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Advice from alumni: Adrian Wisaksana

Adrian Wisaksana from Indonesia, graduated from Torbay in 2015. He built an app called “Dreaming Pete” that became one of the 10 most downloaded iOS games in three countries. Learn more about our alum:

How did you hear about EF Academy and why did you choose to attend?

Before I was born, my dad said to my mom, “My children will leave home before they are 18 years old,” because he thought it was important that we (my brother and I) saw the world. Thus, when we clicked on the EF Academy ad and the opportunity to go to EF Academy became a possibility – we thought, “Why not?” I am very happy with that decision because it opened my mind. It was the first time that I left home and was independent – going to EF Academy Torbay was exactly the experience that I had always wanted.

What did you do after graduating from EF Academy?

I applied and was accepted to University College of London to study Information Management for Business. However, I decided to take a gap year because I was accepted as one of the founding students of Make School in Silicon Valley. It all started with an app that I built called ‘Dreaming Pete’ that became one of the 10 most downloaded iOS games in three countries. I built it during Make School’s Summer Academy and they liked it, so they offered me a spot on their new two-year program.

At Make School, we learn to build stuff that we think is cool and then ship it out to the market to see how they respond to it. The Make School is not an accredited university in the traditional sense since all of our lectures are online. Also, the student body is very diverse; my classmates are between 17 – 30 years old and come from all over the world. Since the school is founded by MIT and UCLA dropouts and closely connected to incubators, the school’s network is insane. Thus, after the two-year program, all students at Make School can find a job they like in the Silicon Valley or anywhere else in the world.

I really like the school because it is about gaining real-life experience and it provides me with the fundamentals that I’ll actually need to start my own business. Here, I am mainly learning about computer science, iOS and web development. We also have a lot of successful entrepreneurs that come and talk to us. Make School also has great connections with the venture capitalists, so if I need funding for any of my projects, the school will help me gain access to capital. I, as a young developer, find this environment to be very challenging and inspirational because my fellow classmates are all very motivated and crazy talented.

Can you tell me a bit about your current projects?

I recently worked on product called Presence, an app which enables teachers to take the attendance of their students automatically. The system, through the use of Bluetooth beacons, recognizes the students’ mobile phones when they enter the classroom and subsequently takes the attendance.

My other project is called Lazy Pets, which is more or less a combination of Jawbone/Fitbit and Tamagotchi. The more you walk or run, the happier your virtual pet will be. I presented the app at Make School’s Demo Day in January and people seemed to be very excited about it. I can’t wait to release it on the App Store!

What tips do you have for current students who want to do what you are doing now?

“Just do it” – don’t only talk about things. Use your passion to do something real, for me, it is empowering the world through technology since it is fast and efficient.

Don’t be afraid to show people your work. I remember how shy I was in the beginning, but now, I realized the benefit of getting different people’s input on my work early on.

Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in our alumni community?

From a developer’s perspective, we see what we think people want, and we build them. Ycombinator is one of the most successful and selective incubators in the world and its famous philosophy is to “Make something that people want.” As makers and developers, we often forget this. After you make something, get people to use it and iterate based on their feedback.

If you are coming from a business perspective, I would like to repeat something that I learned at an incubator that I attended at Harvard, “Technology is just a means to an end.” Thus, I would recommend to try the business idea without technology (if possible) and if you think it works, then you can always find a developer to make things more efficient.

What’s your favorite memory from EF Academy?

There are a lot! I would say the experience of meeting people from all over the globe, it is so unique and definitely the best thing that EF offers. It gave me the ability to look at things from different perspectives and be more open-minded, and there were a lot of hilarious moments. For example, during the Russian and Ukrainian conflict, it was super interesting to see how the school turned into a small United Nations where everyone discussed the conflict from their own perspectives. You also realize that the media is super biased and sometimes you can’t really judge.

What do you miss the most?

There is an Italian restaurant in Torquay called Gemelli’s where we would go all the time. Everything was homemade and the owners were very nice.

What is one thing that you learned at EF Academy that you found valuable for university? For work life? For your personal life?

Silicon Valley is a melting pot of people from everywhere and they all want to make a difference. It is actually not that different from EF Academy, where all students want to make a difference. I acquired the ability to talk to everybody and be open-minded at EF Academy Torbay and it has been very useful here. Also, the fact that I have learned a lot about different cultures and countries helps me make connections and build relationships with founders and venture capital investors, since most people are international and people are very happy when I know something about their home country. I think a lot of EF Academy students will start their own companies and I don’t think they realize what a competitive edge it is to be able to connect with people from all around the world.

What final tips would you give to current students?

It is hard to generalize everyone and give one universal tip. To be honest, some people want to party, some people want to study and some people do both (do both!). Nonetheless, I think that everyone really should maximize their own unique experience at EF Academy!

Who is the most successful alumni that you know of?

It is not a current alumni but rather a future alumni. I met a current student from EF Academy New York, Elliot Tikhomirov, at a hackathon (apparently, my current roommate knows him really well). He is really into entrepreneurship and is an awesome designer. He already attended the Make School’s Summer Academy and spoke at a TEDx Talk at the New York campus.

Short questions:

Name: Adrian Wisaksana

Age: 19

Nationality: Indonesian

How many languages do you speak? English, Indonesian and a bit of Spanish

EF Academy campus: Torbay

Graduation years: 2015

Program: IB

Residence or host family: Host family

Favorite subject: Physics, because I am genuinely interested in it and it has been very useful for me in my current studies of computer development and software.

Favorite teacher: All of my teachers were fantastic. If I have to choose one, I’d choose Dr. Oli Chapman – I loved physics and I really enjoyed Oli’s classes.

Favorite club/society:  Impact Magazine; which I played a part in reviving. It was the first thing that I did that was international; I thought that the best way to spread the newspaper was to leverage Facebook. Thus, we in the newspaper crew posted it online and our families helped share it. It grew and we got a lot of views. Then in the end, EF Academy in Lucerne decided to print it.

Which is the next country you want to visit? 

Explore mainland Europe and Brazil!

Shouts outs to:

Marjorie Park

Gagick Harutyunyan,

Letti López and Marta Roche

Joo Hee Kim

Aeris Nguyen and Phoebe Chang

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