What is all these for?

Below is a modified transcript of a talk I gave to senior students at the Mapua University on June 16, 2018. It is part of a student-organised event entitled: One Up: Exceeding the Vision.

I wish to credit my teammates and friends at Ignite and Delta and Partners MNL who continue to relentlessly pursue the meaningful and all-essential drive for igniting Mega Manila through what we call the Ignite OS of Genius, Purpose, Shared Mission, Collaboration, Innovation and Impact. 

This talk uses the OS and is directly inspired by the Ignite Manifesto, which is quoted in-text below. Ignite is undertaking major strides in the industry in bringing real innovations that have the highest potential to impact lives of thousands, if not millions, of Filipinos.

I encourage you to join one or two of the many platform events that Ignite regularly holds or to find out how the OS can help you and your organisation by checking out the links above.

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The many whys I need and have to answer (2 of 2 parts)

After leaving the “corporate world” in January and before actually starting school in May, I found myself in a refreshing phase in my life — professionally and personally — through which I finally found and made the time to rediscover my strengths that may have been diminished by time itself, create new ones and, particularly interesting, overcome weaknesses, at least the ones I know of, by turning these into a place of strength.

I was involved in several things during this period, but one that is worth noting is how I started my CrossFit journey.

Weightlifting was not my thing, at least for a long time until I started getting trained by a pro bodybuilder in 2013 who worked through my “gym handicap” and dislike for free weights by focusing on the foundations of bodybuilding. After all, I had always dreamt (and still do) of bulking up to a point that I could very well compare myself to popular Instagram athlete profiles.

That remained a dream at least because I knew I was only starting to get into it. Then I worked through this peculiar dislike for weightlifting by taking the leap to getting trained once again, now more regularly and with the intensity that I knew I would not like. Somehow, we were able to achieve the gains I have set for myself as goals, in the short run, by working closely on big muscle groups that I want to grow massively. But the routine became just that, a routine.

Several friends have tried convincing me to look into CrossFit. Without any knowledge of what exactly it was, I always found ways to evade it. Watching videos on YouTube did not help; they were lifting heavy doing mostly Olympic weightlifting in ways I knew I would not be able to live up to. Add to that the always present “MetCon” in a workout of the day or WOD. I knew it was not for me and, besides, I barely had time to regularly workout in my gym with my trainer without making it to the gym late with anything substantial to do but rush through the workout before the lights at Fitness First Aura are turned off.

Given that earlier this year, before studying, one could argue that I then already have the time and not enough good excuses to continue evading CrossFit. After all, the box was a stone’s throw away from where my son studies. So each time I would drop him off school, on the walk back to the parking building, I would see athletes training in the box.

I checked the facilities, spoke to the staff and booked my first workout.

My first workout will always be memorable. In fact, all the sessions I attended on my first few months in the box are memorable. I remember driving to the box feeling anxious each time. I realised that much of the strength, “techniques,” or basically whatever I knew of working out and how my body works through it and responds to it did not matter a lot in the box. In fact, I learnt that, eventually because I went to the box to train everyday (5x a week), it was to my best interest to unlearn much of the bad habits from my conventional gym days in order for me to learn to the max what we were doing in the box.

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The many whys I need and have to answer (1 of 2 parts)

One of the common questions I get asked these days starts with why.

I think why is the all-important question that need to be answered, more than what and howWhy allows us to provide a reason to everything we do, say, or even think of. Addressing the why affords us a time to contemplate in the hope of arriving at an answer that illuminates the many things that make us wonder, that bother us, or make us jump out of our seats.

Perhaps the most common why-question I get these days is: “why Economics?”, which is immediately followed by “why Ph.D.?”

I suppose that the people who ask me these questions either care about me or honestly do not know my motivations for choosing this route at a time that seems to necessitate a different choice, i.e. go back to work, earn a high salary, enjoy the (fringe) benefits of being in a corporate job that comes with a flashy title and, maybe, even a shiny new car.

I guess, before I answer the two why-questions above, it is important for me to explain its (lengthy yet essential) context first.

I left my last job in a surprising twist of events late 2017 culminating into an official “last day” in January 2018. This very well deserves a separate post, but for the sole purpose of this entry, I would say this much: the universe conspires for us — whether we like it or not — always for the better. I am a firm believer of this. Sometimes we see it coming, oftentimes not. But whatever the outcome, in the long run, and when I look back at things from a different view, I know my life had turned out quite well and constantly for the better.

This time in my life has proven to be one of the most rewarding. In fact, since leaving the agency, I had the privilege of meeting people, teams, investors, companies in fascinating ways that I would not have experienced had my circumstances not changed. I have met people who took genuine interest in the potential and real value of innovation and customer experience in their organisations.

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First day high as a Ph.D. student

For the past few weeks (or months), I have been preparing for my first day of Ph.D. classes. I have been accepted into a ladderised Ph.D. in Economics program where I go through the entire 63-unit coursework covering both M.Sc. and Ph.D. Economics in eight terms.

Being a non-Economics major back in my undergraduate studies (I studied Humanities and Integrated Marketing Communications at UA&P), I was, and still am, anxious about pursuing an entirely new discipline, which comes with an honest admission of weakness on my part when it comes to mathematics. I call it my known handicap in life (despite having graduated from Manila Science and its robust Math programme; also, that was 18 years ago!). A note aside, one advice I read is to take these subjects as though one were learning a new foreign language.

Too anxious that I started reading a bunch of advanced undergraduate and entry graduate-level books on Mathematical Economics knowing that it is already lucky for me to enter the programme at Term 3 which will wet my feet in graduate Labour Economics and the Economics of Regional Integration, rather than diving right into a six-unit course in Mathematical Economics in a couplet with a three-unit course on Economic Statistics. In my head, I have about 16 weeks to prepare for that; it would  be a serious matter of commitment, however, to prepare properly for these Term 1 courses.

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me ampersand &; a refresh

me ampersand &; is my personal blog, an exposition of a life in conjunction. This blog has gone through several changes by way of look and feel, change in name, layout and, substantially to a certain extent, content. I believe this reflects that several major episodes in my life that have vastly influenced the way I see myself in the context of the world around me.

This refreshed version reflects what might be a penultimate (not knowing when the ultimate is) approach to this blog. I hope to journal my thoughts and commentaries, all personal, about my life in conjunction with the different facets of my life. me ampersand &; is a platform for me to expose my thoughts on, for example, me and the married life, me and fatherhood, me and my journey towards a Ph.D. degree, me and being a son, me and culture, me & CrossFit and the endless journey (and struggle) towards fitness achievement… the permutations are almost endless, which make it all too very exciting. I only hope I can live up to the calling of writing again.

Back in the early days of the internet which I was glad to have enjoyed in high school then later on as an expat living and working in Vietnam, I used to write regularly albeit on what we might consider being trivial today. I would probably still find myself writing about trivial matters of life as is afforded by an all-encompassing theme of a life in conjunction, but only in better form and with a stronger command of the language. (I hope.)

I am also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

So this is Christmas…

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Twenty seventeen.

What a year.

There are so many things to be so proud of from this year. But life offers many surprises in so many dimensions. Life is a complex situation unraveling, at one point, piece by piece then all at once.

Life requires a good understanding of its complex nature. Life requires a profound appreciation of the complicated emotions it plays with.

But if there is one thing I have proven that I am capable of is kindness and maturity. It could be my age (I am turning 35 after all). But kindness is such a powerful theme. It describes my year — sometimes the lack of it, but never totally lacking.

I learnt that kindness saves everyone of the pain and gives us so much perspective. And perspective allows us to see meaning when there seems none. Perspective allows us to feel when there seems a drought of it. Perspective allows us to see more when it seems there is none.

Perspective allows us to cherish what matters most especially this time of year.

Family. Friends. Love. Laughter. Lightness. Spontaneity. Joy.

Perhaps those are all that matter in life. And this season alongside its complexities beautifully handhold us to embracing it fully.

That, whilst there is so much turmoil, there is love.

That, whilst there is much reason to be angry, there is forgiveness.

That, whilst there is much discontent, there is happiness.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s all that matters. Especially this season.

Goodbye 2017. I shall be writing more about you, but in memoriam.

So this is Christmas… and it is good.

Dentsu Digit DNA is looking for top talents in digital experience

Dentsu Digit DNA, the digital and activations brand of the award-winning creative agency Dentsu Jayme Syfu, is looking for top talents to take on exciting challenges in transforming digital marketing through digital experiences fuelled by powerful, life-changing creativity the agency is known for.

If you thrive in an environment where pressure to deliver only but outstanding work and could commit to learning and true collaboration amongst peers and real partnership with clients, then these roles might be of interest to you:

– Digital Group Account Director: we're looking for someone who is business savvy and has a stellar track record of winning new businesses and deepening relationships with clients. This candidate must possess strong leadership skills, willing and open to be a mentor to peers and colleagues and has the intellectual horsepower to engage senior clients through sharp strategies and powerful creative work. 10+ work experience is desirable.

– Digital Planning Director: we're looking for someone who can navigate through oceans of data and crystallise these data into powerful human insights that can leapfrog our creative work. You may have been on similar roles in planning, but may very well have been on more technical aspects of digital such as but not limited to customer experience, IMC, CRM, data and analytics, performance and innovation strategy 7+ years work experience is desirable.

– Digital Account Director: we're looking for someone who has a proven track record in fostering great teamwork to produce outstanding work for clients. This talent may have earned citations, awards or led projects that have exceeded client and agency expectations. This talent has also excelled in bringing to life projects amidst challenges in the day to day work. We're looking for someone who has an excellent work ethic that inspires everyone he or she works with to deliver only the best all the time. 5-7+ years work experience is desirable.

– Social Media Manager: we are looking for someone who has a fine blend of expertise in channels, platforms, emerging technologies, content and most importantly conversations managing communities that humanise brand propositions building stronger engagement and brand love. This talent is both the voice of the brand and the customer and is able to bridge strategy and creative in community and content engagement across a variety of platforms. 5+ years working experience is desirable.

Please contact me directly if any of these roles excite you! Send me a direct message or email me a link to your profile and portfolio. Email is pao dot pena at dentsujs (dot) com.