How to be a C Level Leader with Less Than 24 Years Working Experience

How long do you think it would take for someone to be a CEO? 20 years? Or even 30?

Based on a 10-year study conducted by Harvard Business Review called CEO Genome Project, those who become CEO faster than the average of 24 years from their first job started, or as we know as CEO sprinters, don’t get the job because of their perfect pedigrees.

These sprinters become CEO faster than anyone else because they belong to one of the few groups who are brave enough to make bold career moves that slingshot them to the top.

The question is, how do these CEO sprinters make bold career moves and how do they know it’s the right move?

They didn’t know, all they have was just bravery to take a bold move.

The study proves that more than 60% of sprinters go small to achieve something bigger. “They may have moved to a smaller company to take on a greater set of responsibilities,” the study says.

At this point you’re probably thinking of looking for a job in a smaller company, but what if I told you that you don’t need to do that?

What if I told you that at GO-JEK, you can work in the biggest Indonesian unicorn and it can also be the right path for you to be one of those CEO sprinters.

How is that even possible, you ask?

One of the ways is to become our Regional District Head or Regional Marketing Manager. I promise you, this is going to be a win-win solution for both of us.

I had the chance to sit down with GO-JEK’s Bali Regional Marketing Manager, Erlangga Maharesha. He has a great CV under his wrap, he graduated with MBA degree from Monash University and with 7 years+ working experience (and all in Jakarta), yet he left his comfort zone to be placed in a regional area.

Erlangga Maharesha —Bali’s Regional Marketing Manager

These are three of his big reasons why working in GO-JEK’s regional office is the fast track to being a CEO, as also stated in the Harvard Business Review study.

  1. Building something from scratch

For Erlangga, if you want to be on the fast track, regardless where you work, you need to be able to see the exciting opportunity you will grab in building something from scratch outside your comfort zone.

Although he’s only been in Bali for 9 months, Erlangga has already contributed a lot to increase the target of drivers’ completed orders. He did it by doing what he does best, marketing.

As a marketing manager, he says it’s a challenge to penetrate GO-JEK app to the market. That’s why he took a lot of fresh communication initiatives and made campaigns that are suitable for Bali area to increase our brand awareness, and the result is amazing!

In November, Bali’s completed orders have increased to 69% out of the 75% increase target for Q4. It’s pretty great because in December they only have to increase 5% more and there’s a high possibility that they can even exceed the target.

This increase is one of the significant impacts you can create only in regional areas where the locals are not familiar with GO-JEK, yet. You can be the one who encourages local people to regularly use the app in their daily lives.

Significant impacts that were created by Erlangga and his team is related to the study that says, “people who used the opportunity to build something from the ground up and make an outsized impact.” It is surely one of the ways to be on the fast track reaching the C level seat faster.

Erlangga’s story proves that he’s on the right path to becoming a C level leader.

He has shown that as a leader, he can increase the number from zero using local insight and then translate it to the best way to create a brand awareness, so GO-JEK becomes the go-to app when people need the kind of services that our app provide (GO-RIDE, GO-CAR, GO-FOOD, GO-SEND, and other services)

Despite being a nomad his whole life, Erlangga took a big leap in his career by moving to Denpasar and left his comfortable life in Jakarta

2. Taking a big leap in your career

When he was first offered the job, Erlangga didn’t hesitate a bit to take the job because as a young person in a productive age, he’s always hungry for challenges.

But, a question popped inside my mind. Has he always known how to resolve the challenges? The answer is straight-up no.

According to Erlangga, as a marketer, he is always excited to sell something that is complicated to understand. Just like when he has to penetrate GO-JEK to the whole Bali area. This is the leap he was talking about.

Yes, Bali is a tourist hotspot, people probably have digital literacy already. But have you ever realized it’s probably only Seminyak, Ubud, Canggu, Kuta, Nusa Dua. How about the rest? It is Erlangga’s job to encourage every single person in Bali to use GO-JEK services daily.

In a way, he’s responsible for all the products that GO-JEK has. As a regional marketing manager, he needs to be a full stack marketer who understands all the products owned by GO-JEK. That’s why it’s full of challenges and you will gain a lot of problem-solving knowledge to prepare you to become a C level leader in the future.

Erlangga has shown the second sign of CEO Sprinters quality based on the study. “These executives [who were on the fast track to being C level leaders] threw caution to the wind and said yes to opportunities even when the role was well beyond anything they’ve done previously and they didn’t feel fully prepared for the challenges ahead,” the study notes.

When Nadiem Makarim first built GO-JEK, he faced a lot of crisis. But, he is a good leader who showed GO-TROOPS the way to get out of a distress.

3. Be a great leader in a distress

When there’s a distress, don’t ever think it as an obstacle, but see it as a challenge that will get you to be a C level leader faster than anyone else. According to the study, “messy situations cry out for strong leadership and it’s a great preparation for the CEO job.”

That’s true because then you will be forced to evaluate the situation calmly, make decisions based on data under pressure, take calculated risks then shoot for greatness so you can get out of that messy situation.

Has Erlangga ever been in a messy situation? Yes, he has. Before he was in charge, the Bali team didn’t perform really well. Lack of clear communication was one of the reasons why.

However, since he joined, he tried to communicate better to the team and lead them with a personal approach. When Erlangga is faced with a catastrophe, he tries to utilize it as an opportunity to showcase his ability.

He even shows the team how to plan and execute a marketing event or campaign, then reviews it after it’s done to evaluate and iterate. “It’s important for a team to have an equal sense of ownership, that’s when we can work as one and complete each other as well,” Erlangga says.

Erlangga is really hands-on towards his jobs, he even grooms his subordinates because he knows that it’s going to be an investment in the future.

His hard work then was paid off months after he joined. Today, the Bali team is one of the teams that is used as an example among regional areas. GO-JEK’s COO, Hans Patuwo even compliments the Bali team as one of the best regional teams.

By getting out their comfort zones to be on the fast track to the executive levels, CEO Sprinters build specific behavior that set them apart from regular people.

Based on the study, these sprinters share same qualities including decisiveness, reliability, adaptability and the ability to create an impact.

These qualities are so powerful, that people in the study who never planned to become a CEO, eventually landed the job by following these strategies.

Now, are you ready to be a CEO Sprinter?

I hope you are because GO-JEK is the perfect place for you to be on the fast track pursuing to be a C level leader in the future. It’s even better because you can channel your aspiration while creating a social impact and develop a regional area.

#WeNeedYourHelp to create a legacy that can affect the growth of the Indonesian economy and to put Indonesia on the map among developed countries in the future!


If you aspire to sit on those executive level chairs in the next 10 years and you’re up to tackle a myriad of challenges to strengthen your problem-solving skills, visit GO-JEK’s Career Page to join us!