IOC Young Leader’s Personal Story of Internship Program Offered by Panasonic

Dec 14, 2022

Involvement with Olympics & Paralympics / Feature Story

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IOC Young Leader’s Personal Story of Internship Program Offered by Panasonic

  • Olympic and Paralympic
  • People
  • Founder and Philosophy
  • Sports

Panasonic has a long history of partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in 2016 it became the founding partner of the IOC Young Leaders Programme. Inspired by the company’s guiding philosophy of “creating people before products,” the programme aims to help develop the leaders of the future by enabling talented young individuals from around the world to leverage the power of sport and make a difference in their communities.

One of Panasonic’s key contributions to the programme is the company’s offer to one of the IOC Young Leaders of a two-week internship at Panasonic offices and manufacturing plants in Japan. Launched in 2020, this hands-on initiative is designed to help provide the chosen candidate with the confidence and the insights to build sustainable, sport-focused social businesses in the future.

Tania Lee, a former competitive swimmer from Malaysia, was selected from among the 25 2021 intake of IOC Young Leaders to take part in the internship program this year. Her passion for the development and well-being of athletes in her home country impressed the programme selectors.

Photo: The internship offered Tania an opportunity to interact with young employees at Panasonic and gain first-hand experience of a large company workplace

The internship offered Tania an opportunity to interact with young employees at Panasonic and gain first-hand experience of a large company workplace

iLEAP: an inclusive empowerment program for young athletes of all abilities

A practicing sport dietitian, Tania had already co-founded an organization called the Sports Nutrition Academy, a body comprising experienced sports nutritionists and dietitians providing high-quality nutrition education and support for those active in sport. Following her selection for the IOC Young Leaders Programme, she launched the non-profit Inclusive Leadership Programme (iLEAP), an initiative aimed at helping young athletes become leaders regardless of their background, gender or abilities.

Tania’s program focuses particularly on athletes with disabilities, reflecting her belief that many disabled athletes have fewer opportunities to develop sporting prowess and thereby suffer from an underlying lack of confidence. Her iLEAP programme aims to ensure that people with disabilities are not only able to access more opportunities in sport, but also that they can develop leadership qualities as athletes and fully understand how those skills can be used in wider society.

“Being selected to be an IOC Young Leader has given me the opportunity to learn about the values of sport and the Olympic movement,” Tania says. She applied to the program partly in order to help promote and advance Malaysian Olympic programs for people of all ages, and says the skills she is learning through her participation in the IOC Young Leaders Programme have helped with her own projects. “The support of the IOC really gives some credibility when it comes to getting a partnership with another company or a bigger corporation.”

Applying the skills learned through sport in daily life and work

Tania also believes that in her home country of Malaysia, the importance of the life skills and values acquired through sport has tended to be undervalued owing to an over-emphasis on performance. She explains how she intends to create “an ecosystem that provides an inclusive space that supports and empowers youth in sports.” This includes, she says, the encouragement of healthy lifestyles and the development of social competency. 

The leveraging in daily life of the skills acquired from practicing sport is a recurring theme that underpins many of Tania’s initiatives, and it’s one that is closely aligned with a key Olympic and Paralympic principle—that sport should serve the development of humankind and help promote a peaceful society. Among the sporting skills Tania believes are useful in everyday life, excellence and respect are high on her list. 

“Athletes are very determined,” Tania continues, “so when it comes to real life and career, I think that skill should be transferable and translatable. We have KPIs to achieve and for athletes, these things come naturally.” 

Photo: Tania Lee, a former Malaysian national swimmer and an IOC Young Leader

Tania believes that the skills, knowledge and values acquired through sport can be used in daily life and work

Transcending language and cultural gaps through sport

During her internship in Japan, Tania met with high school participants in the Kid Witness News program, a corporate social responsibility initiative sponsored by Panasonic aimed at helping schoolchildren in 35 countries and regions develop their creativity and communication skills. The pupils were all members of a high school swimming team in the town of Ibaraki in Osaka, Panasonic’s home prefecture. 

They bravely gave a presentation in English about their club activities and chatted about the history of their school. Tania introduced her iLEAP programme and engaged the pupils in an animated discussion. And to round off the visit, she joined them in a short game of water polo! 

Commented one of the students, “Through the exchange with Ms. Lee, I realized that sport transcends language barriers, and that it has the power to entertain and unite people regardless of language and gender. I also learned that Panasonic is not only developing products, but is also engaged in initiatives in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I’m hoping to make use of what I learned this time to do my best in future club activities.”

Tania was really impressed by the students’ attitudes. “I really liked that they are so independent. Everything was run or organized by the students themselves. Not even the coach was involved.”

Photo: Tania receives a warm welcome from members of Ibaraki high school swimming team

Tania receives a warm welcome from members of Ibaraki high school swimming team

Panasonic “walks the talk” by empowering young leaders

Tania and her co-participants on the IOC Young Leaders Programme are a living embodiment of Panasonic’s ongoing mission to “create people before products.” In turn, Tania says she is enjoying learning about the working culture, philosophy and values of Panasonic. 

Commenting on the company’s initiatives to help empower and engage youth, she adds, “I definitely want to share the values and philosophy of what Panasonic is doing. It’s not just words on paper; Panasonic is actually walking the talk.” 

Tania’s summary of her approach to life’s challenges neatly encapsulates the thinking behind Panasonic’s own determination to improve people’s well-being.

“If you are passionate about something and you think that it will bring value to society, always believe in it and don’t give up!”

Image: Panasonic Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Partner Logo

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