeks it is a bit less. I enjoy my work and the way I can challenge my mind and intellect every single day. It is un-avoidable that this work has shaped me to some extent. But the tools that I use in my work-life have until recently not been used at home. I will not take credit for this change as it was my wife who first introduced Asana ( to our personal-life. That was a great improvement to the way we manage projects at home (in this case: Annapurna Basecamp Trip 2013). Being a consultant who is married to another amazing consultant has its benefits. But that story is for another blog post…

When my wife introduced Asana and I saw how effective it was, I felt inspired by her. I apply several business principles to my personal life both consciously and subconsciously, but here was a tool that actually worked. I have a professional goal to outperform the Matias of today, tomorrow. In my studies and continuous efforts to reach this goal, I found some hard truths about my own strengths and weaknesses. As I worked and continue to work with overcoming these challenges and leverage my strengths, I began to see parallels to my personal life. I overcome complex business problems internally in the company I work, on client projects and when developing Business Cases or proposals. So why should simple life-challenges be more difficult to cope with? Now I began looking at tools and principles with a fresh perspective, I “invented” the Balanced Personal Scorecard. Or so I though… It turns out that the balanced scorecard has been used by many people for personal purposes. I found out that the “official” name is “Personal Balanced Score Card” (I think my name was better).

To understand the PBSC, you will need some basic knowledge about the tool “Balanced Scorecard”. To give you the Wikipedia definition it is:

The balanced scorecard (BSC) is a strategy performance management tool - a semi-standard structured report, supported by design methods and automation tools, that can be used by managers to keep track of the execution of activities by the staff within their control and to monitor the consequences arising from these actions. It is perhaps the best known of several such frameworks. Since its original incarnation in the early 1990s as a performance measurement tool, the BSC has evolved to become an effective strategy execution framework. 

The BSC concept as put forth by Drs. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton is now seen as a critical foundation in a holistic strategy execution process that, besides helping organizations articulate strategy in actionable terms, provides a road map for strategy execution, for mobilizing and aligning executives and employees, and making strategy a continual process

To apply this to your personal life, you need to separate aspects of your life into categories. The categories that I chose to include are:

Family: How am I performing as a husband, son, brother, friend and some day as a father?

Spiritual: How am I living up to my beliefs, my convictions and the principles that I feel should guide me?

Professional: How is my career going and how am I developing my own competence, work ethics and professional focus in accordance with my goals?

Physical: How is my body doing according to what I feel is appropriate for my age and how does it perform relative to the tasks that I want it to perform?

Matias Johannessen - Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant

As they often like to do, the textbooks probably define PBSC-categories for you. To be honest, I find that completely inappropriate as this is YOUR personal scorecard and it needs to be relevant to how you see yourself, not how someone else defines “a person”. I encourage you to not use my categories or those found in a book, but use the ones you feel comfortable with, also 4 is just a number I like, if you want 7 categories then I think you should go with 7. I defined each category with my objectives. Using these categories, I assigned tangible metrics that I felt reflected my performance in each aspect of my life.

I do not use the scorecard to give myself a score X out of Y possible, but rather to gain an overview of how I am focusing on the different aspects of my life. I assess if my focus is balanced and if I am happy with the goal achievement I am currently accomplishing. I am using a more detailed version of the table you see below, but have included this to give you an idea of what the actual tool could look like.

Matias Johannessen - Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant

If you want to read a book, read a scientific paper on the concept or pay someone to help you figure it out, then this blog is not the place to go. But I am more than happy to provide some links for anyone interested to learn more about PBSC. Head on over to my Facebook page to find more links and while you are there, don’t forget to follow me there for more frequent updates than just my rather infrequent blog posts: Please also note that I do not endorse or recommend these, but simply provide them to save you time Googling it (don’t sue me if a PBSC consulting session or a book does not change your life and make you happy in all aspects of your life).

If you would like to comment here or on my Facebook-page, I would like to know:

“How do you use your work-skills to empower yourself on a personal level?”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Indonesia, the land of 1 000 000 000 000 opportunities

© IMS Relocation (

In my old blog, I described only briefly my interest in the huge opportunities that the Indonesian Market represents. For me, the interest in this market mainly falls under three categories:

Growth and Innovation

Indonesia has had a fantastic growth in the post-dutch era, with some serious growing pains as any emerging market has. This growth is anticipated to slow down somewhat in 2013 (5.9% WB estimate), but remains at a very high level. If you are doing or consider doing business in Indonesia, I recommend reading the World Bank's report "Indonesia Economic Quarterly: Adjusting to pressures" released July 2, 2013. The nature of Innovation in emerging markets is very different from innovation in established "western" economies. I am very lucky to be in a position where I can support and be inspired by young Indonesian entrepreneurs. Innovation can be found with the water salesmen who make a living selling water during rush traffic, but also within young educated businesswomen and men who have a drive unlike any I have witnessed elsewhere.
© 2013. McKinsey & Company.

Untapped potential current and future
The sheer number of Indonesians that can be considered. I have first-hand experience from a few sectors and rely on reports and public information to stay up-to-date on others. For a brief overview of the Indonesian market potential, head over to Campaign Asia-Pacific and check out the article: "Indonesia: Asia's $1 trillion opportunity". McKinsey & Company have released an interesting in-depth report on the topic and I recommend checking it out: "The Archipelago Economy: Unleashing Indonesia's Potential".

Diversity of market
Indonesia is home to over 300 distinct native ethic groups and over 700 languages and dialects. The common tongue "Bahasa Indonesia" is considered the first language of only 23 million (or about 10% of the population). Indonesia is a member of G-20 and well on its way to becoming a G-8 country by 2030. The number of "Middle-Class and Affluent Consumers" is rapidly growing and is set to double by 2020 according to BCG's "Indonesia’s Rising Middle-Class and Affluent Consumers". Addressing such a complex market and navigating the opportunity represents a great challenge, to learn more about this I recommend McKinsey & Company's "Understanding the diversity of Indonesia’s consumers".

The opportunity to do business in the unique market that early 21'st century emerging markets presents is a true privilege and challenges are lining up for this young management consultant. I am hungry for knowledge and am excited about supporting Indonesian and multinational organisations take part in this rapid development.
Matias Johannessen - Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Management Consultant by heart

Matias Johannessen - Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant

My name is Matias and I am an established international business consultant who delivers excellence to clients across cultural, geographical and sectoral boundaries. I am a Colombian-Norwegian partly educated in North America with a current base in Jakarta, Indonesia. The varied exposure across cultures, languages and sectors gives me a cutting edge in international business with a particular focus on emerging markets, innovation and SME's.

I am an established management consultant with a passion for and experience from working with innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets.I am enthusiastic about the potential of mutually beneficial knowledge transfer between SME's and innovators globally. Innovation is my passion and a personal brand of excellence is my tool of choice to navigate my client's challenges and facilitate change. I have work experience from South-East Asia, North America and Europe.

I am interested in opportunities related, but not limited to:

★ Alternative Investments★ Impact Investment Funds★ Renewable Energy SMEs★ Emerging Markets★ Accelerating SME Innovation and Growth★ Capacity Building and Knowledge Transfer

I do my best work as a team leader and as a motivator who leads by example, but am also well versed in self-management techniques as a former day-trader and entrepreneur. I am enthusiastic about using tools and learning about new tools to help manage my own and my team's time, efforts and target achievements.

If you want to contact me for any management consulting inquiries please feel free to do so via LinkedIn.

Please see below some examples of engagements I have influenced and contributed to as a technical adviser and as a management consultant:

I am currently working with the following organisations to support clients in Indonesia and the region:

The Apex Consulting Group

New Ventures Indonesia

As a Management Consultant, I work hard to deliver excellence on a consistent basis. I do however believe that balance is needed to perform at my best. Balance to me means prioritizing the following in my off-time: 

► Family ► Hiking ► Volunteering ► Stock-trading ►Technical Analysis ► Excel ► Fishing ► Skiing ► Reading Books ► Watching movies ► Live Jazz

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Introduction

Matias Johannessen - Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant

Matias Johannessen
★ Genuinely Committed to Continuous Self-Improvement ★ 
Established Jakarta-Based Management Consultant ★

Dear Reader,

I expect to begin posting here soon on topics ranging from my life as a Management Consultant to my love of hiking. For now, please visit my LinkedIn profile for up-to date information about me and my work:

I am happy to accept connection requests on LinkedIn, please see my profile for other ways of contacting me.

Thank you for your interest in my blog.