Ollie and Anantya are two extraordinary Indonesian geeks, “techpreneurs,” as they call themselves. Ollie, 28, whose real name is Aulia Halimatussadiah, is a computer-science graduate who has written a series of e-books, maintains several blogs, and helps run several communities of tech enthusiasts, investors and educators interested in digital technologies. She’s also written 20 books, half of them romantic novels. Her screen name is “Salsabeela.”
Anantya Van Bronckhorst, 32, founded Think.Web.id, an online agency with 50 employees. She manages four companies, among them a digital PR firm and an ad company built on Google AdWords. She tries to promote RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) adoption, and together with Ollie leads the Indonesian chapter of Girls in Tech, a global network for women in technology.
Entrepreneurs, intellectuals, militants, techies: these two women are the embodiment of Archimedes’ children, wagering on IT to change the world, despite difficulties.
“Technology is still a barrier for women,” Anantya says. With Girls in Tech, the two organize bi-monthly events, bringing in speakers (and some men), but also trying to connect with schools and universities. “The more we educate young girls, the more open they’ll be to technology,” Anantya says.
Ollie had to ask her father’s permission to quit her job to start her own business. Anantya had her family’s support, but not money, to start her company. Her friends told her that men are afraid to approach her because she’s in a position of power.
Ollie is recently divorced. “Despite my efforts to create balance between my personal and professional lives, I couldn’t do it,” she says. “Like all Indonesian women, I was working eleven to sixteen hours a day. I made the meals. For nothing, because men’s egos can’t accept everything we’re becoming. He wanted to be superior, which makes no sense because we started out together. My career took off after my divorce.”
“Female developers are rare,” Anantya says. “I’ve never had one apply for a job at ThinkWeb. It’s still not perceived as well as a career in medicine or the media. But it’s the path to the sexiest jobs for the near future.
One of Ollie’s main interests is fashion. She designs and promotes muslimah wear, a Muslim style that is both fashionable and conforming to religious norms like wearing hijabs. She sells her outfits on Salsabeelashop.com. “Internet tech is really progressing fast in this area,” she says. “I have online and offline stores. I sell with Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger. I run contests on Twitter where we share photos of our outfits.”
Ollie is as concerned with advancing her community as she is her career. She helped create StartupLokal.org for people to share their experiences, and she helps the community grow with Project Eden, Indonesia’s first start-up accelerator.