The Unlikely Journey of Our Newly-Minted COO

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We’ve all been through those moments in life when everything seems to be falling apart.

That was where Kellda was when I first met her two years ago.

You wouldn’t know it through my interview process with her. A former Unilever achiever and fastfood startup founder, she was introduced by a mutual entrepreneur friend. She was in-between jobs.

Kellda dazzled us in the recruitment process with her intelligence, strong will and demeanor. Even if she had no prior exposure to tech, she was obviously eager to learn more about our industry. I wanted to woo her into joining our company as one of our product heads.

Soon, I gave her an offer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She had bigger brands pursuing her. Fingers crossed.

After some waiting, we arranged a meeting. I had a good feeling.

We met in our office and I started giving her the offer.

It then evolved into one of the most bizarre job offers I’ve ever been involved in.

Right there and then, she said yes to my offer…but then she started to tear up! And these weren’t exactly tears of joy. (this was VERY hard to mentally process when it started happening!)

With emotions still very fresh from her very recent personal challenges, she started to emotionally narrate the difficult things she was going through.

I then asked her if she would want to take some days off first before starting immediately as we had planned.

I think the work will do me good,” she replied

I asked if what she was experiencing right now would affect her work.

She told me that she was at “80% of her usual capacity, but that that would be enough.”

After chatting some more, she was effectively telling me that she was accepting this job because it was an immediate offer and that she badly needed the distraction.

Uhm, not really what you want to hear in a job acceptance meeting.

I was trying to be supportive, but I remember that it was at this point that I mentally stepped out of our conversation and thought this job offer might not be such a good thing. I was already thinking of ways on how to stop this train from leaving.

But then, I remember thinking to myself that all of us go through bad days. I was thinking of the very worst days I had and how I would sound like if someone talked to me at that precise point. So…

Fingers crossed.


We started to get to know Kellda in the next few weeks.

Brilliant. Very operational. Great with detail. Dots her I’s and crosses her T’s. Short temper. Explodes.

Soon, there was a nickname going around.

Kill-da.

A month or so after she started working with us, I invited her to this retreat the community I belonged, Living Hope, was organizing for young professionals. I thought attending might be good for her. It’s good that she said yes.

Long story short, it was in this retreat that she realized that this God whom she felt so distant from, this God whose existence she started to doubt, was in fact, very real. And did, in fact, love her with such immensity.

It was from this point on that I noticed a difference.

We would talk about her legendary temper, but she now struggled with it. And month after month, I would see improvements in this area.

She had also more bounce in her step. She was just happier.

It showed in the work she was producing, too.

Our company eventually assigned her to handle E-commerce operations, where she just flat-out killed her performance metrics. She transformed her function: our customer service teams did MORE with less people, our fulfillment teams shaved weeks off of their delivery times, our merchant teams added a record number of merchants. Her people, while still being a bit afraid by her, grew to respect and love her. They began to appreciate all that she brought to the table. All this, while learning about tech and how tech platforms work.

I was so excited with her development in the company. But I was also so excited about the person she was becoming month after month.

Then, of course, one day she asks me, “Peter, can I talk to you?” (nothing good ever comes out of this question, nothing)

We met at Figaro in Taipan Place in front of our office. She had a job offer from another company which doubled her pay. (like being in so many startup moments like this before, I struggled to maintain a calm expression while the blood drew from my face)

My mind…raced.

My gut instinct was to just launch into a whole argument why that was such a bad decision and why staying would be best for her.

But I realized that this was her journey we were talking about, not STORM’s, not mine.

I told her, “Pray and discern. Seek out what God wants for you. I will be at peace and will be happy with whatever direction He says you should take.”

Well, I don’t know about happy, but I meant every other word in that statement.

A few days later, she said she was staying. (hoorah!)

(She would also just BAFFLE her headhunter by explaining that she was declining the lucrative job offer because God had told her so. Her headhunter couldn’t properly explain this to her boss, so she asked her boss to call Kellda directly)


Fast forward to the very end of 2016, where I really felt a powerful need for someone to take on the COO role in STORM. While I could do the job, I felt I could do a lot more for the firm by focusing on some of its more strategic, future direction, and let someone else operationally focused handle the day-to-day.

It was an easy decision, not only to me, but to everyone I asked in STORM.

During the second workday of 2017 (yes, first day would have been MUCH more dramatic, but I got sick and I couldn’t make it), we announced that Kellda Centeno would be promoted as the company’s new Chief Operating Officer.

You know, in that picture above when she took the stage I’m usually in…I couldn’t be prouder of someone.

I am incredibly excited. I CANNOT WAIT to see the great impact she will inevitably bring.


What’s the best thing about your job, Peter?

I would always answer that question by saying it’s the sheer learning.

I’m beginning to think something else is better.

There is just tremendous fulfillment I feel when people adopt and share my startup dream, make it their own, open up their lives, and start journeyingwith me.

Are you a manager of people? Are you putting up a startup? Are you scaling and hiring more people?

I think it’s important to remember just what a privilege it is when someone decides to work for or with you.

They are making you, your company, your idea, part of their journey.

It’s important to remember that each person is a blessing God has given us the duty to take care of and nurture — not merely as professionals, but more importantly, as people.

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we see people doing just amazing things.

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