[Pictured: Theresa Witi with University of Western Australia Procurement Unit team members]
Theresa Witi believes that the experience she gained completing a workplace internship with a major Australian university’s finance department will help her to “significantly improve” public procurement-related policy dialogue in the Pacific region.
Over one month, the Papua New Guinean Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) participant and Master of Business Administration interned full-time with the procurement unit of the University of Western Australia (UWA).
Now, Theresa hopes to use her newly acquired networks, knowledge and skills to help improve public procurement best practice in PNG while working towards her goal of becoming PNG’s Governor General.
As an WLI Leadership & Mentoring program participant, Theresa had the opportunity to hone her professional and leadership skills by taking part in a supported workplace internship.
Secured with the help of Theresa’s WLI mentor, Professor Robyn Owens of the University of Western Australia, the internship involved working alongside UWA’s procurement specialists for one month from August to September 2020.
The purpose was to strengthen Theresa’s cross-functional leadership skills with exposure to procurement best practices in an Australian tertiary institution.
Specifically, the business management consultant wanted to enhance her knowledge in procurement processes and management as well as category management, within a large, globally connected organisation.
During the work placement, Theresa joined team meetings and reviewed and processed procurement strategies for various departments of the university, including IT and the School of Medicine.
And for one month prior to starting her placement, Theresa attended weekly virtual meetings with the team’s Procurement Manager and his team members to better understand their day-to-day work.
“The meetings were more of an introduction to different category managers' roles, responsibilities and workflow processes ... so, when I started work with them, it was like meeting old friends again,” Theresa explains.
The Oil and Gas Major also had the chance to network and establish connections with Australian finance and public procurement professionals, which she believes is an “essential part of global business”.
Theresa says the placement experience has “further enhanced” her role as a procurement specialist and helped her to realise that very few PNG nationals currently work in the field.
“As a result, this internship exposure has critically shaped my worldview to be a change agent in this subject area,” says Theresa.
“I want to make a difference where my exposure, experience, and acquired skills will help improve transparency and good governance in [PNG] public procurement.”
At the same time, Theresa plans to forge “strategic alliances and network for collaboration and partnership” with Australia and other Pacific Island countries.
Theresa aims to apply her internship learnings and networks to her long-term career goals, which include to advocate for necessary changes to PNG’s current Procurement Act (2018) and to work towards one day becoming the country’s Governor General.
“Public procurement is very important, as it constitutes the largest portion of the government’s expenditure,” Theresa explains, “[However,] the lack of respective laws and enforcement of these laws, as is the case in Papua New Guinea, can cause adverse effects on the economy and the overall wellbeing of its people.”
“I strongly believe my placement experience and exposure will significantly improve policy dialogue in my country and across the Pacific region where public procurement is a concern,” says Theresa.
While she acknowledges her goals are highly ambitious, Theresa believes that “in life, nothing is impossible [if] we try”.
“Networking with like-minded people and having the right political connections, professionally and business-wise, will pave the way forward,” Theresa adds.
Despite their time on the Leadership & Mentoring program coming to an official end, with Theresa now home in PNG, educational leader Robyn has been “very supportive” and is committed to continuing to mentor Theresa to achieve her goals.
WLI Leadership & Mentoring program participants have the opportunity to work within Australian or Pacific organisations as part of the Women's Leadership Initiative. Through tailored internships, participants build leadership and professional skills and forge lasting partnerships and networks to support them into the future.