Matt Nye is fresh off the boat. The 32-year-old American has been in Jakarta for a month, having moved here to start an IT consulting business. Born in California, Nye has lived in 10 different US states, but this is the first time he has worked overseas.
Nye tells us how he is adjusting to life here and how Indonesia allows him to combine business with pleasure.
At first it was the beaches. I came here for a visit two years ago and I went to Bali, Lombok and the Gilis. I fell in love with Indonesia and immediately tried to find a way to come back.
So for the past two years you’ve been dreaming about the beaches while sitting in your work cubicle?
I’ve told my friends that when I die, I want my ashes to be spread on Gili Trawangan.
What was your previous job in the States?
I was the director of professional services for the business intelligence practice at a consulting firm based out of the New York City metropolitan area.
That’s sounds complicated but also like a good job. Why did you quit your job during a recession?
Yeah, well, I felt like I had gotten all that I could in that position and that if I was going to progress I would need to look at other opportunities. The recession factor actually encouraged the decision since competition tends to be the lowest during and especially after a recession. Additionally, an increased demand for technology-driven data services, combined with the investment opportunity in Indonesia and the fact that Asia is going to be the dominant global market in the next decade or so, if not quicker, led me to believe this was a great time to start this venture.
Have you had experience working with Indonesians?
I haven’t, but I have local partners that I’m working with who are getting me acclimatized. Something I’ve noticed in my job and my personal life is that people across the world have a very segmented view of themselves and their country. The same struggles you find in the US or Europe market, I’ve heard framed as Indonesian-specific traits; lack of motivation, difficulty in corporate politics, etc. There is the thought that because two people speak a different language their worlds are so far apart that their cultures are vastly different. But our world has become so small over the past 30 years with the Internet and other technologies that I feel cultures have been moderately joined in a way.
What do you do for fun?
Benhil is fun. They have great street food and at the corner, near Sudirman, is that two-story shopping area that has everything you could want. Few people speak English, so it challenges me to use what little Bahasa I do know. Also, it’s way cheaper and the vegetables tend to be fresher and more diverse than the mall grocery stores.
Have you had a bout of food poisoning yet?
No food poisoning yet, even though I have braved the food vendors, but so far, so good. I think the amount of chili sauce I ingest kills off all the bacteria.
Have you had experience working abroad before?
No, although when I was young, I traveled a lot. Once I started my career I didn’t leave the States for 11 years. I had an opportunity to start traveling quite a bit in 2007 and have been exploring many different countries. I jumped at the opportunity to live and work here as soon as it presented itself.
Could you explain your job again, because I don’t get it?
It’s essentially helping companies understand and manage the information within their organization, utilizing a strong technology infrastructure. With the advent of the technological age, you have access to far more information than before. I think the story goes that there is more information in a single issue of The New York Times than a person during the Renaissance would get in their entire lifetime. The companies that learn to control, understand and empower their employees with that information will be the ones to thrive in the post-recession global economy. Our company has several decades of experience in this and is hoping to share that with Indonesian and Southeast Asian companies.
So what’s your plan for the next six months?
Professionally, I want to build a name in the market. But more importantly, I want to get my diving certification. I’m planning a trip to Karimunjawa in April and want to do some diving.
If you had to survive on $10 a day, how would you spend it?
On printing a resume and an ojek [motorcycle taxi] to take me to apply for a job so I wouldn’t have to live off $10 a day.
How is your Indonesian? What words have you learned?
“Tolong saya tolol ” [“Help, I’m stupid”]. I think this phrase can be used in almost every situation. The other essential one is “ satu lagi ” [“one more”]. I’ve started counting in Bahasa when I work out. I’m switching to counting in thousands, which gets some interesting reactions from people in the gym. Either they think I’m amazingly fit or I’m delusional.
Nye was talking to Iwan Putuhena
Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe
Picture by Iwan Putuhena
For more information visit www.westwind-consulting.com