Thank you Dr Kapa Kelep-Malpo for sharing your journey with us. Firstly, what are you working on at present. 
A retired Senior Academic, I am now self-employed and managing several entities focussed on community empowerment. I am equipping youth, families and women’s fellowships from rural and urban areas with the necessary skills and knowledge to build their self-confidence, to become agents of change, as entrepreneurs or in leadership roles. I am also working on capacity building for teachers and school administrators because I believe schools are the cornerstones of all nation-building.

Dr Kapa, what do you love most about what you do?  
Being my own boss and taking charge of the governance and management of my small entities.  I love providing employment for unemployed men, women and youth from my community and contributing to the social and economic well-being of families. I am loving that the work atmosphere is both relaxed and purposeful.

And how would you say these roles play to your strengths?
It exposes me to the needs and struggles of people in the community and how they, either as individuals, or in groups, are meeting these needs. This is important to me as a researcher, an author and as someone who could contest the 2022 PNG National Elections. It broadens my knowledge and my understanding of how rural and urban communities live and survive with their challenges.

How would you describe your working journey? 
I resigned from having been the Executive Dean of the School of Education and a Senior Academic in Educational Leadership & Management at the University of Goroka (UOG) for 10 years, to contest the Kavieng Open seat in the 2017 PNG National Elections.

I had served at the University for 21 years, first as lecturer, then as head of the Department of Educational Foundations. This involved the areas of Educational Leadership, Administration, Policy and Planning, Educational Psychology, Guidance & Counselling, Special & Inclusive Education and Comparative Education. I then became Executive Dean which saw my participation in governance and management issues significantly increase.

Prior to taking up employment at UOG, I served with the National Department of Education (NDOE) for 18 years, 15 of these as a secondary school administrator. I was one of the very few women in Secondary Schools administration in the late 1970s, 80s and 90s in PNG. My presence in schools at the executive level boosted the confidence of many girls to excel academically, in sports and other areas.

What would be the five things that you have learned to be a success in all your roles? 
1. I must be at the level of the people I work with, to understand them and to work alongside them as we each contribute.
2. Being proactive and not reactive. If I react to what is happening around me I could get drowned by these things. I need to be above this, and planning ahead is essential.
3. Understanding and respecting people with whom I work, to get their full commitment and respect in return.
4. Not lowering my standards and working with people to continually lift them upwards.
5. Staying focused on the bigger picture, the vision, while the senior members of the team take care of the details.

And who do you look to for inspiration?
I discuss issues with other women business owners in the local area, or outside of my province. I also connect with networks that have information on what I am developing, which is a regional Training Centre for Community Empowerment, Educational Leadership & Management. I am also interested to see how other women have been successful in their careers in the midst of successful men.

If someone wanted to pursue your career path what advice would you give them? 

  • Talk to one or two people who have been successful in this career.
  • Establish a small team of two (whom you trust) so you can bounce ideas to and fro with them before you take up the career.
  • Know your personality type and see if it is a match to the nature of the career.
  • Know if your interests are closely aligned to the career that you are keen on.
  • Be open to advice from others and be wise in selecting from whom to trial ideas.

Networking has played a great part in my career path.
It was often lonely as a woman in executive positions because there were not many women at that level with whom I could discuss issues. As an academic, I cannot operate without networking. Sharing ideas, skills, knowledge and experiences empowers others and I also learn from those who network with me. Also I find that women approach leadership roles differently from our male colleagues.

Where do you think you will be in 10 years’ time?
I see me being the CEO of a Training Centre which will
(a) equip teachers and school administrators with the necessary skills to be educators who transform students, schools and their communities;
(b) focus on community empowerment by equipping others with the skills, knowledge and support to build self-confidence and to become agents of change, and
(c) network with other Pacific women through joint research programs, publications and scholarly roundtable discussions on research findings and cross-cutting issues of the Pacific.

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