I Wouldn’t Have Become A Podcaster If Not For This Programme

It’s a little surreal as I type this but since February 2nd, I have recorded 100 episodes of my podcast.

participants of the changing faces 2019 programme offered by the east west center hawaii

I started the podcast in 2020 – yep, during the pandemic lockdown but the idea came to me much earlier. In fact, it came to me in 2019, a couple of weeks before I landed in Oahu, Hawaii for a life-changing programme. A programme that I still hold dear in my heart because it gave me the guts to embark on a project that sounded as audacious if not crazy.

I armed myself with my pitch deck and took a terribly long flight (with a transit in Narita Airport) to Oahu, Hawaii. Until then, I had no idea that the pitch deck would become a reality. I was just thinking, “Oh how nice if I could start a podcast!”

I don’t want to repeat myself – you can hear that story in this episode which is also Episode 100 of my Womenpreneur Asia where Padmaja Vaswani, my friend in Mumbai, interviewed me about my podcasting process including how it began.

The Changing Faces Women’s Leadership programme is back again this year and it is open for any woman in the US or Asia or Pacific to apply. The deadline is 8 March 2024.

Each cohort has about 16 to 18 spots (although funding is for 6 to 8 women). If you get in, you receive a fully funded scholarship that is worth US$3,250.

I was lucky and grateful to have received a full scholarship to attend this programme for 2 weeks. All other expenses were on my own such as the US visa, insurance, baggage fees and air tickets.

Some years ago, friends asked me about increasing their chances of getting into this programme.

At the top of their minds was this: what are the programme folks looking for in selecting programme applicants? And of course, the next question, how did I succeed in getting into the programme?

Here’s the answer that I have uncovered.

Your eclectic interests, passions, community projects, body of work. Something unusual, unique, titillating and provocative.

Something in your background that spells value and contribution.

Something in your work that shows you are a leader.

Something that they can pair you up with another participant. (They usually find matching pairs of participants from different countries so that both can share and exchange experiences.)

Something in your work or pitch that they can find you a mentor for (they paired me with a doctor who is also a Hawaii radio host, Dr Kathleen Kozak for an evening together where I watched her record her radio show at the Hawaii Public Radio studio).

Something in your project that would be impactful to your community.

I deduced all these because I was curious how I was selected among the hundreds of applicants from Malaysia.

I asked my programme coordinator, Liz, who remarked quite matter-of-fact that the selection panel saw something attractive in my book adoption centre project that another participant from Fiji could learn from. (My Fijian friend was leading a book community project – a literacy project for children – at that time and I managed to share some ideas and strategies with her during our two weeks in Hawaii.)

That really surprised me.

That also helped me unlock a little of what the selection panel was looking for.

Complementary peers from different countries to help speed up the exchange of ideas that are already working!

But what happens if you don’t make it into the programme?

Does it mean your work isn’t useful or exciting?

Actually, no.

Again, it seems that if the selection panel cannot find a complementary peer or a Hawaiian mentor for the participant, they probably wouldn’t be able to help the participant.

Does it mean you can’t apply again the following year? You are encouraged to apply because circumstances evolve and you might find yourself accepted.

So on that note, if you would like a life-changing experience and visit Hawaii even if it’s for a leadership programme, check out the programme and apply if you meet the criteria. Even if you don’t, share this with friends. Or share my post with friends. 😉

Check it out here: https://www.eastwestcenter.org/apply/2024-changing-faces-womens-leadership-seminar

The closing date for the programme application is 8 March 2024.

Sometimes women need a kick in the butt to get going because we can offer up many excuses why we cannot leave our business, why this is not the right time for us, who would take care of the family and what would we even pitch as a project and head off for 2 weeks to the sparkling islands of Hawaii.

But you can. You have to want to do this badly though.

You have to believe in yourself when you apply.

Here’s a secret: I didn’t even bring my laptop along for the 2 weeks. My Asia Pacific peers were flabbergasted. Almost everyone brought along their laptops. I didn’t think I would need it and I was right.

We had packed days of lectures starting at 8am till 5pm, site visits on Oahu and to Maui the other island, mentor high school girls, learning visits to local businesses, etc. All I wanted to do at the end of each day was to shower, grab dinner and head to bed. And I just borrowed my Sri Lankan friend’s laptop when I needed to fine-tune my Google Slides.

Curious about all the other stuff? Find out more about what I did there in these posts:




One piece of advice: if you do get into the programme, extend your stay and explore the islands. I have one regret that I didn’t do this and I wished I did. After all, I had travelled so many hours and hopped on and off a few planes so I might have made better use of my time there. Two friends from the programme did just this and I am so envious! (It didn’t help that I had to fly back for a conference in Singapore the week after!)