Powered by Women: Priscilla Kevin

Powered by Females


Powered by: Priscilla Kevin

The Powered by Women interview’s, bring together successful women from across PNG to share their insights and experiences into what has helped them create successful careers.

In this episode we interview Priscilla Kevin
Priscilla is a technology specialist and entrepreneur who dreams of making Papua New Guinea ‘the Silicon Valley of the Pacific?. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science in Computer Science from the PNG University of Technology with over 20 years industry experience. She runs her own ICT consultancy firm In4net, specializing in enterprise resource planning, ICT advisory consulting and project management. Priscilla sits on the board of a variety of other organisations.


Interview Transcript:
Q: Can give us a little bit of an overview of how you got to where you are today?
PriscillaThanks Kristine and Peopleconnexion for the opportunity to share my journey as a Papua New Guinean woman.
My background is in computer science, I finished at the local University of Technology in the year 2000, almost 20 years ago.  I started as a junior consultant working for a local tech support company in PNG which looked after global products, I specialised in enterprise resource planning. It is a very niche skill-set here in Papua New Guinea, there’s not a lot of specialised people in ERP, so when I started as a junior consultant I was really privileged to work with a lot of different people in the businesses –  I worked with business owners, directors, right down to the floor managers. This really gave me an insight into different types of businesses and how to actually run them.  So, I took on the supporting role for about four years with that tech firm but then I decided to move with my family to Moresby. 
When I moved to Moresby I took on a full-time role in the IT Team at the Postal Administration (at Post PNG).  The interesting part with my entrepreneurial journey is the customers actually followed me, they really liked the support and the people skills that I had, and the way I interacted with them, so my customers said, hey, look, we could offer you a retainer, would consider starting your own business? I didn’t think entrepreneurship was an option for me, but when the customers came and said, we can offer your retainer? I said side why not, let me try it!  So since then, I’ve been I’ve taking on the challenge of being self-employed, and taking the risks that come with it. 
As a woman, I think there’s an added challenge in PNG  because we don’t have a lot of support systems. We do have our traditional cultural support systems, but when it comes to engaging in business there’s not a lot of support systems. You tend to go out and do it all on your own, maybe with support from your husband, and from your children or your family. In 2010 after starting up my business, I had a big change within my family, as we had a separation. My husband moved on, and I had to raise my children.
Oh, my goodness ? so you were a full-time mum, and you were running a business and you had the challenge of being a woman in PNG?
Priscilla:  Yeah, it was really hard. Women who are privileged to get an opportunity to be educated are placed in a good position to actually strive and do great things. As an educated woman, I was able to start up a business and support my family, but it was still really challenging when you have a very young family, and then you go through a separation, and on top of that I was consulting and running my own business whilst juggling all my personal issues. I decided though, I had to go back into full time work to provide more stability for my home and for my two kids. I wanted to make sure that both of them were ok. 
So you had your business, but then you decided to go back to full-time work just so that you could have some stability at home for your children, and you knew where that income was coming from?
Priscilla: I usually tell my kids, we had a wardrobe at the back of the vehicle because we had to go here and there, as we were trying to settle after the separation. I’ve didn’t see those challenges as a way to put me down, I was just really focused on my two children and ensuring that they both were okay, Someone did tell me, don’t worry too much about the children, they’ll be resilient and they’ll spring back, but you have to focus on yourself and make sure you’re okay, so that they can be okay, as well. I took that advice on and I focused on myself. 
I went back full time into one of the biggest tech firms here as a Manager and stayed for two years, and then the customers followed me again. I found that I could do it a lot more on the entrepreneurship side than if I was full time because full time is more structured, and you don’t have a lot of room and space to move and engage with customers. So I finally decided I’ll just go on to the other side of the table and be permanent and in 2012 I resigned from my company. When you’re transitioning from a full-time job to a self-employed entrepreneurship journey, you have to plan how you’re going to pay your bills, how you’re going to keep your kids at school. All of this stuff is very challenging especially as a women. At this time, I also went through the court system and got full custody for my children. Then I was able to focus on my mission to just continue to get us to a better, and to try to get back into entrepreneurship and support my kids.
Was that a big drive for you? Was that the reason you went back to your own businesses? Was it the drive to give to your children? What was the why behind you going back into your own business?  
Priscilla:  I think being an entrepreneur gives you an opportunity to do a lot more. When you are someone else’s employee you have a schedule, you have to clock in out ect.  It really didn’t give me room to do as much as I wanted to do. So entrepreneurship for me kind of work because I was able to run my own schedules and make a little bit of money, but at the same time, I enjoyed the stuff that I was doing, which was advocating for things that I believe in. So I had the room to do all of that, if I wasn’t self-employed, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Have you had mentors in your career? And what’s your view of that mentoring?
Priscilla:  I think I’ve had mentors since day one. When I left University, my first mentor was my first boss, who was from the first company I worked for, and I still call him boss today and I still seek out advice. My mentor was a male, a lot of my mentors have been from the male side but also a few of my female friends have become my mentors. From the industry perspective, we had to become like the leaders in our space to become mentors to others again and as we got engaged in that ecosystem, we were able to reach out to other sectors for role models that we could engage with. I think that’s what led to things like BCFW and becoming directors, which then exposed us to women and mentors inthe higher spaces.
So when you speak about your first boss, being your mentor, was that a formal sort of mentoring relationship? 
Priscilla:  Yeah, I think my mentoring experiences and have been very informal, not so much formal. It’s been like asking them about things that I don’t understand?getting their opinion on what they would do. I have had good encouragement from males who have told me, ?Oh, you can do this?you can do it.? I think that’s been really encouraging for me, and it has been great to have lots of males behind me in my journey pushing me. 
Absolutely having a great male mentor that believes in you and like you said is an advocate for your work and supports you makes a big difference.  
Priscilla:  Absolutely. 
The other thing you touched on early on is education and I suppose for me it’s about having that learning mindset and how important do you think that contributes to your career growth?
Priscilla:  You don’t stop learning and you get to learn every day and I think for me it’s about being really strategic about the different types of people that I network with. I choose people that add to a very specific mission that I’m working on and add value to it, so that I know that my time is productive and I also get value out of the conversation. 
My experiences with going to global programs outside of PNG has exposed me to a bigger network and I’ve learned some things that I couldn’t have learned domestically.
I think education plays a really important role as an entrepreneur and as a person, as we are always continuing to learn and it’s a process of self discovery and growth. Its something I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.
I think it’s exactly what you touched on, it’s not just about learning a skill set (you obviously need to how to be a good manager and how to lead your team), but it is your personal development as well.
You’re working with a whole lot of different companies you know you’re both in house and consulting ? how do you think the cultures in PNG support female leaders and what more do you think we can do as women to step up into leadership roles?
Priscilla: This really interesting question when it comes to culture because PNG has a very diverse culture. I think it is one of the things that as we evolve and as we develop as a country it’s important to understand where our culture is, and then align our strategies wthin those cultures. 
Sometimes you have a culture clash, and then women become displaced because the message and the strategy is not communicated well in terms of aligning with the culture. So as an example of the patrilineal and matrilineal structures where the women own an inherited land and then you’ve got another culture that men inherit land. When you try to place women leadership in those spaces, you can have a clash because the culture doesn’t allow women to lead those conversation or lead those dialogues, so if women are going to have a voice the culture needs to understand how that transition is to happen but in the respect of the culture and creating that change. Sometimes we create a change and it gets a lot rid of resistance, we just need to be mindful about culture and understand how to align our energy and navugate a positive outcome.
So if you could give advice to young woman who are starting maybe in the ICT industry. What advice would you give you, if you had an opportunity to talk to some young woman in your IT industry?
Priscilla:  So PNG has a culture where if you put them in a room, you’ll usually find that a lot of people don’t talk, the first time. I think as people build their confidence over time, they get a bit of encouragement from experienced people who’ve gone through it.
We’ve had programs where we’ve sort of broken down barriers and mindsets that think that oh you can’t be a part of the discussion or the dialogue. We get women to start thinking about how they can contribute and have a voice, and that’s what we’ve seen with a lot of the advocacy work that we do as entrepreneurs, we share our experience with others, and it helps them to to step up as well, and we’re seeing that happen to a lot of our young women and girls, taking up ICT or STEM fields. They’re very confident women and girls, but they also need that leadership from women who have gone before them to lift them up and say this is stuff you can do and this is stuff I’ve learned, and share that knowledge, so it creates that environment where girls become really confident.
You’ll see that thre is a lot of top females performing in universities, but as they come into the industry, they tend to sort of go away. So we try to encourage them to maintain their passion around those industries and continue to pursue them. The only was we can do that is to create a community where we’re supporting and encouraging each other and uplifting each other. 
Why is it that conversationi not happening? if they’re doing well at uni why is it no translating into their industry? 
Priscilla:  I think it’s exposure. When they come into the industry, they don’t want to open up and so you need to do a little bit more, team building and soft skills to sort of get them to open up.
So I think what I’m hearing is definitely mentoring relationships are important? but also understanding your brand, being confident and in believing in yourself.
Priscilla:  Yeah, it’s interesting you say an identity because sometimes we tend to say we have an identity crisis because we are wearing so many different hats, so which one are you?
It’s important for us as mentors and those who’ve gone before to really know who we are as a brand and we step out and encourage others to actually take on the aspirations that they have. 
So just to finish off, if I can ask and have a bit of a hard question. What legacy do you have to be able to finish your career and what does legacy mean to you?
Priscilla:  That’s a good question. I think legacy has been a discussion amongst my two children. There is a shift in the dialogue around the generational wealth transfer. So as Papa New Guineans, not just women but also the men, what are we leaving behind for our next generation?
I think it comes down to really connecting to our people, and really understanding what they really need in terms of that transfer. I’d like to my legacy to grow as a person and for people to be able to contribute meaningfully to whatever their passion and inspiration is, whether it’s for the community for their family or for the nation. You know, collectively, creating a change that’s positive for everybody.  
Thank you so much for your time. What a privilege to have spent some time with you and, and I’m sure your amazing words of wisdom will be encouraging especially for the young ladies in the IT industry. I’m sure you’re going to leave an amazing legacy so thank you for your time and thank you for your contribution.
Priscilla:  Thank you, Kristine for this opportunity. 



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