Tatika Catipay spent nine years working in management consulting before she joined the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program. Tatika considers the program to be a major catalyst for change, crediting it with prompting her to shift careers and pursue a business with social impact that achieves both sustainability and scalability. Now, based in Myanmar, she’s doing just that in her role in a startup company using technology to improve agricultural practices and improve the lives of smallholder farmers.

―What is your stance now on leadership joining the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program?

In my previous experience as a management consultant I was involved in overseeing projects and in running a country office. The kind of leadership I was exposed to was about getting things done and being able to achieve them in an effective and efficient manner. Being a leader was first and foremost about goal-setting, then escalating goals throughout the organization. Getting people to participate involved deadlines and milestones and guiding them throughout the completion of a project or undertaking.

After joining the program, leadership for me became much more about people-centric management. An organization is nothing without people, so if your standard operating procedures do not take people into consideration, you cannot achieve your goals. Now, I’ve come to realize that while the goal is still important, the people involved and the process of achieving the goals are just as important.

I believe the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program is more in-depth in its philosophy behind people management. In business school or when studying economics, you tend to see people as one resource, among several others. I see people now not as a resource, but as a goal in itself. If you empower them, they will help you achieve your vision.

―What type of leader would you like to become moving forward?

I want to be a leader that can transform society, and therewith people’s lives, through a holistically sustainable endeavor. Such a leader is someone who can provide agency to people to actively achieve goals and not only collect a paycheck; in other words, the kind of leader that motivates them to work towards something bigger than themselves.

Now that I know how mobile and how globalized the world is, I also want to be an inclusive leader: valuing and treating people equally, irrespective of their race, gender, or social status.

Being an innovative leader is another personal goal. Innovative leadership is about engaging and providing people their own agency to think independently and come up with solutions for their welfare, instead of simply complaining about issues in the economy and in the organization. This can only be achieved by encouraging open dialogue and communication and having shared values about why we do what we do, in order to make an impact on society and create a sustainable and scalable organization.

―What are your major takeaways from the program and how are they helping you now in your day-to-day life?

We can get so caught up in goals and in a specific vision that we sometimes become blind to people working alongside us. A key takeaway from the program is that development is really a social undertaking. Development in business takes time and labor. Moreover, an individual’s development also takes time and as a leader, I need to be patient and empathic.

Effective leaders have not simply achieved goals on their own. I’ve realized that things get done when you have people help you achieve your goals and take the company where you want it to go. On the one hand, this requires leaders to provide agency to the constituency they serve and encourage them to work collectively towards the goal.

On the other hand, not all in a team might share the exact specific goals. Not everyone may share the larger goal of helping society, but this is not an issue; it just means I have to work on developing them as agentive persons. For example, while helping and empowering smallholder farmers may be one goal for my current organization, providing agency to employees and furthering their development must also be another goal.

―Has the startup you’ve been working with, Impact Terra, already been having a social impact in Myanmar?

Yes! Impact Terra has developed a free digital platform that enables smallholder farmers to increase food productivity and informs them about sustainable food production. We have about 50,000 smallholder farmers who use the mobile application, and these farmers have gained revenue far above the average in Myanmar. 40% of our rice farmers use higher quality seeds, compared to the national average of around 20%. Our farmers last year had approximately 10% more in their yield. With 38% of the GDP in Myanmar coming from agriculture, our platform can really benefit the people and society at large.

―What are your future goals?

In the short-term, I want to really learn the ropes of running a ‘social impact and tech’ business. While I have deeper knowledge about social impact, the tech business has been challenging for me, particularly in learning about different technologies such as developing an effective and impactful mobile application that farmers can really use. It is imperative that one must know not only the users’ needs but also to design the app and its architecture that users find valuable and impactful.

In the long-term, I look forward to successfully running a sustainable company with the goal of social impact in mind. It has long been my dream and my goal, since I was very young, to give back to society. I believe a good way to do this is through a business that is sustainable and scalable through technology.

―Do you have any message to others interested in applying to the program?

If sustainable development is what you’re looking for, be it in business, a personal undertaking, a foundation, NGO, or a non-profit organization, I think the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program equips you with what it really takes to make your organization sustainable, as well as how to effectively lead and organize towards sustainable development.


① Summary of what was learned, changes in leadership
I’ve gained a much more people-centric concept of leadership, where the individual’s development is as much a goal as the broader organizational objectives. An organization is nothing without its people.

② Scenes or situations to apply what was learned in the program
I’m using what I’ve learned to focus on developing the employees in my organization. Also, my company is applying technology to bring scalability for a sustainable business with social impact.

③ One line summary of the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge
It has been a catalyst as it prompted me to embark on optimizing social impact by harnessing cutting-edge technology.

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