Youth Goodwill Ambassadors in Focus: Ghina Filiana

2015 Youth Goodwill Ambassador, Ghina Filiana has successfully landed a job as a Associate HR Specialist at Grundfos. Ghina is a recent graduate from Aarhus University where she received her Master’s in Strategy, Organization and Leadership. Read about her experience as an ambassador and how her professional network helped her land her current position.

Why did you choose to study in Denmark?

That is the question that we international students get, so I actually made a YouTube video to answer it! But to sum it up, I actually didn’t think of studying in Denmark at first. I just knew that I wanted to study somewhere in Europe. At the time, I had finished my bachelor’s degree and was working in Indonesia. It was my professors and some friends in the company that I worked at that mentioned the opportunities and scholarships from schools in Denmark.

When I heard that, I was like ‘Denmark?’. I really didn’t know much about the country at the time. I started to do some research and I found Aarhus University. I was happy to see that they had scholarships to offer, and since I was a scholarship hunter back then I thought, ‘ok, let’s try this’.

I did apply to other universities, both to Denmark and to the UK; and I got accepted to both. I decided to choose Denmark in the end because it was a different place for me. I know a lot of people tend to choose popular study destinations like the UK, the USA or the Netherlands; but there were so many Indonesian students heading to these same locations, and I didn’t want to be another one to follow that trend. I wanted to try something new, and I think Denmark was the right choice. I haven’t regretted it since and it’s been the perfect decision that has led me to my current job.

How did you come to hear about the YGA and why did you decide to join?

The programme was heavily marketed by Aarhus University. In my introduction week, the international students at Aarhus University were invited to a welcome party and that was where we were told about the YGA programme. We learned that we could be an ambassador of our country here in Denmark, as well as being an ambassador for Denmark back home. What attracted me to the programme was that I really loved meeting people and telling them about how good a place is. During my bachelors, I was also an ambassador for Jakarta and I loved it.

I didn’t actually join the YGA in my first year. At the time, I wanted to focus on different activities since there was so much to do in that year. I decided to join in my 3rd semester instead. I applied for my internship in the 4th semester and I feel like the YGA programme really delivered me to that position. The programme has so many important events and fun activities where you get to meet people, like your fellow students or future employers from many companies in Denmark.

Was it easy to find a career in Denmark? Did being a YGA aid in your job search?

As I mentioned earlier, I got my current full-time position from my internship during my 4th semester. After the internship, Grundfos asked me to stay as a student assistant, and eventually, I got offered a full-time job.

I really feel like all the lessons YGA gave me through the workshops on how to network in Denmark with employers really helped. Even just having the title, ‘ambassador’ on your CV is an advantage. People notice it and tend to ask about it; in turn, I get to start a conversation with them explaining what the programme is about and it shows how I have already been exposed to a professional network.

What was the most interesting/unique/unusual experience as a YGA?

My most interesting experience was from the last international talent conference we had at COWI (April 2015). We went down to Copenhagen for two days and it was really interesting because we were introduced to a real example of Danish company culture.

We got a chance to meet the CEOs from different companies and talk to them, which would never have happened to me back home in Indonesia. Back home, you’d usually just speak to the HR person. Here however, they value having a lean hierarchy and I feel like that’s a really great way to boost your confidence. I mean we’ve all been told beforehand about the Danish way of a lean hierarchy, so it was nice that the talent conference really allowed us to experience it in reality.

I even got to talk to the prince which was really nice! I took a photo with him too. It was a like a childhood dream come true (sort of) and it was great!

Overall, the whole event was amazing. You come out with connections from several different companies that may potentially end up as one of your future employers.

What was the most valuable thing you gained as a YGA?

The thing that I gained was definitely the network and the chance to know Denmark better. I don’t mean just getting to know the place in general ways, but also in more specific ways like understanding what their work-life balance is like, or getting a chance to experience the work environment in Denmark itself. Basically, the YGA programme showed me how easy it was to meet your future employer and be introduced to the Danish companies that have opportunities for you.

I think if you want to get to know a country, you have to know the people in it, and the YGA made that happen for us. We met a lot of Danes who hooked us up with a lot of local activities. I think that it was especially important because I wasn’t just building up my international network, I was building my Danish network as well. We also got a lot of training and workshops on how to converse with Danes and future employers.

How was your journey from education to employment like?

My journey went really well since I actually got my internship through my networking activities. I applied as an intern to Grundfos, but after a while I forgot about it completely because I had sent it a while back. One day, I got a call from Grundfos, where they told me that they had seen and spoken to me at a networking event. They asked if I would like to do an internship with them.

So that’s how I got started. I went for an interview and received an offer for the position on that afternoon itself. I was really, really happy about that. After three months of working as an intern with Grundfos, they asked me to become a student assistant. Finally, when my student contract was about to end, they told me that they could use my capabilities as a full-time employee there. They didn’t even have my current position before then, they kind of created it for me.

It’s been quite a journey, but it really is all about strategy and networking. I know that there are some people who don’t believe in the power of networks, and that’s how people are like in Indonesia: we just don’t really do it. When you apply for a company there, you just drop off your CV or apply online, and then wait for a call afterwards. In Denmark, it’s all about the people and how to connect with them well. The most important thing is to build up your network—but don’t be too aggressive though! That’s what being a YGA can teach you: how to have a good, balanced method of networking.

Tell us a little bit about your job right now .

I’m an associate HR specialist in organizational development. In my department, we try to find and design frameworks to help the organization develop better. This encompasses everything from talent management to organizational development, so we deal with a lot of organizational changes.

My job is to create and smoothen-out strategies on how people can deal with these changes, and how to implement that development to the global company as well. There are many concepts at work here, with frameworking and internal/ external stakeholder management.

What is it like working in Denmark?

It’s so much fun! The work-life balance with my job and company is amazing. Work-life balance is one thing that people always talk about and I think it is so different from how people work in Indonesia, where one would probably stay at the office until 8pm without getting much done. Here, you learn to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

The best thing is that there is no gap between you and your boss—or your director even. That lean management is something that should really be implemented more across all workplaces. When you feel like there is a big hierarchy creating a gap between you and your boss, you might get discouraged in the end. Here I think the flat hierarchies are great because you can talk to your boss anytime. Of course, the respect for your superiors is still there but what you gain from this relationship is a feeling of autonomy and trust from your boss, and that’s where you also get the motivation to work.

As for speaking Danish, I’m the only one in my department who isn’t a Dane! It’s quite funny for me, but as I tell my friends—the language is not a barrier. It’s good if you have the capability to speak in Danish, but it is definitely not a barrier.

Any insights or advice for the incoming YGAs that are looking to stay in Denmark for a career?

My advice is to just go for it! It doesn’t take much to apply for a job, but it definitely takes confidence. Don’t hesitate or overthink an application, just apply and have confidence in your abilities. Don’t use language as an excuse, because it isn’t true for all companies. Maybe for more local companies, but if that is the case then at least try to learn a bit.

Be confident with your capabilities. Tell them what you can do; show them what you can do—they’ll value your knowledge more than your language skills and that’s how you get a job. Don’t worry about rejections and don’t make excuses. I’ve gotten a lot of rejections before, I really have. Remember though: you get rejected not because you’re incompetent, but more because your background or your personality does not fit in with the company. Maybe you just aren’t right for the job that you applied for. Many employers have their own personality styles and tracking, so they want people who fit in with that. I know all of this because I work in HR!

Also, build your network up really good; don’t be afraid to talk to people and don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a representative or a HR manager. That’s why programmes like the YGA are so valuable to international students; their events deliver the employers to you and from there you can start building up your network.