10 Important Lessons from 16 Bosses
Hello Philippines and Hello World! (Please read in Toni Gonzaga's PBB voice, LOL) I am back from more than three (!!!) months of not writing! In today's www world, three months of zero updates is tantamount to digital hara-kiri, but here I am, finally able to find time to whip up an article as I am currently in the service center waiting for my car to finish all periodic maintenance stuff.
Aaaaahhh, where do I even begin! Our company had probably the busiest holidays we've had ever, with a gazillion of holiday campaigns and brands starting to appreciate influencer marketing and finally integrating it to their overall marketing strategy. I can say that we have positioned ourselves very well in the influencer marketing space and the seeds we've planted for the past years are now starting to grow roots and shoots. The end of 2018 and the commencement of 2019 had been nothing but amazing for Blogapalooza and I am claiming that 2019 is really the year that we can #ElevateInfluence even further.
These past three months also proved to be extremely challenging and everything has been happening so fast. Every day posed a new challenge, every situation we found ourselves in had something in it that we've never experienced before. I know that these are all part and parcel of growth so I'm trying to take things in stride. I also understand that growth will push you to your boundaries and as such, is always uncomfortable and inconvenient. If anything, I have proven that discomfort has always brought out the best in me. As a young(ish) entrepreneur, I will admit that I do not know everything just yet; I sort of just learn and figure things out along the way. The Universe has always succeeded in manifesting to me the people I need at exactly the right time that I need them, and for that I am extremely grateful.
As the leader of the company, I know that in the face of growth there will be challenges, and in the face of challenges I have to be steadfast, because it is my responsibility to provide direction and carry everybody. I always refer to myself as the "leader" and not the "boss" because the concept of a boss is quite foreign to our company. We are all colleagues on equal footing: everyone gets heard, everyone gets a chance to be at the forefront, everyone understands and contributes to the whole, no one has the monopoly of power, although technically, I own and control the majority of the company and I have the final say at almost everything, so yup I am THE boss. Being the boss did not quite sink within me though, because... I don't know, maybe the past three years that I've been leading the company really just went by so fast. :)
A couple of weeks back, I was driving down south to Bagac, Bataan, an easy four-hour drive from Manila, when thoughts about me as a boss suddenly came to me. What and how am I really like as a boss? What do my team mates think of me as their boss?
I did a mental recall of my past bosses: who they were, what they were like, things that I remember about them, lessons I Iearned from them. I thought it would be nice if I can tell you a bit about them too, because honestly, I believe I am the boss that I am now because of what I have learned from all the bosses I've had before.
(Assuming I did not forget anybody) I've had a total of 16 bosses from the time I started earning a paycheck up until today. In an attempt to chronicle everything that I can remember about the bosses I've had, I found myself focusing instead on practical things and lessons I learned from them that have stayed with me.
To my future boss-self: here are things that your 28-year-old boss-self wishes you to remember by heart. :)
1. Even if (or especially when) times are tough, remain calm, collected, and enjoy a drink.
Jaymee Mariano-Malenab was my very first boss in the corporate world, in the company where I rendered internship hours during junior year. She was the personification of the “cool boss” as what my 19-year-old self must have thought. During my internship days, she would take me and my co-interns out for afternoon drinks and smokes, while discussing work and life in general. She taught me that the boss-subordinate relationship requires work but need not be stiff and exaggeratedly “proper”, and while work tasks may not always be the type that we will enjoy, we can always have fun and unwind with workmates over mid-day cocktails.
2. A boss can be the best of friends with his/her subordinate/s!
Let's talk about who my first corporate boss was, technically: Alfie Dulatre. He was still young back then; just a few years ahead of me. We were already friends even before I was put under his supervision, so admittedly, it was a bit of a challenge to separate professional matters from personal matters. But because of being put under Alfie’s supervision, I learned that the personal and the professional need not be strictly compartmentalized if one is responsible enough to draw the line between such, and your boss can actually turn out to be one of your very best friends!
3. Strive to be the firm father or the nurturing mother, whichever is needed at a particular time.
Even before graduating college, I already got hired by the company where I did my internship in, and was placed under the guidance of Eric Fresnosa. He has the gift of seeing strength in people and guiding them like a good father of a family (as in the phrase we usually get to read in legal text, LOL). This is practically the same with Arlene Carangalan and Mariton Ereneta, who also became my bosses in the same company. Sir Eric, Ma'am A2, and Ma'am Mariton taught me a lot of sales strategies; they already had decades of experience then, so they would frequently sit me down and give me direction, sort of like laying down the concrete path that I need to tread as I attempt to cross from one point of the river to the other.
Also in the same company, I think after a promotion or two, I was put under the wing of Rea Medina, who was then consultant for Organizational Development. Together, we did strategic corporate planning for the company, and I remember she would patiently listen to my frustrations whenever I didn't know what to do next as I introduced the Balanced Scorecard to the entire organization.
I will always remember Sir Eric, Ma'am A2, Ma'am Mariton, and Ma'am Rea as the father-like and mother-like bosses I used to have.
4. Build a strong company culture.
Bernardo Madera and Imelda Madera (we call them "Boss" and "Madam" respectively) are the big bosses in the first and only company I worked full-time in. As a (Chinese) husband-wife team running the business, they built the company from scratch and grew it to have a culture that's very family-like: the father and the mother may have a multitude of things to do and think about, but if anything needs immediate attention, no matter how small of an issue that is, the father and mother will be there to hear you out. The father and the mother also treat their children differently, depending on what they think the children need, and what they believe is better.
The company culture that they've built is so strong, I honestly believe that apart from their business acumen, the company culture is really the one thing that has carried the company to the success it currently enjoys.
5. Make yourself available and reachable as much as you can.
For a very brief time (as in just a couple of weeks), JJ Atencio also became my boss. I worked with him very briefly for some ad hoc things he needed done, and I swear, I almost thought he never sleeps?! I would message him at any time of the day: 5-6am when I wake up, 2pm mid-day, 11pm late night, 2am when sleep just won't come my way -- I'd say 95% of the time, he's awake and will reply right away. I honestly don't know how he could have possibly done that, considering he's running a couple of companies and leading thousands of employees. He has magic in his hands!
Especially at this time when we're all literally looking at our phones for like 90% of our waking hours, I just cannot tolerate people who reply late (like many hours late) and those who don't reply at all -- as in I just can't!!! I think, especially in the professional world, it matters that messages are always replied to, or at least acknowledged.
6. Do not delay things!
I recently started teaching college students part-time, more than a year after my current boss, Mony Romana invited me to teach. I only got to say yes by November of last year, when classes were about to start in two months.
Of course you know me as that girl who has the tendency to be so focused and gigil at getting work done the soonest possible time, so much so that I had my lesson plan for the entire sem (!!!) ready, complete with reference text and the comprehensive syllabus and requirements, three days after we had our meeting to confirm my employment.
It's only been four weeks but I can honestly say that while it's real work to teach college kids with ever decreasing attention spans, I'm actually enjoying the feeling of being back to the realm of the academe. I wish I could have done it sooner!
7. Always think: solution, resolution, result.
My former bosses at Grab (they have just rebranded to GrabTaxi from being briefly known as MyTaxi.ph when I was with them), Natasha Bautista, Brian Cu, and Anthony Tan gave me my first taste of life in a startup: solving problems, new things and challenges coming up every day, everything is fast-paced, everyone needs to be agile, there is no such thing as "that's not my job", the daily hustle, the unwavering passion and drive. In a startup, you have to accomplish as much as you can using as least resources as possible. Natasha, Brian, and Anthony remain to be inspirations for me even up to this day, as I already run and manage my own startup.
8. Give first -- twice -- before you ask.
If I were to give a name of an entrepreneur of my age that I really admire, Mica Tan's name would be among those at the top of my list. Mica has been a good friend of mine way before she became my boss. I helped her with a bit of PR and writing for a few months, when she was still starting her company and I was still inching my way through MBA.
Knowing her as a friend, as a leader, and as a boss, I learned that people value people who give them value, and this is exactly how Mica works. She's one who would not hesitate to be the one that gives first -- and she will give twice -- before she asks for one thing in exchange. Two gives before one take. I've proven that this works wonders for any business relationship.
9. No matter how good you believe you are, remain as an empty cup.
When I was 18, I had my very first job as a math trainer for selected grade 7 kids in Ateneo. (I was teaching college-level math to grade 7 kids!) This was one of the privileges that I had as a student in the special problem solving class of Queena Lee-Chua and Fr. Ben Nebres -- my first bosses ever. Queena is in every sense the ultimate achiever: she is a summa cum laude of BS Mathematics, she is an award-winning author, her works have been published in numerous academic journals, and many other things that people in the academe can only dream about. She has a gazillion of achievements under her belt, but she has always remained to be an empty cup, an absorptive sponge, always hungry to learn more about everything, ever genuine in how she approaches and deals with people and situations. And speaking of Fr. Ben Nebres...
10. When you already become extremely popular, always stop and smile when people ask you for selfies. :)
Not everyone is lucky to have such a noble man as their boss. Fr. Ben is steadfast, compassionate, and very, very wise. With the many people who would flock toward him to take selfies and the amount of attention that he gets every single day, Fr. Ben would tirelessly smile and put his arm over people's shoulders. He's always been full of energy, even at his age! People who know Fr. Ben will attest to his seemingly unending supply of energy and positivity. But more than that, he never veered away from his core: he’s a man on a mission to serve and glorify God by enriching the lives of people.
Every day, I am working on being the boss that I myself would want to have. I will always treasure the opportunity to meet, work with, and get to know the 16 bosses I've had. Truly, I am the boss that I am now because of all of them. :)