Meet Mike Shipton. A South African expat with a high-pressure, demanding job, Mike is an exceptionally cheerful guy with a positive outlook on life. Mike loves his job at G4S as Country Managing Director and adores life in Indonesia.
Hello, Mike! So, did you choose Indonesia or did Indonesia choose you?
I moved to Jakarta in July 2013. G4S promoted me a couple of years ago and we discussed a few countries where I’ll be placed. Round about March last year they told me to pop in to Indonesia for a week of holiday. I thought it was a cool vacation plan. However, within a couple of hours of landing here I realized this is the place I want to spend a couple of years in.
What were the deciding factors for your move?
First of all the potential of the market and, as soon as I got settled into the position, the potential of the company in Indonesia. I’ve travelled and worked in a lot of countries in the world and I think this place is a beautiful country, but I don’t think most people realize the opportunities they’re sitting on. Indonesia has always been a good stepping stone for the managers at G4S, most get promoted into senior roles very quickly.
In your hometown of Durban, South Africa, what was life like?
I was working for another company back there. My background is in Business Management. It’s quite different with Jakarta, I love the hustle and bustle here, it makes people thrive and feel alive. South Africa is more laid back.
G4S is a security company. What facets of security are we talking about?
G4S is the biggest security company in the world. We operate five companies under G4S, the first is the cash company where we do cash processing and cash distribution for bank branches, and we provide end-to-end services for that bank. The second company is the guarding company where we provide the typical satpam services in residential areas, malls, etc.
Then we’ve got the electronic security company, where we offer consultation for the design or layout for alarms, CCTV camera systems or fire alarms. We also provide the response to the alarm, that’s where our trained guards come in. It’s pointless to have an alarm go off and have no response team. The fourth company is a branch that sells, replenishes and maintains ATMs for bank branches. The last company is the software company; we design and develop software for a banking institution.
As you can see, G4S provides a complete range of security services. We are more than just a whistle-bearing satpam industry.
I’ve seen money-transferring trucks around with G4S’ logo on it. I’ve always thought this work is done by another company, Securicor?
That’s the cash side of G4S. It’s funny because G4S is actually the result of merging between Group 4 and Securicor – hence G4S – but people still refer to those trucks as Securicor trucks.
Does a successful security company depend on employing trustworthy people?
Absolutely, that is critical and of the utmost importance. At the moment we are re-evaluating all our employees, checking all criminal histories, backgrounds and training them properly. Your integrity counts most in this business and it only takes one mistake to lose it forever.
What do you like about your job? What’s the most difficult thing on the job?
Every day is different; it could start with a meeting then I’d have to rush to a site because of an incident – no day is the same and that’s what makes it exciting. I focus on the clients. I personally take calls from my clients and love being on the field to resolve their problems. If a customer has a problem, we’ll solve it then and there. I also have a passion to develop my staff. The rainy season is quite exciting as well because we rescue people in the water.
The most difficult thing for me is sitting in the office.
Are you a tech savvy person?
Oh yes, very much. I’m a technology geek; I’ll buy anything they put out there on the market. When Google Glass comes out I’m definitely going to buy it. And I’m going to wear it!
What in your opinion is the best trait to have in order to be a successful manager?
You have to have the discipline to make sure your tasks are done properly and efficiently, but you also have to have empathy to understand the challenges others are experiencing. Those and a good sense of team spirit.
How is your Bahasa Indonesia after living in Jakarta for a couple of months now?
I have a funny story on that. So, I’ve been taking lessons in formal Bahasa Indonesia. I did three months of it, and I thought I was pretty good. About a month ago, I went to the Kemang KFC. I walked in with my best Bahasa Indonesia and ordered two pieces of chicken. I got distracted and looked at some kids playing, and when I turned around to see my order, I ended up with four cups of Pepsi, four servings of rice and eight chickens! I’ve got a theory on this; it wasn’t my Bahasa Indonesia, I think the employees at KFC wait for a bule to show up, confuse them and laugh.
You moved to Jakarta with your wife. How does she like the city?
Yes, my wife moved with me. We actually went to Singapore for a couple of days and when we got back, my wife let out a big sigh and said “aahh, we’re home.”
G4S is a massive international company. Do you envision having another posting in another country in the future?
My personal goal is to do one more country and then I’ll come back to South Africa. I would like to spend a little more time in Asia or somewhere in South America – I wouldn’t mind China. I’m at a stage in my life where it’s more about the experience and meeting people and new cultures. What you learn as an expat if far more than what you would as a tourist.
Do you enjoy the expat life?
The expat life is a really, really good experience. But sometimes you get people who come to a new country and complain about everything – the traffic, the pollution – to those people I say ‘get on with life’! If you are unhappy with it, move on and find the positive things in that place – there’s plenty of it. A traffic jam gives me a chance to meditate. I can complain about it for two hours or I can close my eyes and relax, catch up on my emails and have some alone time.
That brings me to my next question. As this is the Mind, Body and Soul issue, what do you do to achieve a healthy mind, body & soul in this city?
I belong to the Jakarta Outdoor Adventurists Club. It’s just a great bunch of people and we travel around the country, go on hikes, and get to see things that a lot of expats don’t get to see. We get to speak in Bahasa Indonesia along the way, eat Indonesian food, sink into the culture. We went to Krakatoa last month, the Papandayan mountain and a couple of weeks ago we went to the Dieng plateau. The club is also hiking the three Ss; Sindoro, Sumbing and Slamet. At least that gets me out of the city for some fresh air for the weekend, so I try to do that as much as I can. I also practice meditation, I try to tame what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ and relax.
If you can take a memorable experience out of your stint in Indonesia, what would it be?
It would have to be the acceptance that my staff in Indonesia has shown me. I’ve been in many countries and this is the one country I’ve ever really felt welcomed. It’s very uplifting, they make me part of the family. I’ve never felt that anywhere else in the world.