Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We've Got It All

After close to four extremely happy years in the water business, I have decided to move on and join – drum rolls, please - the company that owns the biggest malls in the country. My new office is right beside Mall of Asia. Gosh, it will be close to impossible to rein in the shopaholic in me now. I will so not be able to save anything. And my house will be ever more overflowing with stuff I keep buying but never use. Groan.

The whole thing happened so fast and unexpectedly. I wasn't looking for a new job - I was completely contented staying up late watching my Korean dramas or finishing my Oprah's book club novels, waking up late and getting to the office nineish and leaving sixish, being stressed too some of the time to the point that it affects my milk flow and I don't let down any milk even after minutes of being hooked on my Medela, but still nothing compared to my stress levels at the law office, and I still manage to spend a lot of time with my boys or for myself when I get home from work and on weekends. And I have a lot of good friends here, people who are practically my brothers and sisters the way we’re so intimate with each other's lives. I also like to believe I have earned the trust and confidence of my bosses. It always surprised me when they entrust me with highly confidential stuff like whistleblower reports, stock options, top-level management and board matters. Even my laughable pay was ok. It was never part of my and Ches' plans to get filthy rich, anyway - we were just happy and grateful that we could provide for the kids' needs and wants, have a bit saved up and a little extra to travel and try out fancy schmanzy restos. This was all we ever aspired for. This year, I hoped to get the P3 award (not for anything other than the cash prize ha ha ha) and Ches prayed for my promotion (bcoz with it would come a generous car plan that he wanted to use to get us a new car that I really didn't care about). I had gotten both so I couldn't have asked for more.

But then a former colleague gave my name to a headhunter who was then looking for someone to do corporate governance work in SM and I gave it a try bcoz I figured it couldn't do any harm. I never expected them to choose me, much less to fall for my desired package. Of course, I had to put so many factors into the equation - I didn't know what price will ever be right and worth giving up my laid-back, family-centered, relatively stress-free kind of life that I told Ches several times I had no single qualms of growing old into. I mean, I could've waited out my retirement here. From a purely shallow perspective, the new job will also entail a daily sojourn to the farther side of Manila Bay. Goodbye, 10-minute ride thru UP campus. Goodbye, 7:30 AM wake-up alarm. Oh but at least I won't be required to wear a uniform there (or at least I don't think so). And I could ride with Ches to and from work. I could put my feet up and sleep on his shoulders while he navigates us thru the dreary traffic.

Thom prepared an extensive Excel file that computed the salary and benefits differentials as well as the pros and cons of intangibles like the possibility of taking long lunches and the presence of swashbuckling bosses (both present at my current job, both unknowns in the new one hahaha). At the end of the day, it was a decision I had to make for my kids. I felt it was part of my motherhood obligations not to pass up an opportunity that could better secure their future.

Ches noted it was ironic that I spent several sleepless nights before I came up with the decision to move to a substantially higher paying job, whereas my move from the law office to my current job was practically a no-brainer despite the dive in paycut. I guess that's bcoz I've always known what my priorities were, and it's not moolah. And this company has really grown on me. It's a business imbued with public service where people do not think twice about giving up their entire weekends to repair a leak and get water running back in household faucets. It's a company that's proud to have aligned its business goals with its social and environmental programs (like providing water for the poor barangays and public schools and city jails, protecting watersheds, promoting water effluent reuse). My bosses have the kind of work ethics and unflinching integrity that I aspire to have. My office mates are good, simple, happy people who love to laugh and eat a lot. They tease me when I continually defy HR policy and show up in my high heels and pastel suits, they fear for me when I talk (or email) back to the bosses, they were nice enough not to act too surprised when I was promoted head of Legal this year (ha ha ha).

I was in tears the moment I handed my boss the CFO my resignation letter. She cried too and hugged me several times. We've had our disagreements, but for the most part she has been kind and generous, acting more like a mother than a boss to all of us. This was especially evident last year when I was pregnant and we traveled to Cebu and HK together and she constantly looked out for me. I will never forget what she told me the day I resigned: that I got this opportunity bcoz I was a good person. This was the single nicest thing anyone has ever said to me about this whole moving to SM business. And I desperately want to believe her compliment, no matter how undeserved.

After the CFO I talked to the President next and as I expected he was very pleasant and supportive to the very end. He asked when I was 'deserting' the company and I said in 1 1/2 months to give them more time to look for a replacement, and he said, "Oh but where will we find someone like you?" I love this guy, I really do. I worked with him closely starting with the Maynilad bid where he would call me to his room on like a daily basis and every discussion we had would bring me back to the terrorizing class recitations in law school the way he grilled me with questions I had no doubt he knew fully well the answers to. When I listen to his speeches and presentations I am inspired to work hard and do good. I thanked him for taking the time to mentor me and he said he owed it to us younger ones to show us the way so that in an even playing field we can shine and move up the way a regular guy like him moved up to become the CEO of an Ayala company. It's my great luck to have been able to work with him before he retired.

I also emailed my boss in Ayala, my favorite out of all the bosses I've ever worked with. He replied that he was sad I was leaving (he worried about who will do his minutes now ha ha ha) but he was happy that I got this opportunity to work for a company that has five times the market cap of my current office and in a position that is several notches higher than my current post. (It's so typical of him to do research about the company I'm moving into before I ever did ha ha ha). I love this guy bcoz he's brilliant and funny and cannot stop talking about his kids and told me once that he attributes all that he's ever achieved to God. More important than the legal expertise and writing techniques I learned from him, he has taught me the value of treating other people with constant generosity and kindness. I will never forget how he stood up for me last year and thanks to him I got a substantial increase and stock options. And it was something he didn't have to lift a finger for - I was just this little person in the grand scheme of things. It's like what the villain in Mission Impossible 3 said: You can judge a person by the way he treats other people to whom he doesn't have to be nice at all.

Gosh, I LOVE my life here. I do not know if I'll even be half as happy in my new job, whether I'll be still be able to spend a lot of time with my boys, or find any friends to be crazy with at work. (These two about sum up my shallow criteria for happiness.)

I'll call Paula and Thom everyday.

I'll play my Eraserheads CDs all day long.

I'll do retail therapy at Mall of Asia next door.