Yani Pandapotan Situmorang, an Asian Agri employee of eight years, is the only female among five field maintenance assistants at her department.
As an Afdeling Assistant, Yani’s main responsibilities include monitoring and controlling the human resources and administration of the company’s oil palm plantations.
Yani manages land preparation activities at the plantations, in addition to the breeding, planting, maintenance, and harvesting of the oil palms. She also oversees prevention of accidents, injuries and work-related illnesses in the plantation.
Previously, there were several other females who did the same job but some left when they found the job too difficult, while others left when they got married, she said.
Currently, Yani works with hundred of male field workers to oversee 688 hectares of plantations on a daily basis.
However, being the minority in a male-dominated industry has never been an issue for her. Yani has zero fear or hesitation when it comes to having to give instructions or directions to her male employees.
In fact, this cheerful lady cannot even name any specific challenges which have, or are likely to deter her from fulfilling her responsibilities.
“I can say everything is easy because all my colleagues are open to discussion. Every day, we take the time to discuss and share our knowledge – I see them as my second family.
“The biggest challenge I face while working in a plantation is not being able to wear high heels and a skirt!” Yani says, with a laugh.
As the eldest of eight children in her family, Yani knew from an early age that she had to be financially independent as soon as possible.
Yani, who comes from Simalungun in North Sumatra, Indonesia, went to university in Medan. “In Medan, I lived in a boarding house. I was all alone since my family was in Simalungun,” Yani recalls.
Yani learned to balance a full-time university schedule with a part-time job as a purchasing department officer at a convenience store.
It was tough doing both at the same time but she managed to pull through with determination, she says.
However, Yani says that such determination is not built overnight and a lot of hers is due to her family, who she credits as the fuel for her continuous desire to work hard and succeed.
“My father is my first love. He was the sole breadwinner of the house, yet he was a family man. As a teacher, he was caring and hardworking. Tough on the outside but soft on the inside,” Yani says. “He is my idol. I would not be here today without his support towards everything I do,” she says.
First in, last out
These days, a typical morning for Yani begins at 4.30am when she prepares for an early morning briefing at work which takes place at 5.20am daily.
This briefing is crucial to motivate the field workers, and to ensure that everyone knows exactly what needs to be done that day, Yani says.
As the sun rises, Yani’s list of tasks increases: record the number of workers who are deployed to the plantations that day, set the minimum production target which has to be reached by the foremen by the end of the day, and make sure that all tools and equipment are readily available for use.
Perhaps most importantly, Yani also has to visit the plantations so she can directly monitor and manage the field workers. For the sake of efficiency, Yani rides a motorcycle from one plantation to another during her rounds.
“I have to visit the plantations slyly. I try to move like a ghost so the workers won’t find out or predict the time I will appear,” Yani says. At the plantations, Yani and her team examine everything to ensure that things are running correctly and safely.
In the afternoon, she prepares the evening evaluations, which are highly important in identifying and analysing any obstacles which the workers may be facing in the plantation. Yani and her team also use the time to begin planning for the next day.
Yani does her best not to slack off, and instead constantly pushes herself to be the first one in her office and the last one to leave at night. There’s a satisfaction unlike any other which comes whenever she manages to do a job well, Yani says.
Yani’s hard work has paid off, as she has received several accolades from Asian Agri.
In 2013, she received the prestigious Asian Agri Innovation Award (AAIA) in acknowledgement of her research on ripe harvests. Yani’s department also won first place in the ‘Best Afdeling’ category in 2016 and 2018, in recognition of their high production rates.
However, Yani does not plan to slow down anytime soon, with a resolute belief that her job gives positive impact to the company, her family and community and above all, herself.