Karyn Maglalang: The new me
I received an email invitation to complete the SWITCH SEA questionnaire, and after a couple of months, I received confirmation that I was accepted into the project. The next task was choosing courses. I mostly selected more advanced topics that I felt I was not up to par with, compared to my colleagues. This included topics on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and networking in the cloud. I also chose to include CompTIA certifications in my training plan to further improve my skills and to increase my self-confidence. I also received research support from SWITCH SEA which helped our work entitled Scalable and Sustainable Community Networks for Inclusive Smart Cities get registered in the EAI Smartgov 2021 Conference.
Even though the past year was mostly spent at home and we have been facing a new normal, I felt that I experienced a lot of new things that I never would have experienced without the project. For one, I was able to achieve one of my personal goals – being published in a research journal. SWITCH SEA provided the financial support our team needed to be able to participate in the conference where our paper was accepted.
I have also found myself being assigned more leadership roles than previously. I was assigned to lead our team in deploying the experimental architecture in deployment sites for the proof of concept of our paper. Before SWITCH SEA, I would have declined the position. I would never have seen myself leading. I’m a quiet person with little self-confidence. But eventually, I found myself even speaking.
In previous conferences and workshops, I would just listen and do lab work but not really actively participate in discussions. Because of SWITCH SEA, I believe I’ve gained the confidence to participate. Although I still do not feel confident enough to join social events and really network with others, I know that I have improved compared to how I was before.
Another change that I see in myself is my attitude towards learning. Although I am currently taking my Master’s degree, I find that I’ve been enjoying the courses I’ve been taking in SWITCH SEA more than what I take in school. I think that since I was the one who chose the courses to take in SWITCH SEA, I am really interested in the topics and the labs, as opposed to courses or topics in school which are chosen for me or given to me. I’m really thankful that SWITCH SEA gave us the freedom and the empowerment to choose our own courses. Although I admit that at first, I was thinking more of my current job and what my boss would have wanted me to take when I was choosing the courses. In the end, I chose for myself and I enjoyed taking my courses and I learned so much.
I think the most significant change is the improvement in my self-confidence. The courses and the publication may be forgotten eventually; but my growth and the new habits I’ve developed will be with me for a long time. I’m so thankful for SWITCH SEA and the opportunities it allowed me to have and for helping me grow and improve. In this new normal, I was able to find a new (not normal) version of me.
Aecil Trinidad: Leadership is not a title
The SWITCH SEA project has a very clear goal, which is to support the professional development of women and LGBTQI+ people in IT. And as our head of Network Operations said, this is a golden opportunity for us to receive training.
An invitation was received by our COO and sent to all departments, for us to fill up the application and get a chance to be selected and join the 25 women from the Philippines to be part of this wonderful opportunity. In the early stages of the program, we were asked to sign the participation agreement and basically instructed on what the program will be like. I really admired Ms. Mia’s passion (our local APNIC Foundation coordinator in PH). She helped me understand how I can construct my training plan and help me identify which goals I would like to set and how I could achieve them.
At first, I was a bit overwhelmed but as she guided me through it, I was amazed that this program was very personalized to each of the participants. It’s not often that I am given an opportunity like this and I thank everyone in this program for allowing me to be part of it.
The timing could not be more perfect. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and a purpose. During that time, I was at a point in my career where I had been assigned a team to handle while being an officer-in-charge. Being part of the program supported my need during this transition stage, particularly in the area of leadership and management. As I struggled with these huge responsibilities, I understood that I don’t really need a title to be a leader. Simply having a title won’t make me a leader. It is a choice we have to make every day. When we want to influence change or positively shape how we work and deal with different situations, it has to start with a choice to lead.
Little did I know that my boss and also my mentor was molding me to lead a team for these past few years and she never failed to encourage me. But, I have to be true to myself – I know I’m not fully ready yet. With the help of the program, I realized I can never fully be ready to be a leader. A common misconception about being a leader is that we think we have to know everything for us to qualify as a leader. But in reality, the learning never stops and we only start to grow the moment we begin to try. We learn through experience and we learn from our team members.
And lastly, what resonated with me the most is realizing that we don’t have to be perfect to be a leader. I am so used of getting things done right, and am so used to working independently. But through the program, it is encouraging to know that what matters is us making the choice to lead, and choosing to be a good example, empowering our team and making contributions, instead of making it right all the time. Because we can never be right every single time. And we can never have all the answers. It is healthy for us to acknowledge we don’t know everything and let the experience teach us instead.
The most significant change for me is realizing that our community doesn’t need a perfect leader. What it needs are people taking risks, trusting more, taking a leap of faith, chasing growth, and not being afraid of failure. I consider myself as work in progress but hopefully one day, I can consider myself one of them.
Mitzi Marie Mirar: Grateful for the opportunity
My manager introduced my team mate and I to SWITCH SEA, and together we grabbed the opportunity and tried our luck. We were both chosen as participants! Over the time I was in the project, I gained a lot of knowledge from the activities that SWITCH SEA provided us. One of the activities that really benefited me was the mentorship. I learned a lot, especially in building confidence towards my work and becoming more productive. To be mentored by a respected person in the field of Computer Science was a great privilege that I will forever treasure. SWITCH SEA project also provided me with a lot of knowledge in cybersecurity, particularly after I enrolled in InfosecTrain and CompTIA Security+ courses, which helped me to understand more concepts in Cybersecurity.
Thinking about the whole experience in the SWITCH SEA project, there were three major changes in my work that took place as a result of the support that the project provided. One of the major changes was that I was given an opportunity to take a part-time job as an instructor. I was able to share the knowledge that the project provided me, especially in Cybersecurity. A second major significant change was that I became more confident towards my work, which was thanks to the mentorship. I remember my manager complimenting me for being calm and confident after my discussion with our Service Desk Team.
Finally, I also noticed that my manager would ask for my ideas or input in solving some technical issues or configuration issues in our client’s network, which was different to previously. It served as a reminder that I am improving and will never stop learning. I am very grateful for the opportunity that the SWITCH SEA provided me. It is a dream to be part of this project.
Challiz Omorog: My APNIC journey
I was nominated by a colleague to apply and take my chance to be part of the SWITCH SEA Project. Fortunately, I was accepted.
I learned so much from APNIC through mentoring and certifications. I also had a chance to meet new friends and receive research support.
Lots of changes have happened to me in barely eight months. First, I met a lot of empowered women across the Philippines. The meetings may have been brief and conducted virtually, but every shared experience and bit of laughter are moments that I treasure. I won’t forget our virtual Christmas party, which was a new experience for me.
Second, my participation with APNIC also opened an opportunity for me to earn IT certifications. These professional certifications are very expensive, and this is a barrier that remains in higher education today.
I also have to underscore that I received my first international research funding on e-Governance thanks to the APNIC Foundation. This funded research is very meaningful to me as well as the school I represent since this is also their first international research grant.
The most significant change or achievement I have to underscore is the IT certifications that I received once I have completed the training and examination with CompTIA. These certifications have been an unmet target in my department for four consecutive years. But now that these training sessions have been supported and funded by the APNIC Foundation, all these issues have been corrected.