Two months in Manila: A CEO’s journey

5 Nov 2015

A bit of background…

I have visited the Philippines in the past, traversing Metro Manila and particularly Makati in a tourist like manner whilst visiting the Diversify office. This time, my visit was different with completely different goals. My previous visits were as a Diversify client where the purpose was to understand how the office worked and to forge relationships with my offshore team. How simple and easy it was back then; I saw the exceptional facilities, the happy staff and the positive culture Diversify had developed and then I went home satisfied in the knowledge that our offshoring journey was working. I now visit as the new CEO of Diversify with the objective of immersing myself into the business, its culture and the environment that the business operates in.

I am here for two months (the long haul), with the family in tow and a directive to determine and drive the best way forward for Diversify.

The pressures and weight of expectation are daunting yet exciting, and working as the CEO of a rapidly growing Australian business in an innovative and exciting industry is a challenge I am embracing. There are no rose coloured glasses this time and it is time to get down and dirty and to truly understand the good and bad aspects of our amazing business.

So what have I learnt so far? I have learnt that the Diversify office has 200 incredibly intelligent, friendly, loyal and genuine individuals with passion, energy and a strong work ethic. To this group of people, Diversify is not only a job; it is their second home, their extended family and their future. They genuinely care about the business and its success as much as we do and they are riding the wave of growth and development with us. The belief and pride that the Diversify family has means that our clients deal with happy, engaged and satisfied team members that will grow with them. Simply put, as our clients grow, we grow.

I must say that I was the ultimate cynic before I delved into this two-month odyssey.

When I spoke to our Managing Director, I wondered whether it was all marketing fluff. The decision to work from our Makati office for an extended period time has completely changed my perspective and I now realize that what he was trying to explain to me is actually how it is.

Manila has a high-quality hospital system

I mentioned previously that I decided to bring my family along for this journey, comprising of my four-year-old daughter Mia and one-year-old son, Oliver. My trepidation and concern as to what may happen if they were hurt or fell sick were tested when they both fell ill within two days of arriving in Manila. We found ourselves at Makati Medical Centre (the main hospital in Makati) at 10pm on the first Tuesday of my visit and spent two days at the centre. What international trip wouldn’t be complete without a hospital stay? Any concerns that I did hold were dispelled as I learnt that Makati has an incredible hospital system with facilities comparable to what we have in Australia. The hospital was modern, the doctors were attentive and communicative and the facilities were comfortable and clean. When the children fell ill, I experienced firsthand just how genuine and caring the Diversify team is. I was in a new country, with sick children and a limited support network. The team rallied around me to make sure we had everything we needed and most importantly, that we did not feel isolated or alone.

Their empathy towards my situation was truly heart-warming and I felt like a real part of another family.

The food…

I have also learnt that nothing can beat the fresh food we have access to at home.

I hate to say it but food has been one of my biggest battles so far. Food here seems very ‘heavy’ and the most easily accessible options have a strong American influence.

As an example, I have yet to find somewhere that actually makes a ham and salad sandwich! Although my experience regarding food has not been the best, there are a range of beautiful restaurants and eating precincts in Makati that would rival any of our precincts at home, but the lack of easily accessible food is the thing I have found most challenging.

Traffic – it is congested, busy and stressful!

Finally, I have learnt that the best way to tackle this city is on foot! Do not waste your time (or if you are anything like me, anxiety) on battling the traffic here. I have never seen anything like it in any country I have traveled to. On a positive note, Makati was designed with pedestrians in mind, with plenty of under and over paths and shopping mall connections that allow you to navigate the city.

Key takeaways

So key takeaways for my first few weeks (for all of you considering a visit as part of your offshoring journey):

  • Filipinos are warm and welcoming and will go out of their way to make you feel at home.
  • Manila’s hospitals and healthcare system are of high quality.
  • Be prepared for a lack of fresh food and easily available meal options.
  • The traffic is horrendous! Make sure you consider an offshoring provider with a presence in Metro Manila so you can walk everywhere.