Year of University Graduation: 2008 ( undergraduate) / 2010 (Master’s) both Spring Semester
Activities in APU: System Assistant (SA)/Teaching Assistant (TA)/Saiki City Student Advisor/Global Admission Support Staff (GASS)
Gita Cherry Prabhandhari is an alumna of APU and graduate school. At the university, she enrolled in the accelerated graduation program. Currently, she is working as a vendor program manager at TikTok. In the interview, Cherry talks about her experience, learning at APU, and the current situation.
- What are you currently working in?
I have been working in a media and tech company for more than 10 years now, specializing in the Trust and Safety part of the business. Currently, I am a Vendor Program Manager (VPM) at TikTok in Dublin, a city that is known as the European Silicon Valley. However, we are still in a lockdown situation and forced to stay and work at home. This is very challenging for me, and I have to do everything online.
- What is Trust and Safety?
In many tech companies, they have a sales department, finance department, engineering department, and also a department called trust and safety. Trust and safety in general, the main goal is to ensure the safety of their users. How do these companies manage trust and safety? People in Trust and Safety department do a lot of operations behind it. They have the data analytics team who supports people making the policy, and also people moderating. As part of the trust and the safety department, I manage vendor partners and external parties from other companies in different countries to keep working with us very well, collaborating together.
- What does a Vendor Program Manager do?
As a VPM, I am leading a team of diverse nationalities, overseeing multi-million euros operations every month from our vendor partners comprising thousands of employees in Europe. So, this is a very very busy job. The role requires vendor management, project management, conflict resolution, and communication skills.
- During your time in APU, what achievements were you most proud of?
1) Completed my undergraduate studies in three years
Instead of four years, as I was enrolling in the Accelerated Graduation Program (早期卒業). In order to graduate in three years, I had to take 24 credits/semester and completed 24 credits of subjects in Japanese-based classes. Can you imagine taking 24 credits in one semester? It means you have to take classes from 1st period to 6th period almost every day. It was very challenging and exhausting, considering I had to support myself with many part-time jobs as well.
2) Presented my Graduate Research at many global conferences during my Master’s study.
I was fortunate to be granted the RCAPS graduate research fund, which helped me complete and showcase my research on the topic of Comfort Women in Indonesia during World War II at global research conferences in 3 different countries: Indonesia, Japan, and the USA.
- What is your failure at APU?
In a nutshell, my failures were down to time management and prioritization, which taught me lots of lessons to improve. I was struggling during my undergraduate years with supporting myself by doing part-time jobs. I was exhausted, and could not concentrate as much as I wanted in my classes. I did not have high GPAs as a result and had to intentionally fail some subjects as at the time F did not impact my GPA. So I would rather get an F instead of a C or D that would lower my GPA.
- Is there anything you learned at APU that you still apply to up until now?
Yes, planning ahead, resilience and perseverance, and being comfortable with failures. APU helped me build grit. Participating in various cultural exchanges and volunteering activities at APU, made me find my resilience. Entering the workforce after APU, these are the lessons that helped me along the way in my career. I have seen so many people who are brilliant, have great potential, and speak many languages, but could not succeed or survive in their careers because they did not know how to cope with failures, were never used to planning ahead, and did not know how to build resilience and have perseverance. Essentially, they lack grit, which I am very fortunate to have been trained before on this, during my time in APU.
- Can you share a little bit about your plans for the future?
I am currently finishing my part-time study in International Business and Law, outside work, and hoping to be able to obtain an LL.M degree, a Master’s of Law by next year. Then I hope to go for a Ph.D. in Law. My plan is to become a tech legal professional, combining more than a decade of my career in tech, and the legal studies I am hoping to complete. The reason why I have started studying law is to be a bridge between lawyers and experts in technology. In the current situation, people in technical teams are brilliant and have great technical skills, however, know very little about the law. So what happened was the products that we make might not always be the best fit for a country. On the other hand, lawyers have great legal expertise but don’t know much about technology. Therefore, seeing this gap I decided to be a person who can understand both tech and legal and bridge this gap.
- Do you have any messages for us current students?
1. Explore the world and opportunities, this is the time, when you are still young, with not many families and life commitments. There is plenty of opportunities out there, more than what people tell you. Once you graduate and enter the workforce, you will not have as much free time as you do now. The APU Career Office used to tell me I wouldn’t find a job with my hair dyed red, but as it turned out I have been working in tech companies for more than a decade with the very hairstyle. So go on, explore and find your own path! Join volunteer activities, exchanges, and conferences, and meet people from backgrounds different from yours. I know now maybe things are harder because of the pandemic but you can still attend online webinars.
2. Get used to making mistakes and be comfortable with failures,
embrace it as an opportunity for you to do better. I know this is controversial, but when you get used to it, you know how to get back up. If you never fail, you never learn. You will make mistakes and you will fail, many times in your life. Some will be bigger than the rest. What matters more is how you can get back up, fix those mistakes, and learn from each failure. Everyone will make mistakes, even presidents make mistakes. If presidents can make mistakes, so can you.