Dr. Ir. Subiakto, M.B.A., RFA, QWP, CFP, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs of SBM ITB, has embarked on a remarkable journey to reach this stage in his life. Following his graduation in Mechanical Engineering from ITB, he pursued work and further studies abroad, eventually returning to his homeland, where he currently holds a significant position at SBM ITB. There are valuable insights to be gained from Subi’s travel experiences, as his nickname affectionately knows him.
Pursuing your dream campus
A series of relocations marked Subi’s early life. During elementary school, he changed residence several times, living in Jogja and relocating to Palembang over six years. He eventually settled in Palembang, where he completed his junior high school education and the first year of senior high school.
During high school, Subi began nurturing his dream of gaining admission to the Institut Teknologi Bandung. However, he knew this wouldn’t be an easy feat, especially for a student hailing from outside Java.
“At that time, the prevailing trend was for students to transfer to a public high school in Bandung in their second year,” Subi explained while discussing his earlier strategy. “Given that I was coming from a private high school, the challenge was even greater. Eventually, I enrolled in a private high school here in Bandung.”
After two years of dedicated efforts and academic accomplishments, Subi achieved his goal and became one of the eleven students from his school who successfully gained admission to ITB.
Life at ITB and post-graduation
Subi entered the Mechanical Engineering program, which, at that time, fell under the Faculty of Industrial Engineering at ITB and is now part of the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Within this department, Subi specialized in combustion engines and became a member of the ITB Combustion Engine and Propulsion Systems Laboratory. It was in this laboratory that he crossed paths with the late Prof. Ir. Wiranto Arismunandar, MSME, who later became his supervisor for the final project. Prof. Wiranto, who served as ITB’s rector from 1988 to 1997, played a pivotal role in Subi’s future.
Subi had extensive interactions with Prof. Wiranto, especially when B.J. Habibie was spearheading the development of the Indonesian aerospace industry through the establishment of Nusantara Aircraft Industry (IPTN), now known as PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero). At that time, Habibie required talent, skills, and expertise for the project, and many ITB lecturers, including Prof. Wiranto, were involved. He invited his students to participate in this initiative, and Subi was among them.
“The allure at the time was the opportunity to undertake a 6-month internship in America; it was fascinating,” Subi recounted. “I didn’t need to think twice; I trusted [Prof. Wiranto] and join.”
At IPTN, Subi became involved in various projects, including developing the IPTN CN-235 aircraft, a collaborative effort between Indonesia and Spain, which also incorporated CT-7 engines from General Electric. To meet the requirements of this project, General Electric established a new division called Universal Maintenance Center to manage the maintenance and overhaul processes for these aircraft engines.
Subi’s capabilities were tested during his internship at General Electric in Arkansas. The expertise he had acquired while working in the combustion engine and propulsion systems lab under Wiranto’s guidance proved highly relevant to their needs. Over time, he worked not only on General Electric engines but also on engines from other prominent companies such as Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce.
Upon his return to Indonesia, Subi realized that his career was advancing rapidly, thanks to his internship at General Electric. He also noted that despite his engineering background, most of his work was now related to management, encompassing tasks ranging from planning and organizing to engaging with partners and discussing contracts.
From engineering to management
Subi acknowledges that there is still much to learn if he wishes to maintain his role in this field. With support from his superiors and colleagues at General Electric, he secured a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration at Oklahoma State University in 1992. Two years later, he completed his studies, becoming one of only two MBA degree holders among 400 employees at Universal Maintenance Center. This distinction was considered highly prestigious, especially in the United States, where it remained rare.
Subi continued to ascend the career ladder swiftly. He received promotions, eventually becoming the division head and leading his team to consistently generate substantial profits.
Recognizing his ability to be self-sufficient, his superiors decided to establish a subsidiary, PT Nusantara Turbine and Propulsion (NTP), with Subi taking on the role of the company’s director.
He also received recognition for contributing to technology transfer related to various types of turbines in Indonesia. Furthermore, he was crucial in forging a joint venture between IPTN and General Electric, extending beyond the turbine industry. This initiative ultimately led to a meeting with Jack Wells, the founder of General Electric. Additionally, he was appointed to serve as a commissioner and, later, the principal commissioner of the company.
At the pinnacle of his career, Subi began to find himself with more free time. It was during this period that he crossed paths with one of his college colleagues, Ahmad Herlanto, who had previously pursued a career in banking and was already a lecturer at ITB.
“He invited me to teach at SBM ITB because I was a good fit due to my industry experience,” Subi explained. “The dilemma at that time was choosing between continuing as the President Director at IPTN or taking the fit and proper test to join SBM ITB.”
Subi explained that one of the factors leading him to choose to be a part of SBM was the situation at IPTN during that time. Industrial disputes had caused fluctuations in the number of IPTN employees, and conflicts between management and labour unions were frequent. These disputes not only affected the lives of those within the company but also extended to their families.
“There was one incident where several people camped in front of my family’s house. Another time, I found my car covered in flowers. My health was greatly affected, particularly as I had reached an age where other health complications become more vulnerable.”
Given these considerations, Subi believed that joining SBM ITB was the best decision. Joining a new organization meant starting his second career from scratch, and he valued the journey. That’s what made him realize that teaching was inspiring.
Subsequently, Subi established Consultancy and Continuing Education at SBM ITB and pursued his doctoral degree in Management at Padjadjaran University in 2015. He continued to strive for higher achievements, taking on the role of the head of the SBM ITB MBA study program. During his tenure, he successfully initiated a double degree program, securing two initial partners: the University of Science Malaysia and the University of Glasgow.
Become Vice Dean for Academic Affairs
When his tenure as the head of the MBA study program concluded, Subi returned to his role as a regular lecturer. On September 1, 2023, he was offered the position of Vice Dean for Academic Affairs by SBM. Subi accepted this role with the aspiration of making a positive impact on SBM and serving as a representative voice for SBM during this transitional period.
“My role is to ensure that SBM can maintain and fulfill its promises of educational quality. We must be capable of identifying, assessing, and generating solutions so that the quality we deliver to students and all our partners meets their expectations. In doing so, we aim to be the top choice for prospective students.”
Subi pointed out that SBM ITB’s accreditation, ranking, and partnerships are powerful indicators of the institution’s excellence. Additionally, he views SBM’s success as the outcome of the collective efforts of numerous individuals driven by synergy and collaboration. He hopes all parties involved will continue to uphold these two values, ensuring they can consistently deliver higher quality to all stakeholders.
“Here, two plus two doesn’t necessarily equal four. With strong synergy, it can quickly become seven or eight.