A transformative leadership journey with UNDP's Mentoring Programme for Women

This International Women's Day, UNDP Malaysia's Herlianna Naning reflects on her experience undergoing the UNDP Mentoring Programme for Women, and the valuable learnings gleaned from it.

March 8, 2024

When the second cohort of the UNDP RBAP Mentoring Programme for Women opened, I hesitantly applied. The women in the Malaysia Country Office are among the most esteemed, highly talented, and inspiring individuals I have ever met. When the congratulatory email arrived from our Regional Director, Kanni Wignaraja, it felt surreal. To be chosen from among 130 applicants, you instantly recognize that this programme will change your life.

While the mentorship programme may have similar features to other mentorship programmes out there – such as individual assessment, the monthly session and assignment, a peer support group, and a one-to-one mentorship throughout the programme – this one is carefully crafted so that the 32 participants could optimize the sessions meant to equip us to navigate UNDP’s complex and challenging workplace environment.

UNDP's champion of women empowerment in RBAP

UNDP RBAP Mentorship Programme by the Women Unlimited

One of the most profound sessions was the deep dive into self-leadership. Through the programme’s KF360 Assessment, I had the opportunity to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, as assessed by the people I work with. These individuals include those whom I lead, my peers, managers, the management team, as well as individuals outside the UNDP organization, such as our government partners.

This allowed me to rediscover specific areas of competency that I need to improve. More crucially, it reaffirmed and validated my current strengths. The acknowledgement I received added a rewarding dimension to this journey of self-discovery.

Another important highlight of the programme was the one-to-one mentoring sessions with amazing UNDP leaders, which provided a safe space for me to share my struggles and challenges as a young woman striving to thrive at work while balancing personal responsibilities, particularly raising a young family.

Herlianna and her family

Herlianna Naning

The programme's model of pairing a mentee with a mentor from the UNDP ecosystem was a game-changer for me. Interacting with a UNDP mentor has provided me with a deeper understanding of UNDP's business processes and has helped me become more organizationally savvy, areas in which I scored lowest on the KF360 Assessment. Through insightful conversations with my mentor, I have become more self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses and more intentional in my approaches. This newfound self-awareness has become the cornerstone of my leadership approach, shaping the way I lead and inspire others.

From effective communication strategies to advanced decision-making techniques, the programme equipped me with a toolkit of practical leadership skills. The hands-on approach, including real-life simulations and case studies, allowed me to apply these skills in a controlled environment, preparing me for the complex leadership challenges in the real world.

Beyond the structured curriculum, the programme provided ample opportunities for networking and building meaningful connections. Engaging with fellow participants, mentors, and industry professionals not only expanded my professional network but also offered valuable insights and mentorship that continue to shape my leadership trajectory.

Like any transformative journey, the leadership programme presented its fair share of challenges. Whether it was time management or addressing unexpected hurdles, the experience taught me the importance of resilience and adaptability. Overcoming these challenges has not only strengthened my leadership capabilities but also instilled a sense of confidence in tackling unforeseen obstacles.

Presenting back to the bigger group how the programme impacted our personal growth

UNDP RBAP Mentorship Programme by the Women Unlimited

In conclusion, my experience in the leadership programme has been nothing short of transformative. The self-discovery, exposure to diverse perspectives, acquisition of practical skills, overcoming challenges, and building connections have collectively propelled me towards becoming a more effective and empathetic leader.

I am grateful for the invaluable lessons learned and look forward to applying them in my ongoing leadership journey. With that said, I highly recommend young women to seize this opportunity to embark on this transformative journey. The third cohort has recently been opened, click the link here to apply, the deadline is Monday 11 March!