May 2016 – Pooja Shivanand

Pooja is a researcher and our club’s Secretary for the term 2015/2016. She has recently moved to Brunei from India with her husband, Rahul. She is equally passionate about her research in biotechnology and her new-found interest of speech writing. She enjoys company and also cherishes solitude.

Pooja Shivanand, CC

Pooja Shivanand, CC

How did you first hear about Toastmasters?

The BSC blog. I was new in Brunei. As I surfed the internet for things-to-do in Brunei, I accidentally came across A group of people meeting every week to practice public speaking got me curious. The following Tuesday I dragged my husband along to the stated venue. I haven’t stopped since (not the dragging).

Why did you join Toastmasters?

I absolutely admired my first Toastmasters meeting, as a guest. Shawn was the Toastmaster of the Evening and Allen was the General Evaluator. I was enraptured by their energy and drive. I remember sitting beside Geneviève who took me down her memory lane of the club’s illustrious journey of over a decade and a half. I enjoyed the speeches and evaluations that evening. The following week, I signed up. Yes, the husband did too!

Pooja receiving her Competent Communicator pin from her mentor, Stuart Lee.

Pooja receives her Competent Communicator pin from her mentor, Stuart Lee.

How long have you been in Toastmasters and how has Toastmasters helped you so far in your professional life?

I joined the Brunei Speakers’ Club last February. It has been over a year since. I have an attention span of like ten seconds. So toastmasters has helped me with my listening skills. The speech projects have helped me refine my speaking and writing skills. I now respect time more – whenever I do speech evaluations or take up roles. I have due regards for my mentor, Stuart – who is kind to monitor my progress. I did implement these skills in my lectures at the University and saw a better interaction with the students. That absolutely paid off.

The input every member brings in to the club is unique.  I look forward to new knowledge coming in every week. Moreover, Toastmasters has helped me build my network. As an icing on the cake I got an opportunity to serve as the club Secretary, this term and be a part of a wonderful executive committee led by our fabulous President, Chris Woo. The passion and commitment of my fellow exco members keeps me energized.

Pooja, Rahul & fellow members with the 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi.

Pooja, Rahul & fellow members posed for a picture with the 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi at D87 Kuching Conference in 2015.

You have developed to become a skillful evaluator and snatched the “Best Evaluator” title every time you do an evaluation. Share with us some of your tips.

Haha. Being in the academics, I aspire to provide constructive feedback. Every time I evaluate someone, I keep one thing in mind – how do I motivate and educate that person. So it is not about what I give but about what the other person will receive. That works for me.

Pooja wins the "Best Evaluator" ribbon at Brunei-KK joint meeting.

Pooja wins the “Best Evaluator” ribbon at Brunei-KK joint meeting.

What aspired you to do a PhD?

The spirit of enquiry and curiosity. There are a million things out there to be explored, to be solved, to be created. My research is on salt loving microbes. I come from a small, beautiful, laidback coastal town in India. I wanted some new scientific research to come out of its saline shores. When opportunity knocked on my door, I welcomed it.

How do you like Brunei so far? How is life here different from the one in India?

I love Brunei. It has been a home away from home for me. I do well in coastal towns. May be its something about the salt. They say – you are rich, if you have money. But you are wealthy, if you have time. Time, is what this beautiful country has given me. The peace of mind, tranquility and contentment you find here is incomparable.

My country is a land of diversity. There is so much to take in every moment. One lifetime is not enough to explore the variety that is packed into one productive land called India. No wonder we are over 1.3 billion people. I grew up behind a pile of books, pushing my way up the competitive ladder. However, I seldom had the time to introspect about my uniqueness as an individual.

In Brunei, I do. My life is put on a reverse gear here. I have the time to pursue things I haven’t done before – creative writing, exploring nature, attending workshops, being in people’s company. I am currently learning sign language from the Special Education Unit, UPK – that has got me more expressive. Brunei will always hold a special place in my heart.

Pooja with SWEPA members in Kota Kinabalu

Pooja with SWEPA members in Kota Kinabalu

Who is your inspiration in life and why?

My parents. They have always held my strings tight so I could fly high in the sky like a kite. My mum is my strength. I am only her reflection. She is the force behind my education, from teaching me nursery rhymes to proof-reading my Ph.D. manuscripts, she’s done it all. I get my wakeup calls from dad. He keeps me mindful of my tasks. If mum is encouragement, dad is my reality check. I need both, to be me.

What are your goals in Toastmasters for this term (2015-2016)?

To finish my CC. To care more about excellence and less about perfection. To experiment new things, push my limits and take away the lessons of failure/success.

Pooja Shivanand, CC won 1st runner up in Area International Speech Contest 2015/2016

Pooja wins 1st runner up in Area International Speech Contest 2015/2016




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