One of the things which stands out in these interviews is how rarely Mariam’s name comes up. Hence, we have named the next part ‘Where was Mariam?’ We wanted to explore the theory that Mariam’s negligence and incompetence is fundamental to all the problems in TBI.
How often did Mariam Kartikatresni visit you individually as manager of TBI Kuningan to discuss how things were going?
She simply never did. The only time I met one on one with her was a few days before I left the school. It was to discuss the Matthew France incident which had culminated in Luke Preece’s four-page report. She never once came in just to talk to me about how things were going.
Did she communicate directly with you via email or telephone?
I was included in group emails but she never asked me how things were going. She was just completely uninvolved with day to day management, even though I was managing TBI’s biggest school by revenue.
How did she get her information about what was happening then?
Through Luke Preece. He met regularly with her. In retrospect it is clear that he tries to keep Mariam away from other managers.
Did Mariam Kartikatresni respond in a timely manner if you contacted her?
It was very rare I contacted her and when I did her responses were short and abrupt, and sometimes I wouldn’t get a response at all. She was the mistress of the one-line email.
So Mariam Kartikatresni’s version of the truth was mediated almost entirely through what Luke Preece reported to her?
She never got complete information. She would often make decisions without even knowing what she was talking about.
I read on one website that the number one sign the Director (CEO) should be replaced is that key personnel never hear from her / him. On this criteria was Mariam Katrikatresni a competent manager?
Perhaps most teachers and readers have never met Mariam Kartikatresni, so I thought I met get you to rank her on a variety of different scales. On a scale from very professional to very unprofessional where would you rate her?
Very unprofessional. She was a bit of an actress, so you might think she knew something about business management the first time you met her. But there was no follow-through on anything; she would be hours late to meetings, and never contacted the managers or supervised anything. She is notorious within USG and TBI.
On a scale from very egalitarian to very authoritarian where would you rate her?
I would say she was rather authoritarian. She talked over people all the time and had a bad temper. Indonesians were afraid to criticize her. Sometimes she would try to be charming or approachable in meetings but no one really believed it.
On a scale from very knowledgeable to very unknowledgeable where would you rate her?
I would say very unknowledgeable. She just talked out of her hat. She had a lot of confidence but her speeches were just empty. She clearly knew very little about TEFL or good corporate governance.
On a scale from very reliable to very unreliable how would you rate her promises and plans?
I would say very unreliable. She stands up in an annual meeting and says they want to open TBI Bali this year and then nothing happens, or she stands up and says that computer-based learning is on its way and then nothing happens. Her promises and words are just meaningless.
On a scale from very honest to very dishonest where would you rate her?
I don’t feel I could answer that as well as the others. But I caught her out in lies a couple of times. For example, she denied that she had spoken to Mariezska, but then quoted what Mariezska had said a few minutes later. I don’t trust her at all.
You have described her as very unprofessional, rather authoritarian, very unknowledgeable, very unreliable and probably very dishonest. Does that sound right?
Yes it does. And it’s not just me saying it. Luke Preece never shuts up about what a lazy, vain, incompetent cow she is. Her feud with Ibu Ning and her temper tantrums are the stuff of legend within USG and parts of TBI.
It is my experience that Luke Preece never shuts up about Ibu Mariam. How many times have you heard him mention her in private?
Innumerable times. He talks about how stupid, how vain, how incompetent and how ignorant she is every time you go out for a meal or drink with him. He talks about it so much that I eventually emailed him and asked him not to be so relentlessly negative as it was rather discouraging and depressing. He told me I had hurt his feelings and was much less supportive from that point on. He hates to be criticized or disagreed with.
Why do you believe that he feels so free to insult Mariam Kartikatresni to different managers and even teachers at times?
He hinted to me once when we were out drinking that he had some highly compromising information on her. In June 2011 she was removed as Director for two weeks and Luke said it had been due to improper conduct- probably something to do with corruption. I later came to suspect that he may be blackmailing her. What I learned after November 2011 is that she protects him whatever he does, so maybe he has a lot of dirt on her.
Why did Luke Preece become Head of Franchise? How does this relate to Mariam’s performance?
There was a crisis at the end of 2010. The franchise owners banded together and refused to deal with Retty or Mariam as they were regarded as completely untrustworthy. Luke wrote a report, which I have leaked, which made the case for him becoming the new Head of Franchise. There was even some talk of him becoming TBI Director at this time but, according to Luke, Mariam fought back and she kept her role as Director. Mariam’s reputation is terrible with USG and she has almost lost that job a number of times, but it’s all about politics and not performance. She represents the status quo.
When you were at TBI Sudirman was she more active in managing and supervising that school? It was in the same building after all.
No she wasn’t. She was notable only for her absence. The one time she did get involved she was unbelievably inept. We were starting Teenagers’ classes for the first time and I designed a promo. I sent it to her for her input. She came down and said to me, “This isn’t really appropriate for Business English. The tone is wrong. Don’t use it.” I looked at her incredulously and said, “It isn’t for Business English. It’s for Teenagers’ classes.” She hadn’t even looked at it. There are a lot of stories like that about Mariam. She is so lazy she doesn’t even read letters and emails and gets all the facts wrong. She really has no idea what is going on in the company.
So who does she rely on to know what is going on in the company?
She relies almost completely on Luke and Ashley. The three of them are the core of the TBI Mafia. Luke hates her with a passion, but his entire position of authority is based on her patronage. She protects him and lets him do whatever he wants and never punishes him for misconduct. That’s the conclusion I had reached by the time we left TBI.
Why is Mariam Katrikatresni in the position?
Luke is close to her and her husband. He told me that her husband manages an Indonesian hedge-fund and has both his parents on the board of USG. Her role as Director is due entirely to her husband’s wealth and influence. She is a complete flake.