I find having a good mentor a lot better than having a good Company especially when you are starting your career. That’s a big part of who you become, the other parts are what you experience and how you react to it.
The more I look back to my career, the more I see that it was defined by people who mentored me, situations I’ve been put in and how I reacted to them. While I rarely write about my work in my post because it’s much cooler to be known as that dude who goes to the mountains on weekends, a lot of my life is focused on how progressed in work. I’m probably an outlier having just 2 jobs in over 20 years – 4 years in SGV and 18 years in Medtecs. A lot of the credit of staying power is because my role has continued to evolved and my skillset continue to expand. I think it’s time to pay it forward and be more of the mentor rather than the mentee. I’ve been to a lot of ups and even more down but surviving is a largely due to the learnings, values and situations I’ve got from my mentors.
“Leadership qualities must be backed by high ethical and moral standards, humility, fairness, and willingness to learn and to change.”– Wash SyCip
In one of our board meetings, Wash SyCip was in attendance. Wash was the founder of SGV and help built the Accountancy Profession not only in the Philippines but also in the region. So having him seated in the meeting room was really a “kilig” moment on my part, especially I would be presenting the financials at that time. But what struck me was not anything he said in my 4 years in SGV or at the Board Meeting, it was what he did. While we were doing our plant visit, he was pulling his own trolley. At his 80s, he was still self reliant and even if we offered help, he refused. That moment stuck me. Believe me, I had my fair share of encounter with power trippers who would take their position as their bragging right and here’s someone who’s practically the father of Philippine Accountancy still willing to do menial task even if there’s a whole army, including us fans willing to do it.
My first CFO Joshua in Medtecs was a tough one. He was passionate in what he does and it shows. He’s brutally honest and frank but one thing I would admire was he was open to ideas. We would discuss and debate ever certain accounting treatments trying to outwit each other. That’s year 0 of me (just a few months in the Company) at Medtecs and there was I matching wits with the CFO. Sometimes, the arguments get heated but after the heat, we get the best case solutions and move on to the next. It was nothing personal but just work. That’s the time that I’d prefer working with foreign bosses because us Filipinos (me included) tend to be emotionally involved with work. One of the few lines that he uttered was that, “If you work with Passion, you will never fail.”
Sense of Ownership / Compassion
My first engagement partner was FAA and it’s an understatement that he was like a father to me. As even SGV, partners would ask, “andyan tatay mo?” In terms of compassion, he’s probably one of the most helpful persons I’ve known. He’s practically my lunch and dinner companion as I try to survive the slack season when we really felt the minimal pay at that time. He was also among the most charismatic partners in SGV, known for his FAA jokes and his endless “kwentos” during client meetings. I never thought that I grabbed that generosity and compassion that he showered us with until now that I try to pay it forward to my staff and close friends. It was also FAA who really appreciated the sense of ownership I developed with my clients and account at that time. That explains how loaded I was at that time but I just took it as a learning opportunity.
Inventory of Contacts
When I entered SGV, the managing partner was a very young CVP before being called to the Government. He’s a constant presence not only on SGV activities that time but you can practically see him everywhere and he really interacts with you. What I remember to this day was during our orientation, he was telling the story of how he lost his passport abroad and had to rely on people to help him surpass the problem. While it is important that we get our inventory of knowledge especially we’re in the top audit firm, we had to also broaden our inventory of contacts. As staff at that time, it didn’t mean a thing but as I progressed to the ranks, I realized that as you move up the corporate ladder, you’ll need more of your interpersonal skills rather than technical skills.
I lost my Father when I was 16 but when he was alive, he was really strict with me. Sometimes, I even felt that it was unfair. I was always so busy with extra-curricular work being a student leader and involved with the school paper but he was always strict when I came home late. It only made sense when he was gone and the reason why he was strict was that he didn’t have much time. I knew my limits even if no one would tell me. He also taught me to be contented with what I have and not to waste a way resources. I still remember being scolded heavily when I was a kid when I didn’t finish my chicken. I would even consume 1-2 liters of fresh farm dairy milk a day since he told me that the shelf life was just one day and I would gladly obliged. That’s also how I became a healthy kid.
You are your own BRAND. That’s one of the few lessons I got from my Marketing Professor in graduate school. Say that slower and it means so much more. Every move, every post, every reaction, every step and mis-step, that’s your BRAND. That’s who people get to know. Your brand is your reputation and you have to work on that always. That taught me to be more mindful of what I do and my reactions. Well, for me having a good character is another way to approach this as it’s much simpler when your character and reputation are one and the same.
Experience is also a good mentor and a lot of the things I had to learn on my own. I learned to raise funds without anybody teaching me. It was just me talking to banks trying to understand their needs and trying to explain them our requirements. Finance is like sales and the only difference is that the product you are selling is your company or your vision. I also got to learn all the different aspects of the business doing due diligence for our long-term bank loans. Sometimes, you just have to show up and try, the solutions will come. If you fail then try again. That’s the beauty of experience you’re either right or you’re learning something new.
I guess the next part of the challenge is getting to mentor people and they get to learn new things and approaches. I know learning is an endless process but hope to share some while I continue to gain a few. That’s probably the legacy I’m going to keep.