Delegate Spotlights

The Delegate Spotlights page is dedicated to featuring our past HPAIR delegates.

We are proud to showcase the achievements and progress our delegate alumni have made since attending our conferences.

1

Dita Astarina


Where are you currently at in your career and life?
I am currently in an MBA program in the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. I am a member of Peterhouse and also the first Jardine Scholar who reads an MBA degree in Cambridge. Prior to my MBA, I worked as one of the youngest Associate Directors in the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, a special unit under the President of Indonesia.

Why did you decide to participate in HPAIR?
I decided to participate in the Business and Finance Panel at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations because of my future career aspiration to become someone who has a deep mastery in the intersection of business, government and international economy (BGIE). I was working in the Sustainable Development sector (post-2015 development agenda) during my tenure in the President’s office. I joined the Business and Finance Panel because I would like to have both a public and private sector mindset in solving many cross-sector setbacks in my country.

What did you gain from the experience?
HPAIR gave me opportunities to connect with talented delegates and today’s leaders in academia, business and government since HPAIR is a collaboration between the youths and Harvard University to promote discourse on critical issues affecting Asia and its relations to the world. In conclusion, after attending the HPAIR conference, the delegates are expected to go beyond the one-off event. This is the catalyst for the formation of a passionate and skilled community of change makers, committed to creating a positive change in communities around the world so that they can inspire millions of others to do the same, perhaps even more and better.

How has the HPAIR conference shaped or helped you achieve your goals and aspirations?
During my 2013 Harvard Conference, I visited HBS, HKS and MIT Sloan, scheduled class visits, experienced teaching methods in each institution and had a few conversations with the professors and students there. After finishing my conference and going back home, I was convinced that I should pursue my MBA soon and started to study the GMAT regularly. I must say, without the opportunity of attending HPAIR and all the things that happened afterwards, I would not be determined to pursue my MBA plan.

What was your biggest takeaway or favorite memory from the HPAIR conference?
My biggest takeaway from my HPAIR conference was the opportunity to meet inspiring and high-caliber individuals across the globe. It was a perfect surrounding to make you stay ‘hungry’ and strengthen your inner-indomitable spirit. My favorite memory from HPAIR conference was when I met one delegate that had been accepted into MIT’s Sloan Program and we shared information about our MBA plan. I would say, HPAIR was a door opening for pursuing my next intellectual journey. All in all, thanks HPAIR!

2

David Chen


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Where are you currently at in your career and life? 
I cofounded Strikingly.com, and have been working on it full time for over 2.5 years now. It’s a website builder that allows anyone to set up a site in a few minutes. We’ve got into Y Combinator in 2013 and have raised $1.5M to date, and we’re profitable. In fact, we’re hiring all kinds of position now, and It would be great to see if any HPAIR alum is interested in us.

Why did you decide to participate in HPAIR? 
I was there to make friends and learn from other great people, and I achieved both. I have made some lifelong friends at both HPAIRs I attended (Harvard and Singapore), and we still hang out with each other. In fact, it was at HPAIR Singapore that I got inspired to start our first startup, before we pivoted to Strikingly.

What did you gain from the experience?
As mentioned, I made a lot of lifelong friends and we still support each other throughout our journey at each field.

How has the HPAIR conference shaped or helped you achieve your goals and aspirations? 
I got inspired by HPAIR in Singapore to pursue entrepreneurship, since people I met were all creating interesting things, and I decided there that I’m going to do it as well. Committing to a startup is hard and it was the trust and support from my friends, including a lot of people I met at HPAIR, that helped me persist through those hard times. I’m forever grateful.

What was your biggest takeaway or favorite memory from the HPAIR conference?
There are too many. The best one was at Harvard, during the talent showcase. Two people at HPAIR and me did an almost improvised show, with one person singing, another B-Boxing, and me dancing. It was a lot of fun and it was the first time I danced in front of a group of audience. I’ll always remember that, besides all of the serious and inspiring moments.

3

Scarlett Ho


Where are you currently at in your career and life?
I am currently a third year student at Northeastern University majoring in International Affairs and Political Science. As a prospective law student, in the past 3 years I have interned at all levels of American government: federal, state, and city, working with politicians such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Stephen Lynch. I also studied abroad in Belgium where I interned for the Vice-Chairman of the European People’s Party at the European Parliament. Currently, I am running for Communications Director in College Democrats of Massachusetts, while being a full-time intern in the U.S. Department of Commerce and conducting research for Northeastern’s Political Science Department. This summer, I will be interning at the State Department in Washington D.C.

Why did you decide to participate in HPAIR?
I decided to participate in HPAIR because I wanted to broaden my knowledge of security and diplomacy related issues. Asia is a rising and fascinating region, yet its burgeoning development is one of the least studied fields. I think even though not everyone is majoring in International Relations, the change of global dynamics and a rising China is something everyone should take note of. As for me personally, I think it is crucial to expose myself to global issues and to learn first hand from the leading experts in the field. It is the opportunity to interact with top speakers such as Professor Ezra Vogel, ask questions and network with like-minded delegates that attracted me to apply in the first place. Being physically in a conference pushed me out of my comfort zone to engage with delegates and to critically examine an issue at hand.

What did you gain from the experience?
Prior to coming to the conference, there were a lot of topics that I was not familiar with and initially, I was a little bit intimidated by the fact that many delegates were much more knowledgeable than I was because they probably studied​ them in school. However, everyone at the conference was very friendly and helped me understand a lot of concepts. Together with the research I did before and during the conference, I left the conference with a lot of profound new knowledge and understanding of the Asia region. I also liked the idea that delegates do not have to stick to the panel they chose at the application, but were free to mix and match it with another panel topic they are interested to know more as well. As such, what delegates can gain from this experience depends on how motivated they are to learn. The opportunities are definitely out there.

How has the HPAIR conference shaped or helped you achieve your goals and aspirations?
One of the topics explored in the Security and Diplomacy panel really strikes​ my interest, and that was the one about nuclear weapons and nonproliferation. ​It​ was the starting point for me as I began to read more articles and research about it afterwards. Since I am based in Boston, I got in touch with the ​ ​speakers and later applied for a research associate program on nuclear weapon​​s​ at the Harvard Kennedy School​. I think the conference really inspired me in terms of finding my niche and fine-tuning my interests in International Relations, as I ​was​ exposed to a wide range of topics and issues.

What was your biggest takeaway or favorite memory from the HPAIR conference?
I couldn’t say I have a favorite aspect from HPAIR as I enjoyed every part of it, and it all pieced together to create a wonderful memory. I have mentioned a lot about the academic side of the conference, and so I will now focus on the entertainment part. I think the HPAIR organizers did a fantastic job of combining an enriching and stimulating academic program with fun activities and socials, such as International Night, Entertainment Night and the Gala Dinner in the evenings. I think these are crucial in a highly interactive environment, where often times, fruitful discussions are driven by an engaging and dynamic group. And not only were they fun and allow us to explore different cultures, but they ​also create​​d​ a strong bond among delegates that last even after the HPAIR conference ​had ​ended.

4

Dennis Pluemer


Where are you currently at in your career and life?
After founding “santai” in 2012, I went to Yogyakarta (Indonesia) for one and a half years to form a team of local designers, find the right production partners and create the first collection of design furniture. In early 2015 we launched the collection at the Cologne Design Week in Germany. It was very well received, resulting in several magazine articles and first direct sales. santai’s efforts got noticed, and we got invited by the Indonesian Designer Association to join the fair in Jakarta in March 2015. We secured further deals and won amazing partners like Andra Matin, a renowned Indonesian architect. Our relax chairs already made it to offices in Jakarta and soon to a hotel in Bali. Our plan is to work with further Javanese designers and expand our product range in order to increase santai’s impact on the Javanese, but also the European society, whose households we want to enrich with Java’s tropical lifestyle.

Why did you decide to participate in HPAIR?
A friend of mine – and previous delegate of HPAIR – encouraged me to join the conference. I looked at that year’s topics and speakers and found that it very much fit my growing interest in the economic and cultural development of Southeast-Asia.

What did you gain from the experience?

Ideas: Triggered by the various panel sessions and talks with fellow students and speakers, the basic idea for santai was born and slowly matured during the days of the conference. At the end of one long night, I had written the basic concept for santai.

Motivation & Confidence: Being exposed to so many strong characters and hearing their ambitious visions and success stories was very encouraging to me. It gave me the feeling that realizing one’s dream is possible. In their talks they further encouraged us and made us believe in our own ideas and plans.

Network: I further gained a valuable network of friends. In the years after the conference I received a lot of help from the people I have met. Besides others, one even helped me to register a patent.

How has the HPAIR conference shaped or helped you achieve your goals and aspirations?

Before the conference I had traveled, studied abroad and observed a lot. My main interest had already narrowed down to the economic and cultural development of Southeast-Asia and the challenge of not losing valuable elements of culture in the rush of modernization. The panels and private talks were exactly in the field of my previous studies, but what was new to me was the idea of Social Entrepreneurship. It appeared to me as being the perfect path to combine the entrepreneurial side of me with my passion to revitalize local culture.

The HPAIR conference clearly helped me to connect the dots and streamline my ideas and passion into a real project.

What was your biggest takeaway or favorite memory from the HPAIR conference?

My biggest takeaway was clearly the concept paper of santai that I had written on the 3rd night of the conference after a longer talk with fellow students.

Besides that I remember a line of Paul Dunn – one speaker of a panel I attended – that very much hit a nerve in me. He said “we are drowning in a sea of sameness”. Woah that felt so true: a) for the life of people surrounding me in Germany and b) for the products I can buy at home. So Paul’s line endorsed my inner feeling that a) I want to do something completely different and b) there are niche markets for products that are different and c) I want to offer something to the European market that truly enriches their life.