Tell us about how you landed your position as Program Manager Rural Development of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?

I started a career in development as an intern for the United Nation’s International Labour Organization. I have yet to graduated school at the time so it was an excellent opportunity for me to explore career interests and reflect on what I want to pursue upon receiving my degree.

The internship proved how exciting and rewarding working in development can be; to learn something new almost every day, to meet people from all over the world and most importantly to work for a cause greater than yourself. I then decided in 2015 to apply for a position in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, initially as a Program Officer for the Health program.

Later that year, I got promoted to Program Manager for Rural Development. I have been in the position since January 2016 and currently overseeing a partnership on access to finance for smallholder farmers in eastern Indonesia.

Linkedin           : Sarah Ayu

Instagram        : sarahsangka

Twitter             : sarahsangka

What is your education background? Have your career goals shifted since college/university?

I have a degree in social science, majoring in criminology and transnational crime. Needless to say my career path isn’t what is commonly expected from my education. However, I would say that my goals remain the same – to bring justice for the silenced and marginalized, and to advance equality for all in Indonesia.

But instead pursuing those goals through the criminal justice system, I opted for a career in the development field instead. I have never looked back and can’t imagine myself working on something more worthwhile.

How do you manage to keep your competitive edge in the industry?

I believe success comes from a combination of focus, confidence, and hard work. In an increasingly competitive world, I feel there’s also an expectation for young people entering the professional market to also be master multi-tasker and creative problem solver. Honestly I find these things can be overwhelming sometimes so I try to keep a medium and long-term plan to keep myself encouraged.

Unlike some of peers, I don’t have a formal qualification on rural and agriculture development. What I do have is an insight on social dynamics and a huge appetite on Indonesia’s social and political affairs. I try to bring these in as my value-add to the team and learn the sector specific know-how as I go.

What is typical work day like for you?

My day usually starts at 4.30am as I need to leave early for work to avoid the heavy traffic Jakarta is so famous about. I try to squeeze in some yoga sessions after work (to avoid having to do any workouts on the weekend!) or otherwise I spend my evenings exploring good food with some even greater companies.

Once in a while I would receive assignment to travel to program sites, meet stakeholders and beneficiaries. It’s definitely a bonus as I got to visit some of the most remote and beautiful places in the country!

Best moment of your career so far?

It would probably be my encounter with a cattle farmer in Malang, whose quality of life improved dramatically since he got introduced to better farming practices and financial access and literacy. For days I couldn’t stop talking him! I remember him proudly telling me how he was able to add more than fifteen cattle in less than a year plus adding rows and rows of earthworm nursery at his backyard. At that point he had lost almost all of his front teeth but it didn’t prevent him from generously smiling from ear to ear. It was the best kind of motivation that pushed me to work even harder on what I do.

What is your life motto/favourite quote?

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” J.K. Rowling.


 I believe

Smile and happiness are infectious

Perseverance will get you where you want to be


Daily must have

Plenty of water


Transfer-proof lipstick


 Things I love

My family, fiancé, and best friends

Good sense of humor

Grey’s Anatomy