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Joline Spesungel is the IT Specialist (II) at Palau Customs, and is the National Project Manager for the implementation of UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) Project funded by the European Union.
Interestingly, Joline joined Palau Customs with a background in Business Administration, started as Administrative Assistant, then Statistics Specialist II, and moved up the ranks by working closely with the IT Head of the Ministry of Finance offering innovative Information Technology (IT) solutions for managing customs data in a structured way that included having a customs information system.
“Technology was new to our environment and so I was looking for a very simple way for staff to understand how we collect information, and why we needed the information. I was able to work with my managers and contribute to our modernization project to include the design of our information system which is currently in use.”
With all the contributions she became the Head of IT in the Bureau of Customs and looks after its IT Infrastructure.
A Woman Thriving in a Man’s World
Customs is a heavily male-dominated environment. Joline recalled when she started doing IT-related works she had to adapt herself to an environment that was predominately occupied by men. “I had to become like one of them to make them feel comfortable. I did not wear dresses to work for example.”
She acknowledged her colleagues for not seeing her differently based on her gender, but allowed her to work with them by sharing their experiences and expertise that helped her carry out her plans that she had envisioned for the office.
Working as a woman in a male-dominated office is not a life of ease. When her colleagues were not around and there are issues with hardware, Joline had to address them herself. “I had to wait till everyone leaves office so I could check wiring or fix cables.”
Managing Work Life Balance
As a woman with responsibilities at home, Joline maintains a healthy work-life balance by setting boundaries.
“For example, encouraging no work at home and prioritizing things as per their importance. Prioritizing things helps one save both their time and energy. Thus, allowing them to set a perfect balance between their work and personal life,” she stated.
Learning Never Stops
Initially, with a background in statistics, Joline felt that she needed to acquire some knowledge in IT to be able to carry out her work. So, she undertook a number of courses in IT but soon realized she needed to also know about customs to do her work more efficiently.
“An IT background was not enough and with the knowledge of customs, I was able to assist with developing the policies as well,” she said.
Joline shared that her experiences and national and regional trainings have greatly helped her in her role as the ASYCUDA Project Manager in Palau.
“Now that the IT infrastructure and processes are in place, it is the management side of things that I am looking to venture into. I had been challenging myself from when I didn’t have any background in IT, and now I want to challenge myself to the management level,” Joline remarked confidently.
She is currently pursuing her studies in Border Management (Customs & Excise Studies).
Message to Young Girls
Joline shared that the IT / digital landscape in the Pacific will undergo radical changes in the future with more women emerging in this male-dominated field. Her message to young girls who want to pursue a career in IT is not to look at it as a man’s job.
“Do not think that there are limitations because you are a woman. You limit your own self. You got to challenge yourself. Never stop learning.”
The United Nations Observance of the 2023 International Women’s Day recognizes and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology. The theme for this year’s Women’s Day is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.