Posted by Neeti Virmani, Welfare Chair 2017-18
What inspired you to join the SIWA leadership team?
Honestly, I was inspired by the fear of being bored! When I moved to Seoul I did not know a single person in Korea. My kids had just started full-time school for the first time so I was alone most of the day. I worried that I would have nothing to do but watch Netflix by myself. I looked online for expat clubs, discovered SIWA, and decided to go to a coffee morning. I remember feeling intimidated when I arrived because I didn’t have anyone to sit with, but I ended up next to another new person and we had a good time. By coincidence, on the table there was a list of open volunteer positions, most of which were related to my field of business so I had some relevant experience. I took it as a sign and checked everything I thought I could do. Shortly afterward I met Mhyla & Robbie for the first time and the rest is history!
As a SIWA leader, which is the project that you were most passionate about and remains close to your heart?
I enjoyed every role I had within SIWA but I would say that the Bazaar is the one closest to my heart. It was such a huge commitment but it was so rewarding. Organizing that event is how I really made strong connections with people and I really enjoyed doing something challenging. It was a great opportunity to learn more about SIWA and different organizations in Seoul, and give something meaningful back to Korea.
Who was the person that taught you the most during your career?
I’m lucky enough to have a lot of positive role models in my life but I would say that my mom taught me the most. When she went to college she was given the choice of 2 majors (teaching and nursing) because those were the only ones available for women. Over time more career opportunities became available and she worked hard to switch fields, even earning a PhD in the process. Before she retired she became a leader in a male-dominated field. When she attended conferences she’s often the only female and it was quite difficult. Seeing her persevere through those challenges was inspiring. She taught me a lot about not being discouraged by your circumstances, but to stay focused on your goals.
What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I think it’s incredibly difficult to inspire others to share your vision. You have to have a certain amount of knowledge and skill to even have a good vision for a company or project, but in order to achieve that vision everyone needs to understand it and believe in it too. It takes motivational, communication and managerial skills to lead successfully and that’s hard. Factor in how busy people are and how fast things change, etc. and I think it can be overwhelming.
As a current SIWA leader, what advice would you give to someone going into SIWA leadership position for the first time? Speak up! Even if you just joined SIWA or recently moved to Seoul, your opinion is valid and appreciated. Don’t wait for another volunteer to ask you what you think, or set boundaries for you. Take charge of the role you accepted, and let others know what you need to accomplish your goals within SIWA. And have fun!