Vivi Yulaswati, Director, Ministry of National Development Planning, Indonesia
Women in GovTech Special Report 2015.
Tell us about your background. How did you get to where you are now?
I am the Director for Social Protection and Welfare, Ministry of Planning in Indonesia. I am responsible for developing policy direction and strategies, programmes and funding allocation for social security, social assistance, and welfare policies, including money, minimum service standardisation, and related regulatory and institutional frameworks.
During my career as a development planner, which started in 1992, I have been mainly involved in issues such as regional autonomy, local economic development, poverty and social protection. I was involved in preparing Indonesia’s Conditional Cash Transfers and its transformation; social safety net programs; and the National Social Security System. I currently lead a project to prototype big data research and integrated referral system to support comprehensive social protection.
I hold a PhD in Planning and Development from University of Southern California (2004), Master in Urban and Regional Planning from University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA (1999), and took several training courses, i.e. development evaluation, change management, social protection, and social safety net.
Why did you decide to join the public sector?
When I was a member of University of Indonesia’s Mountaineering Club (MAPALA UI), I travelled a lot to villages and other remote places in Indonesia. I saw that a lot of work needs to be done, particularly in the eastern part of the country, with a lack of infrastructure and food security, low human capital and people struggling to protect the environment while sustaining their livelihood. Considering that, after I graduated I applied and got accepted to work at the Planning Agency/Ministry of Planning (BAPPENAS). Being a young planner under the Deputy for Regional Development and Autonomy, I continued my hobby to travel to more places, where I could plan and design programs that could tackle poverty and support the vulnerable.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
The best thing I have achieved was when I could finished my doctoral study in the US. It wasn’t easy because I spent just 2 years with my husband and my daughter, while the other 4 years I lived far from them. By the end of 2 years spent together, I got pregnant and delivered my boy.
In relation to work, the best moment has been whenever I met or saw that the recipient of a program I created or was part of could achieve more than I expected. For example, seeing a mother of a poor family who received Conditional Cash Transfer continuing her own studies and her children’s made me very happy and proud of her.
What is the toughest challenge that you have had to face and overcome in your career?
I don’t think I can remember the toughest challenge. Of course I have had some challenges during my career. It could be from the situation at work, relations with friends, or family burden. However, I always believe that there is a silver lining in every cloud.
What is the most inspiring example that you have seen in your working life?
It’s hard also to remember the most inspiring thing. When I travel, I like to learn and get inspired by something new from the place, people, culture, architecture, food, and others. Watching a movie or reading a book could also inspire me to apply something to my work.
What advice do you have for other women looking to succeed in public service?
I think wherever we’re working, having a passion is key to loving our job. It means, we should go beyond our routine by having the willingness to learn more and know more in order to benefit more people, particularly the vulnerable ones. Being a woman, we must also have a capability to balance between our job and family. Whenever you have a dilemma, pick one but you still need to balance the other one in some other form or time. For example, if I should go abroad during my child’s exam time, I should spend some time with him before to prepare or make a call to check his homework or progress. Technology nowadays really makes it easier for women to play many roles successfully.
And finally, how do you like to unwind after a long week at the office?
Weekend is always my “payback” time. I love swimming, cycling, or going shopping together with the family. Once in awhile, I spare for “me” time by having a massage/creambath or hanging out with friends. However, sometimes I still have to spend the weekend on business trip, which makes me think about how I can payback - at least a simple chocolate to make my kids happy☺