My SAI Young Leader experience
By: Cherry Lyn Somcio, Pohnpei State Public Auditor’s Office
Last year, INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) launched the Supreme Audit Institutions Young Leaders Program (SYL), with the objective of strengthening Young Leaders who are contributing to positive change in Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI).
I am very proud that I am one of the pioneers of this initiative, as the SYL Program was an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When I first applied for this program in October 2017, I was not expecting anything because it is very competitive. IDI’s invitation was sent to 91 SAIs and IDI received 70 completed applications. I was blessed to be one of the 40 applicants invited to the first screening, which was held in Norway in November 2017 – but unfortunately, I was not able to go because of the visa requirement. However, I am very happy and grateful that IDI was flexible, arranging for a Skype interview in which I presented my change strategy proposal (the Communication Strategy for Pohnpei State Public Auditor).
After the interview I was told that, whether I got accepted for the program or not, a decision would be emailed to me after two days, and that the Young Leaders selected for the SYL Program would be invited to attend the International Interaction in Chennai, India. I received an email the very next day stating that I was one of the 25 Young Leaders selected - and yes! I was invited to the Chennai Interaction which was held on March 19-29, 2018. I cannot explain how happy, blessed and grateful I was. Imagine a new employee like me (just about three months in office) would have an opportunity like this. I have nothing to say but God is an amazing God.
My Chennai experience was great, humbling and unforgettable. It’s not every day I would get to meet such intelligent and inspiring people as the other SAI Young Leaders from different countries - Europe, South Africa, Liberia, Botswana, Latin America, Asia and Pacific. We understand and support each other, and there were great change strategies from the other young leaders that I could share with my office.
In Chennai, I learned a lot of things about being a leader. One was to be aware of myself not only through my strengths, but to also recognize and improve on my weaknesses and limitations. Aside from self-awareness, it is also important to be socially aware, so you know how to deal with conflict, how to influence others, how to collaborate and most especially how to empower others.
In Washington DC, October 15-26, 2018, we learned the characteristics of being a good leader, as well as different styles of negotiations, influencing others and communicating effectively, which I could use to improve the Communication Strategy of Pohnpei Office of the Public Auditor (POPA). SYL’s also had the opportunity to visit such international organizations like the United Nations Headquarters in New York and World Bank in Washington DC, to interact with international stakeholders on emerging issues.
In the second week, all the SAI Young Leaders presented the milestones of their change strategies and their journey as SYL. I was hoping and praying that I would be the first one to present since I already finished the presentation before I left Pohnpei. To my dismay I picked the last number and so, yes, I was the last one to present. But since day one, after I presented the milestone of our Communication Strategy and my journey as a SYL, everybody came to me and congratulated me for a wonderful presentation and they all said that they were inspired by my story. It is still surreal for me hearing those kind words - that I actually inspire people.
The workshop in Washington DC, gave me new ideas and knowledge that I could use to improve the programs required under our Communication Strategy. Although it was our last meeting for SYL batch 2017-2018 to meet in Washington DC, our journey continues. Every day is an opportunity to be better and to do better and we can make a difference every single day.
To be part of the positive change is not a race. It is a marathon, and you cannot hurry the result. You need perseverance to finish strong and finish it in the right way. Implementing the Communications Strategy that I presented is not easy. We face a lot of challenges and rejections, the biggest being our limited resources:
· First, the brochures regarding our audit process and the promotion of our office are still being printed in black and white. We have one printer that could print in color, but it is very costly for us;
· Second, we do not have office cars for our field work and office errands, so POPA’s employees are using their own cars for their fieldwork. Office cars would be very helpful in the implementation of our Communication Strategy, especially in attending community meetings in far-flung places in Pohnpei;
· Third, we received a very low response from the stakeholders’ expectation form we distributed;
· Finally, some of the activities that we planned for our communication strategy have not yet started such as the community meetings and translation of the executive summary into local language.
Despite all these challenges and rejections, we are still grateful because we learned from it. We now look at it in a different perspective, as an opportunity to improve our program. Lessons learned helped us to fulfill our plans.
I am very thankful to IDI for this program. It changed me a lot and now I can say that I am ready to be a leader. Change is not easy; change takes time and sometimes it’s painful. But if you really want something badly enough, you will make it happen to the best of your abilities and strength.
The Emotional Intelligence Maturity Inventory Report that we went through in Chennai was what really opened my eyes to change. I realized that being honest with yourself is being honest with other people, and that is part of integrity. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”. Now I am not afraid to be true to myself, and just because I am different from the majority doesn’t mean that I am weird. I am just unique.
I believe the greatest fulfilment in my career is to be able to produce other leaders through the skills and knowledge I share with them. With the help of this program, my skills were definitely improved and my abilities sharpened, and now I can fulfill this dream. I am committed to investing my time and intelligence in coaching and mentoring future leaders of Pohnpei State specifically for the Office of the Public Auditor. With this, I encourage SAI Young Leaders in the PASAI region to apply and join this amazing program and be the change today.
Cherry Lyn Somcio, Pohnpei State Public Auditor’s Office
You can read more about PASAI’s experience of the SAI Young Leaders program in our November newsletter, out soon.
Find out more about the program on IDI’s website.