【International Voices in NTUCE】(EP04) Diversifying Horizons: From Civil Engineering in Taiwan to Risk Management in Indonesia

Alvin Po

By Jiwon Byoun

Hi, can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Alvin PO. I came from Indonesia. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia and did my Master’s degree in NTU from 2018 to 2020. I took civil engineering as my major for both degrees. Currently I work in an international bank risk management department in Indonesia.

How was your time living and studying in Taiwan?

It was convenient to live in Taiwan. The public transportation in Taiwan is reliable and affordable. Living cost isn’t too high compared to Jakarta, Indonesia where I live. When I came to Taiwan for my Master’s degree back in 2018, there weren’t that many Indonesian students so I mostly interacted with local students. I chose the Construction Engineering and Management program at NTU because of my interest to do research related to energy policy in Indonesia. I chose this topic because I did an internship at a power plants contractor during my Bachelor’s Degree. I developed an interest in power plants and energy policy related to it since then. I found a professor in NTU with research background related to energy policy with concentration in power plants, so I contacted him and he said that if I got accepted, he would be my advisor.

Any difficulty during Master’s?

The hardest part would be the language barrier with locals. Because Chinese is my 3rd language, it was hard to have effective communication with others. However, the local students were very helpful. Even though there was an information barrier such as content in student email was mostly only in Chinese, my classmates help to remind me so I will not miss any crucial information. I am especially grateful because I almost missed the opportunity for an exchange program if my Taiwanese friend did not inform me about it.

Other than that, writing a thesis was not hard, mainly because I already knew what I wanted to write prior to applying to NTU and my advisor already knew about the research topic. On top of that, writing a thesis is a graduation requirement for a Bachelor’s degree in Indonesia. Consequently, I am already used to the research method and writing structure of a thesis. Lastly, my professor would arrange a group meeting every two weeks. During the meeting, I had to provide an update of any progress during every meeting for the whole four semesters of the Master’s Degree Program.

Where did you work for your first job?

There weren’t many job opportunities at the time of my graduation due to the pandemic. In response, I took the first career opportunities that I got even though that was not related to my major. My first career was at a dairy company in Indonesia. I joined the company through a Management Trainee Program. I got assigned to various strategic projects with one of the board of directors as my mentor during the Management Trainee Program. Every project would last approximately 3-4 months and at the end of the project I would present the result to the Board of Directors. During the program I got the opportunity to experience various departments including marketing, brand management, sales, and supply chain management. I applied for the Management Trainee Program because it meant that I would get the opportunity to be in charge of various strategic projects in the company. Other than that, as a Management Trainee, I get more visibility to the senior management.

How is working in a bank like in Indonesia?

My current company is HSBC Indonesia as a Risk Management Trainee. I decided to move to another company because of better opportunities in my current employer. What I am currently doing is comparable with my previous role, but my current role is more specialized in the Risk Management Department only. Risk Management is a bit different compared to my previous position. Risk Management is a non-client facing role which I personally preferred compared to my previous role. During my current role, I got the opportunity to learn day to day activities as a risk manager in the bank. One of the memorable activities that I consider interesting was related to Risk Governance of the bank. Through this activity, I have the opportunity to learn on how the bank manages its risk through a helicopter view.
Even though I am working in a different field compared to my education. Engineering way of thinking is still applicable in the field of Risk Management. The way engineers think in a systematic approach is a valuable asset. That is also the reason why many banks like to hire engineers. There are also many senior management positions in banks filled with people from engineering background. On top of that, I also took Risk Management in construction class during my Master’s Degree in NTU. Despite the class in NTU mostly using risk management in construction sites as a study case, the fundamentals of risk management are still very applicable with the work I am currently doing right now.

Anything you would like to say to juniors?

I would advise you to pay attention to your student email. There is a lot of spam but there is also plenty of helpful information like scholarship, exchange programs, internship opportunities and TA positions that would help with your journey in NTU and assist your future career as well.

Other than that, since we cannot predict the future, it is important to understand the fundamentals of anything that you learn. For example: I formally learned risk management for the construction industry through NTU class. During the learning process, I become proficient with the fundamentals of risk management like risk control assessment, risk monitoring process and risk identification. This fundamental concept is important and applicable to any risk management role disregarding what industries. I also think that this fundamental concept is also able to help me land an opportunity with my current role in HSBC.

Last, some people may ask me if I have any regrets studying civil engineering and working in a totally different industry. However, I prefer to view it from a different angle. There would be around 40 years between our university graduation and retirement. We should not define our career simply based on a few years of university education. In conclusion, do not restrict your opportunity to a narrow path. You should give a shot to other fields as well.

National Taiwan University Indonesian Alumni group photo