“Always try to schedule a foreigner to do our recruitment talk. Mas may dating.”
I was given this instruction in my first year working in corporate. Of course, seeing how all the highest positions were occupied by foreigners – not only in our company, but in every other multinational – this was easy to accept as reality. They were always more educated, had better strategy, were more charming, smarter, had more business-savvy, just…better. I mean, why else would they need to fly in, right?
I put them on a pedestal. As a result, I was always more tongue-tied and nervous when dealing with them than my Filipino superiors.
Of course, my mind told me otherwise. After all, I studied and read about equality and all, right? It wasn’t what I was perceiving, though. People were just different around them. Things were different when you were praised – or castigated – by a foreigner. There was more laughter when they told jokes. People were just…deferential to them.
After forming my startup years ago, I’d still have my share of dealing with foreign bosses, through client meetings. I would see more of the same thing from our client companies. This time, as a third-party, it would be very clear how, again, people would treat foreign bosses differently, deferentially.
And, since perhaps old habits die hard, sometimes I would find myself tongue-tied, especially when negotiating with the more aggressive foreigners.
This was extremely frustrating for a former English teacher like myself who loved engaging people.
Then, something interesting happened.
My startup achieved profitability.
This was significant because all of sudden, I wasn’t a beggar at the negotiating table. All of a sudden, I wasn’t too desperate for accounts. Suddenly, I could walk away.
Although I didn’t know it yet at that time, this was huge.
For the very first time in my corporate life, I was now an equal on the table. For the first time, either as a corporate lifer or an entrepreneur, I could say: “You don’t like what I got? Not a problem!”
Shortly after, I remember negotiating with a foreign lady who was renowned for her toughness. When our meeting started, she lived up to her reputation.
She was cutting off my sentences.
Looking at me straight in the eye (something which I think isn’t inherent to us Filipinos, because we are taught to bow down).
Talking to me in a certain tone.
Almost ordering me to lower the rates.
I stood my ground. I explained the value of my service as best as I could, then I stood by my pricing. Somehow, I was able to do it both calmly, professionally, and never combatively. I was myself. No tongue tying or struggling with words.
In reassessing what happened on that fateful meeting, I had my epiphany. My heart finally realized what my mind and education had long accepted – that being Filipino does not and cannot mean second rate, even subconsciously. I don’t need to be deferential to ANYONE, save my God. The blinders came off.
I think there are a lot of us Filipinos who need for their hearts to experience this same epiphany, for us to fully realize our own giftedness and talent.
Don’t sell yourself short.
If you haven’t noticed, the world has become flat. In his landmark 2005 book, Thomas Friedman argues that due to technology and globalization, the playing field has become leveled. In other words, he’s saying that the next Google could very well come from the Philippines.
Technology has democratized innovation.
Nowadays, one man with one brilliant idea CAN make a difference. More and more, where that one man is standing is mattering less and less.
Of course, it is still easier to make a startup in Silicon Valley or Boulder, Colorado, or wherever. Fine. It’s going to be much harder creating the next Google here. But that’s where KEY difference lies: It was IMPOSSIBLE to even fathom that as recently as 10 years ago. Now, it’s merely much harder. There’s a Marianas Trench difference between impossible and “much harder.” Pretty soon, I believe circumstances and technology will necessitate a transition to merely “harder.”
Listen, I GUARANTEE that in the next 10 years you will see non-US firms sprouting and making huge global impacts. So, why can’t it come from here?
A key transformation in making this happen is mindset. We need to eliminate our deferential thinking.
Remember that world I was talking about, the one where people are deferential to the foreign boss?
Yep, that will STILL exists. This global outsourcing phenomenon will grow to new heights and all but guarantees an even more acute United Nations workforce here in our country. There will be more multinationals. More opportunities to do what so many people before you (like me) have done: to be subservient.
The key difference is that you don’t need to embrace that world if you don’t want to. You don’t need to join, or answer to a multinational. Heck, you don’t need to join a company. Take RJ and Arianne, for example. They decided to create an online Buy and Sell portal in their spare time. After a few years of hard work, their startup baby, Sulit.com.ph, is now THE Philippine buy and sell portal of choice. I just saw a TV commercial for Sulit a couple of minutes ago. Bravo.
My fellow Filipinos, take the blinders off. YOU can do something like this as well. NOW is simply the best time in history to do it. All you have to do is to take a leap…
And herein lies the crux of the matter. This is the essence of what this blog wants to address. The hesitation.
I have been in recruitment for nearly fifteen years. In that span I have talked to thousands of people in the workforce. Talented ones. People much better than me. I keep saying that we Filipinos are renowned globally as being some of the best professionals in the world. I have seen that. I have met that. I know you have the potential to create globally relevant startups. I know it.
Look, I know how hard it is to resist that 6-figure salary. It feeds your family and your lifestyle. It’s an awfully nice title. You’ve dreamt about that salary figure for years now. Let me just tell you that you could do much, much more.
More, not only monetarily, but also for your inner passions.
More, not only for your career, but also for your legacy.
More, not only for your expectations, but also for your dreams.
More, not only for yourself, but also for this country:
This new, flat world? I tell you, we Filipinos are MADE for it. There is no need to defer to anyone else. We speak the global language better than most, we are inherent internet and mobile users – achieving some of the highest technology penetration rates in the world, we are savvy, smart, and are natural entrepreneurs. We are highly sociable, respectful, resilient, and have deep faith in God.
The only thing that’s missing now is faith in ourselves.
It’s high time to take our deferential blinders off and just believe.
Let me end this with an 80’s commercial which made a mark on me when it was first shown. When I think of it, this just captures everything. Beautiful commercial. I recommend viewing it more than once – the first time you can look at the video and the english captions. Then, on the second time, close your eyes and let your rich tagalog language flood your imagination.
Umangat sa iba. Bakit hindi nga ba?