Innovator Profile: Stephanie Wiriahardja

Michaela Klassen
Volunteer, SFU Public Square

Innovator Profiles highlight extraordinary community members that are making a difference.

The decision to pack up and move across the world to Vancouver, B.C. isn’t one that most people would take lightly. Fortunately, Stephanie Wiriahardja isn’t like most people.

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Stephanie Wiriahardja moved to Vancouver when she was 15 years old. “I didn’t suffer any culture shock just because I was so excited to be here.” Having two sisters already living in Vancouver didn’t hurt either.

As only a youngest child can understand, however, Stephanie felt a strong desire to set herself apart from her older sisters. When, out of curiousity one day, she “Googled” herself, she was shocked and dismayed to discover there were no results for Stephanie Wiriahardja. Determined to change this, she set out to learn about personal branding and build her online presence. She started off by simply writing a few blogs. Now a community manager at Hootsuite and nominee for a Social Media “Must-Follow” (on Twitter) Award (@stephawie), Stephanie attributes much of her success to what she calls "The Dandelion Theory." 

While walking home one day, Stephanie spotted some dandelions growing out of the pavement and was inspired by their ability to grow out of nowhere and develop in to a beautiful flower. “Just like those dandelions, I want to keep growing and evolving, and spreading my passions.”

Stephanie’s belief in the Dandelion Theory is buttressed by her strong ability to brainstorm and work in groups, skills she developed as a student at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Techonology. The IAT program taught her “to approach things from a different perspective, and understand the importance of experiences and how people perceive them.”

At Hootsuite, Stephanie spends her days turning customers into fans, fans into superfans, and superfans in to brand advocates. When asked about the meaning of “community,” Stephanie launches into an explanation of the importance of relationship-building.

Stephanie says she is committed to meeting with someone new every two weeks, be it a student, a recent grad or just someone looking for advice. In this way she hopes to not only spread her love of community-building, but also help to inspire the next generation.

Stephanie also tries to dedicate a few hours a week to simply browsing her Facebook feed, liking and commenting on her friends' posts. Something that is so easy to do helps remind her friends that their posts matter and are interesting to others.

When she was nominated for the Social Media Award last year, Stephanie says, the prospect of winning was not the best part of the competition. Instead, it was the actual votes that thrilled her. While most of the votes came from within Vancouver, Stephanie was humbled to see that some came from as far as Poland, France and Germany. “None of my accomplishments are really that big a deal, it’s more the support that I received that makes them special.”

In addition to her work at Hootsuite as community manager, Stephanie helps to bridge the gap between education and employment through her employer's Higher Education program. Stephanie helps students to build their own social media portfolios, while developing skills that simply aren’t taught in classrooms. “I think what institutions need to do is look at job descriptions and what companies are looking for right now.” There are no classes you can take to become a community manager or a social media specialist, but those are the jobs that are in demand. Helping to bring social media into university classrooms is just another thing Stephanie does to build her community.

Nowadays, a Google search for Stephanie Wiriahardja will return over 8,000 results. Last year, she spoke at 18 events in 47 days and was ranked within the top one per cent of most viewed LinkedIn profiles in 2012.

Author Michaela Klassen is currently a student at SFU, majoring in economics, as well as an SFU Public Square volunteer.