It’s only been a couple of weeks since my last employer and I parted ways.
There was a lingering thought in me to write about my experience after I saw the viral reflection post Sarah Fowler wrote regarding her employment in Uber but never really got through with it. It was only after Mindy shared her experiences that I realized just how colorful my work history has been thus far, and how it could be more of a source of entertainment than anything else.
My career hasn’t been the most linear, starting from the misalignment of the university degree I chose to finish and the profession I really want to embark on in the long run. Here’s a little story about where I’ve been and what I’ve learned along the way.
2012-2013: Research analyst on organized crimes
“You worked for the Philippine National Police?” is usually the first reaction when I tell people my first job was for an agency housed in Camp Crame. That line is almost always accompanied with a tone of fascination/alarm and widened eyes. It never gets old, really.
The OG crew! Just kidding. This was the first department of my first time being an employed human being.
THE JOB: For 1 and 1/2 years, I collected and analyzed data regarding organized crimes that have prominent numbers in the local setting. I was most exposed to modus operandi on illicit drug trafficking, sometimes looking at digital copies of evidences of arrests (yikes), learning names of most wanted persons and groups, and a lot more confidential stuff that if I speak more specifically about, I’m pretty sure I’ll be apprehended by officials.
A huge chunk of my time was also spent organizing and attending inter-agency events, or more appropriately, meetings. I also wrote a ton of memos, reports, and policy analyses. One of the most memorable events for me was having to meet a prince from an ASEAN country. Several times I was lucky enough to be exposed to such esteemed, honorable and experienced officials, and this is a very big takeaway that I will forever be thankful for.
One of our ASEAN meetings housed in Manila. This job included escorting some delegates, so sometimes we part-timed as security personnel and whatnot.
I remember this — it was a photo after an entire day of working because of an ASEAN event. I think it was already around midnight when I got some time off; there was not enough energy in me left that I didn’t even make it to the hotel bed.
LESSONS & LEARNINGS: I had a really interesting job; it never really seemed that way until I looked at it in hindsight. It might not seem as important but to this day I’m grateful I went through an administrative role, learning how to follow formats of letters, that nomatter how well you organize an event you still have to be prepared for the unexpected, and knowing when to be a sheep and when to be the shepherd.
This is where I first learned the realities of people; that politics exist not only in the government setting but also in day-to-day interactions with anyone you come across. This is the place that embedded in me a cynical way of thinking (and I’m saying this in the nicest way possible, as we all need to be realistic in some way), having to go beyond smarts but more importantly, have exceptional interpersonal skills. In the real world, your college degree can only get you so far, but a good amount of emotional intelligence can get you literally anywhere.
In short, my stay here opened my eyes to the world — in the best and the worst ways possible. And what better way to do that than be thrown into a pool of trained political officials as a 21-year old fresh graduate, right?
2014: Political researcher for an agency
If there was an award for shortest stay in a job, I’d probably be in the running. I stayed 1 day here. Yes, you read it correctly: 1 day.
THE JOB: Like my first job, I was tasked to do research and write analytical reports for political figures. Only this time, there was a flair of propaganda involved. Being in the government for a year and a half taught me that propaganda is present in everything, but here, it was a, dare I say, consequential part of the tasks. Think of it this way — I had to do the dirty paperwork for politicians. It felt as if I had to separate my conscience and ethical self from what I was doing, and to me that was a very big red flag. The only reason I took this job in the first place was my desperation to be back in the workforce; this was the same reason why I realized the best fit for a job is something you should never rush.
Fun fact: I cried in the washroom on my one and only day on the job. That was a lot of fun.
Luckily, my contract didn’t bind me to the work, and as you can guess, I quit the next day.
LESSONS & LEARNINGS: There’s only one: don’t settle for a job you are not happy doing. This includes the people, the environment, the nature of what you do. Money can be negotiated with but an office culture is always gonna be more difficult to change than the zeros in your paycheck.
2014: Investment relations officer for an embassy
I guess this is more apt to be called the local business delegation of an international government than an embassy, seeing as I never really did any consular or research work that directly affected a certain nationality in the Philippines.
Another one of those experiences I get some interesting reactions from people, I worked with Koreans for a time. Needless to say, it was a rollercoaster ride.
THE JOB: Originally hired to handle investment liaison tasks between Korean businesses and local projects, I also gave a hand in organizing marketing events with the core team. The jump from my first job to this gave me almost triple the salary, but with great compensation are much greater expectations.
One of my friends from university actually referred me to this post, and despite not having any background on investment relations, I took on the challenge and explored a brand new industry. It was no walk in the park; I’d be lying if I said it was pretty easy to adjust to the new culture, policies, people, and language. At one point, it actually felt like it was my first job, only the transition had to be 10x faster than usual.
Some of my favorite memories include making Korean friends, my Korean manager, and being given the opportunity to learn something entirely different. My self-esteem struggled a lot in this environment and the stress levels were off the roof. This job also sent me to the edge a couple of times — I specifically remember having a breakdown in a washroom during an event I singlehandedly organized [for Filipino stakeholders]. Tons of fun too, that one.
One of the events I had to organize — but not the one I had a breakdown in. It was a very challenging feat to be both the organizer and coordinator for most events hosted by the organization. I took up Korean Language Lessons at some point to make the job easier. It actually paid off; communication was much easier with Korean nationals afterwards.
We never ran out of Korean food.
With some of the friends I made during my stay. Soomin and Jiyoung are probably my favorite Koreans on Earth, SHINee coming in second place.
Looking back, I cannot say I regret any second of going through those 10 months of ups and downs. It was an opportunity not a lot of people are given on a daily basis; my professional network simply gave me an advantage in this situation. And hey, to be driven by a diplomatic vehicle is not something an ordinary person gets to do, you know?
LESSONS & LEARNINGS: There is a balance attainable between complete independence and reliance on seniors. When you are faced with deadlines amounting for the workload of 5 people, while thrown to meetings with company CEOs, there’s not much room to make mistakes. At the same time, there’s also hardly any time to ask for advice from the boss. I learned to study things on my own because I never want to submit mediocre output, regardless of whether the task is stated in my job order or not. Troubleshooting was a daily routine in the office.
My boss and colleagues being a different nationality was also something I learned a lot from. I learned that it is never wrong to admit you lack knowledge about something, especially if it’s something that can land a $10 million project. This job was probably the most stressful I’ve had even at the place where I am now; so many times I wanted to just give up and quit, not giving a care about the huge salary. But if I had done just that, then I would never have learned what resilience and endurance truly mean, and how important it is to keep your eyes ahead while not losing focus on the tasks currently at hand.
2015-2017: Communications creative for a tech startup
On December 2014, I was offered a writing position by a local HR-Technology startup.
It was one of the highlights of my career; this was the job that gave me a chance to show that I am a true creative.
Since 2012, I’ve rallied to get a writing job in government agencies that needed content. Seeing as most of my writings were technical reports (a lot of which are top secret), I couldn’t really give any proof that I can write.
I clearly remember Peter asking why I deserve the position when I have no track record to show, and I don’t remember my answer but I remember simply answering from the heart — cheesy, I know. I simply told him that I’ve always wanted to be an artist of some sort, and that the creative path is where I belong. It’s been a life-long fight for me, and, well, I finally won. It wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize but at that time, it felt like it. And yeah, it wasn’t only my former manager, Lyra, who ended up happy upon my signing of the contract.
THE JOB: To finally be called a writer by profession was probably the best part of the job. It simply felt right. Being in a startup, I was part of around 20-30 employees, mainly creating and curating content for products and services.
How we usually did photos. Even while wearing semi-formal attire.
The original content management department composed of Red, Bryan, Lyra, Jorrell, and myself.
Me in my natural habitat aka eating noodles, and Korean instant noodles at that. There perched a Korean mart and a Ministop conveniently by the building’s entrance.
The interesting thing about writing is it’s tricky. There is no by-the-book way to do it. I had to do both technical and creative writing during my first year in the job, producing marketing features for brands the service carried and proofreading technical specifications of products of said brands. It was stressful but only because there was an overload of things to do — the line of brands and products hardly ever ended.
But see, I loved the job. I enjoyed doing what I had to do even if it meant having to stay until 2 am in the office (thank heavens for wonderful workmates) and coming back to work before 10 in the morning of the same day.
There were several re-organizations in the company during my stay. So many things happened. Growth was exponential; I left with the employee count at around 120, almost 400% more than the number I began with.
I’ve also had my share of product development, customer insights, graphic design and studies, client management, contract negotiations, and presentations, meetings and events. But telling you all of those journeys will make this post much, much longer than I intend it to be.
I took a writing job here and left with more experience than I expected. The rest is history.
LESSONS & LEARNINGS: Keep your mind open at all times. If you stick to just what your employment contract says, then you’ll only grow in that aspect. Being in a startup taught me that every day is a brand new adventure; nothing was guaranteed, nothing will exactly go your way regardless of how much you prepare for it. And you have to be ready when it happens.
I learned to write better, faster, and much more efficiently. I’d like to think I’m a better writer now after being exposed to my audience during my stay in the company — field work in the clients’ bases was encouraged. It taught me to be more careful, be more straightforward, and get across more ideas with less words. Most importantly, it taught me that data can never be contested. I actually wish I stayed longer to explore product development and analyze consumer data, but I knew my creative career will be put aside if I chose to do so.
With some of our client’s employees during an onsite campaign.
Jamie and I with the CEO of one of our clients, Sun Life, Ms. Riza Mantaring.
Music nights are pretty common in the office. Boardgame nights were also added to the mini-teambuilding activities of the company later on.
With my Account Management family (above), and the Product and Consumer Marketing Team (below).
Most importantly, I learned to be a person. It sounds vague but after leaving the job, it only reassured me one of my key takeaways from my first job: people skills are very important. Here however, the people are more important and being an active part of the company, even more. There’s a saying that you catch more flies with honey, not vinegar. You get more things done if you know how to approach people, not trample over them and think you are better. This was a place I got to develop my self-esteem even more, with the culture breeding respect and humor amongst each other. Ideas from employees are encouraged, not belittled. And our CEO often had difficulty during town hall gatherings because he had to force people to ask him questions about work — something that not all companies can say they do on a regular basis.
Even if I was relatively old in the company, I never saw myself as a senior or someone who was above others. I know a couple of younglings who are more brilliant than I am, which was quite humbling of an experience. It was important for me to show respect to everyone in every department because they had a job I was not capable of doing; in one way or another, every one is essential to the growth of the company, and that was one of the most important lessons I learned beyond all the professional growth of 2 years’ stay.
As Peter always said, if you invest in your people, your people will take care of your business. I will never ever forget that line, and it is one of the things in life that motivates me to show kindness and respect to every one as much as I possibly could.
Now, I am about to take on a corporate communications officer role for a bancassurance company. It is quite similar to what I’ve done for the last company I worked for, only this time I’m a little fish in a much bigger bowl and I assume there are bigger things at stake, given that this is a big company I’m moving to. I can only take this new job as a challenge and an even brighter opportunity for me to learn and become a better person, not just in terms of career but also as a whole.