LEADER SPOTLIGHT: Riya M Cyriac
Age / Grade / School
17/Senior/Reagan (San Antonio, TX)
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and your role.
The Young Writers Initiative (TYWI) is an international non-profit that is dedicated to educating, servicing, and inspiring young writers and artists. We provide a multitude of resources, like free editing, beta reading, cover designing, and book reviewing, all for free all because of our volunteers. We also have a literary magazine, bi-monthly contests, book consulting, marketing for authors, weekly workshops, a summer camp, and a mentorship program. I am the Founder and Executive Director.
What are some of the biggest challenges your organization faces in its operations, and how did you overcome them?
Finding a good team was quite difficult, mostly because of the time commitment. We struggled to pick the right people, but after months of selecting, we finally have a dream team that does everything because of a few tips that I used in my most recent hiring process. It was also hard to do all the documentation. It's easy for me to lay out a vision or an idea, but it's tedious to put it on paper in a concise way. Project Management software was also really hard to determine, but after looking into and trying multiple options, we've found what works best for us.
Is there anything you would have done differently when starting up or running your organization?
I would have started putting ideas onto paper and documenting things professionally much earlier, as that would have made communication easier. I would also have been smarter about choosing my team, but in the long run, both of those things have led up to the wonderful systems we have in place today, so I don't regret anything.
What does leadership mean to you? Describe how you lead.
I practice a style of leadership called transformational leadership. This is the kind of leadership that is based on transforming team members and subordinates from the inside, not just superficially. I lead with empathy, and I also lead with vision before anything else. I establish a strong organization culture, spearhead projects, encourage innovation, and strive to challenge and better the lives and skills of the people at TYWI.
What would you say to girls or young women who are interested in making a difference or considering leadership?
I love this question! Leadership is undeniably harder as a girl, especially when you're dealing with male counterparts. We can easily be seen as bossy, rude, abrasive, or just not good leaders, even when we're practicing the same types of leadership as guys.
I live and adapt with that. I can't change the world, but I can change my mindset. I lead with empathy and understanding, but I'm not afraid to be stern and give people the boot when I need to be. I lead with vision first, and that vision is rarely wavering. Even when people doubt me and my capabilities, I believe in myself. No one else will believe in you if you don't believe in yourself. Stand your ground, lead with vision, communicate with empathy, and execute with boldness. Surprise everyone, break the limits they've set for you.
Don't be discouraged when you fail at leadership. You will fail--a lot. But that's how you learn.
Who inspires you?
Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, she persisted.
Where can we learn more about what you do?
More about you (bio):
Riya Cyriac is a rising high school senior in Texas. She is the Executive Director of The Young Writers Initiative, the founder and president at her school's South Asian Association, a writer, blogger, speaker, and performer. Her team placed 3rd in the EntrepreneuHER Makeathon, she's been published in several anthologies and journals, and has won multiple Model UN Conferences. Overall, Riya loves being busy, but also learning (and failing) more about leadership every day.