At the end of 2015, I stepped across from running our partner business Hynes Legal, to run Diversify. At the time I wrote a piece about my first visit to Manila and what my impressions were. Reading about my experiences in 2015 now, I am both humbled and proud to see just how far we have come. So much of the Philippines and our business have changed since those early days yet, so much is still exactly the same.
Fast forward a little over three years and here I find myself the Managing Director of a company with nearly 700 truly talented Filipino team members and clients all over the world. We have expanded our presence beyond Makati into Bonifacio Global City and now operate three facilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
What I’ve Loved These Past Three Years
I am not sure that it is necessarily cool to admit it, but I do love my job. People often ask me if I like my job, to which I always reply – I love it but gosh it would be easier if it was in Australia.
I love being able to look back on the last few years and realise that we have built something that I am truly proud of. We have built a business that has stood the test of time. So many in our game come out of the gates with lofty ideals of what running a business in the Philippines is like only to cease existing within the first year. We have built a business that has the most amazing culture – it is a place our team call home. This is truly important to me.
I love that I am truly challenged – those who know me well know I don’t do so well sitting still. With our facilities operating around the clock, there is no downtime and no off switch. I find myself doing things like client calls at midnight and waking at three in the morning to check emails. To some, this may sound like absolute torture. But for me, well this is what makes me buzz. What we are creating here, the pace at which we are creating it, it truly makes me feel alive.
I love that even though we are so far in, the industry is still so new, that so much of what we do is new territory.
I love the phases of the business, even the startup phase which I can only say in hindsight. I remember our first tiny office where the office tour consisted of about 10 steps! We had a ‘server room’ that was a computer on a desk and a ‘staff pantry’ that was a glass fish bowl the size of a toilet! It was cramped and in so many ways makeshift but it was our starter. It was where we ‘faked it till we made it’. Fast forward to today and fit outs involve thousands of square meters of space in A Grade high rise buildings. I no longer feel like we are faking it, I now feel like we are setting a standard and that is a nice feeling.
I love that we are now past startup and it is almost like running a whole new business.
I love that I have a whole new family in the Philippines. I love my team, I trust them implicitly, I would put my life on the line for them.
Taking The Good With The Bad
But, as I often say, it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns! I am truly passionate about what I do and goodness knows I thrive on the pace and the challenges. But not every step has been easy and the personal challenges have probably been the hardest.
I am married to a wonderful man (10 years!) and have two incredible children in Mia (8 years old) and Oliver (4 years old) and our very new fur baby (because life just wasn’t quite full enough). My husband also works full time and has his own career that involves a lot of travel. Like so many families where both parents work our life so often feels like a big juggle. We create rules and processes at home to try and ensure life feels totally stable and normal for our kids. One of our strictest rules is that one of us must always be in Brisbane – neither of us travels on the same day. We have only had to break that rule once.
Doing what we both do requires coordination, and juggle and good support from those around us. We are out of the baby phase but no one told me that I would still not be getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Running a business of our size across multiple time zones and doing it on little sleep is a killer. Some days, coffee is all that gets me through!
The Hardest Part
The travel is by far the hardest part. I always have a laugh to myself when people tell me how lucky I am to travel the world and stay in hotels, the picture is far from reality.
Being away from my family every 8 weeks is truly the hardest part of what I do. To watch their little eyes well with tears every single time I have to hop on that plane can feel simply soul destroying. I always thought that with time and as the kids got older it would get easier. That we would all get used to it. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case for us. The older my little ones get, the more aware they get of my travel, the more there is to juggle and there more there is to miss.
For the record, stays at hotels does not measure up to the dreamy ideal in many people’s heads. I don’t get too much of the hotel other than the bed and a few short hours of sleep. If I am away for work, I make the most of the additional ‘free’ hours in my day and work.
I try incredibly hard to coordinate all the important birthdays, milestones and events (athletics carnivals, swimming carnivals, concerts) but sometimes it just doesn’t all come together. I have missed a Father’s Day, I have missed a cross country trip and a myriad of other smaller events in between – family birthdays, play dates, school events, nights out.
Thankfully, I have an incredible core group of friends who love me wholeheartedly, who know life can be hectic (by my doing!) and are there to help me out. They are my village. I couldn’t do it with my sanity intact without them. They also continue to be my friends when I do miss a fair amount and we change dates 100 times just to accommodate me!
So Is It Worth It?
Like I suspect so many parents, I tell myself that it is all worth it for my children. What my husband and I do ensures that they can get a good education and can live in a nice house and have lovely family holidays. I don’t shy away from that. I want to give my children the very best and every opportunity in life. But I also do it because I want to be an example to them. I want them to understand the importance of contributing to the world, of giving back and creating opportunities for others.
I also do it for me. What makes me tick and thrive is the challenge of building this business. I am a much better mother, wife and friend because of it.
Some Final Thoughts
Running Diversify has afforded me plenty of fantastic opportunities I never even contemplated. Never did I imagine that running a business in the Philippines would also give me a team I could call my family. Through all our successes and roadblocks, I am so proud of everything we have achieved thus far. I truly feel that we are only just beginning and our best days are still very much ahead of us.
I am not a believer that you can have it all, on your own. But I am a believer that you can have it all with the right village to help you. It may not be easy and there may be times it will feel impossible, but damn 3 years with 560% growth later, it is incredibly rewarding and it is what makes me feel alive. I’ve learned and grown alongside our company and I cannot wait to see what happens next.