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The JA Story

Meet Katherine Lobo, Vice President, Treasury at Barclays Asia Pacific. Based in Singapore, Katherine is one of the mentors behind the winning teams of the JA Company Program and JA Social Innovation Relay (SIR). 

Katherine’s mentored team, Avocado, was one of the 2 teams that won the Singapore JA Company of the Year (COY) Competition in 2014. It advanced to the Asia Pacific JA COY Competition in Feb 2015, and despite the keen competition, Avocado won two major awards at the AP COY Competition - The FedEx Access Award and the Best Financial Management Award.
Another team mentored by Katherine, Catalysts for Change, had won in the Singapore SIR in June 2015. Catalysts for Change went on to win the First Prize of the Global SIR competition in July 2015.
Recently, JA Asia Pacific was honored to interview Katherine and invited her to share her mentoring journey and experience with JA communities and partners across the network. 

About Katherine Lobo

Katherine Lobo is Vice President in the Barclays Asia Pacific Treasury team, based in Singapore. Katherine joined Barclays in the Singapore office in October 2013, working in both Funding and Liquidity Risk Management and Structural Reform roles covering the APAC region. Prior to joining Barclays, she had 9 years working in Investment Banking in Australia. She graduated from University of Technology Sydney. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant in Australia, and completed a Masters of Finance (Investment Banking) from INSEAD. 

How it all started ?

JA: How did you first got involved with JA’s program?
KL: I have always felt passionate about youth education. Having moved to Singapore two years ago, I’ve came across Hau Yee, Executive Director of JA Singapore, through my business school alumni network, and I followed up to find out more about volunteering opportunities with JA. Barclays already has a strong relationship with JA, and my colleagues were enthusiastic about also getting involved in the Company Program.
JA: What's your first memory of mentoring the students?
KL: They were so quiet and polite and we had to ‘break the ice’ over a few silly games in the beginning! I was so proud to see them all grow into out-spoken and confident individuals at the end of the program.
JA: What do you find most challenging about being a mentor?
KL: Time management aspects can, and will always be a challenge. As a mentor, I have also found building a trusting relationship with the students very important in the whole mentoring process, and I try to always be available to help when the students need advice. Coupling with my regular day job, the deadlines and pressures over the mentoring period can be quite intense.

The winning formula?

JA: The students you have coached went on to win major awards. What is your secret to coaching successful students?
KL: I believe the success of a program should be defined by how much the students have learned, and winning awards is a bonus. As mentor, I think it’s important to guide the students without telling them what to do so they can benefit from the thought process and learning for life. So is there a secret to coach successful students? I think a good part of it comes from luck being matched with great groups of talented and hardworking students!
JA: What has surprised you most when working with the students?
KL: In the JA SIR program3 the students have to come up with a business idea that helps to solve a social issue. I was really impressed by how socially aware Singapore young students actually were at such young age – they really understood some of the key issues and had some fantastic ideas.
JA: What would you have done differently when doing this again next time?
KL: I would say keeping an open mind at all times as each experience is different. I try to tailor my approach to the needs of the students and also make the guidance more relevant to students through reference with personal experience and scenarios encountered in the real world. This would benefit the students’ learnings in the long run, and not just addressing the immediate challenge.
JA: What's your personal philosophy on what should be done about youth education?
KL: For all of us to survive in such a fast- changing world, I cannot stress more about the importance of youth education and the need for us to equip our young people to cope and deal with the ambiguities, volatilities, and challenges in today’s world. Our current mainstream education system lacks the soft skills and behavioral training for survival in the real world, and I think this is where JA really offers value.

The journey continues?

JA: What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering as mentors for young people?
KL: Definitely give it a try - it’s not only a very satisfying experience, but mentors can also learn a lot from the young ones at the same time. For those who are thinking about mentoring, think of it as the beginning of an inspiring life-long learning process for both mentors and students, where everyone wins in the end.
JA: What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about inspiring and helping young people to succeed in today’s global economy?
KL: The business world plays a critical role in driving change in the world, and their success depends on building sustainable partnerships with the community. I am very pleased to see that increasing number of global companies are investing more in social responsibilities and are partnering with organizations like JA to empower young people to own their economic success in today’s global economy.
JA: Any other personal hobbies or passion you would like to share with us other than your passion in youth education?
KL: I am absolutely passionate about cooking. I enjoy cooking for my families and would find time to bring dishes from home to share with colleagues whenever possible!

About SIR

The Social Innovation Relay (SIR) is a global competition that challenges secondary school students to develop an innovative business concept that addresses a social need. SIR provides young people with the hands-on skills and entrepreneurial expertise needed to start a successful career through a combination of virtual and face-to-face mentoring by experienced executives.
The best 20 teams (2-4 students) in each participating country, are paired with business volunteers. The volunteers use the latest online learning tools, to help students develop concept papers that can be turned into feasible business ideas. 

About JA Singapore

Since 2008, JA Singapore has been driving courses on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy, reaching over 74,000 students across Singapore by volunteers from sponsoring organizations including Barclays, Caterpillar, Credit Suisse AG, ExxonMobil, FedEx Express, General Electric, HSBC, and MasterCard. 

About JA Asia Pacific

JA Asia Pacific is a member of JA Worldwide®, one of the largest global NGOs dedicated to addressing fundamental social and economic challenges of young people by educating and empowering them to transform their future and own their economic success
JA Worldwide has over 430,000 volunteers working in over 150,000 schools with 10.2 million students in over 120 countries. Home to 60% of the world’s youth, JA Asia Pacific is dedicated to enabling and empowering youth to benefit from the region’s economic development, and to create a positive impact in their lives and communities. 
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