Opportunities Abound: Success Series talk by Philips Country Manager, Fabia Bueno
“When you have an opportunity, get it, even if afterwards you have to find out how to do it. Opportunities will come to you throughout your life, and getting them, making the best out of them, is the most interesting thing you can experience.”
As part of the school’s Guest Lecture series, Enderun Colleges welcomed Fabia Tetteroo-Bueno, Philips’ Country Manager for Electronics and Lighting, last August 4, 2015. She is also the General Manager of Philips Lighting Sector in the Philippines.
Coming from a very humble background in the suburbs of Brazil, and growing up as a child under a dictatorship regime, she recounted how her father always told her, “Look, if you want to get out of here, you have to work hard and study hard.” Since then, that is how she has lived her life. Now 41 years of age, married to a Dutch man, and having two cats, which she laughingly said is her choice, Fabia has been to 5 countries and has taken on 8 different roles during her 17 years of working with Philips.
Fabia started her inspiring talk by narrating how she ascended from rags to riches. “Studying in a primary school, one day I saw this very big announcement on the board of the school that they were opening vacancies for high school in a military school, and that was a big thing for us then. It’s like for one vacancy there, 300 kids were trying. So I applied for that and I got it.”
She went on to say that it was a good opportunity for her to learn English and Spanish, but more than that, she learned there was another life waiting for her and her family. “There were a lot of rich kids there that what they would get for pocket money for the month was what my father would get the whole year of salary.” It was then that she started to ask, “If I want to give a better life to my family, how can I get there?”
After finishing high school, Fabia mentioned that she unfortunately had to stop studying before attending college due to her parents’ divorce. She went back after 7 years with the eagerness and hope to still provide a better future for her family. “University for me was a very difficult time. I would wake up everyday, 5:30 AM, I would go in the morning to a restaurant job that I had and in the afternoon go to school. On weekends, I also had the restaurant job to pay my first year. But it paid off. Because when I finished university, I had many calls from companies to go work for them. And I decided to go then to Philips.”
From Brazil to the Philippines
Fabia also divulged that the reason why she stayed with the company is “because it has been very fun from the beginning. I keep learning new things and I get a lot of opportunities to go outside but I stay every time simply because every time, I go to new exciting assignments.”
Recalling the past years, she said that after working on a business project in Brazil for two and a half years, she finished ‘a year of work and pleasure’ in Germany, which she further described as ‘eye-opening’. “So you can imagine living in the suburbs in Brazil and then you get to Germany. With these beautiful automatic cars and Mercedes Benz everywhere, I was living in a hotel, with a driver. And I brought my mom to see Europe when I was there so it was very rewarding for me personally.”
She got two offers to move to Holland (now known as The Netherlands) afterwards. “So I went back to Brazil and I told my parents I am moving to Holland within 3 months. A month before I left in 2001, I decided to go to the jungle in Brazil to take time for myself and let me think if this is really what I want.” Torn between staying and leaving, Fabia shared why she believes everything happens for a reason. “So I went there and I was wandering this trail in the jungle, and this guy tells me, ‘Does anybody here speak English?’ and I said, ‘I do.’ He said, ‘There are some foreigners there that are walking in the jungle without a guide and it’s dangerous, there are anacondas here, they can get them. So can you talk to them?’ I said fine.”
What started as an unlikely meet-up turned out to be a happy ending. When she went to talk to the foreigners, one of them was a Dutch guy, who she ended up opening her doubts to, about whether she should move to his country or not. After he gave her his email and promised to tour her around Amsterdam if ever she decides to go, Fabia revealed, “And this is 14 years ago and I’m still married to him. So nothing happens without a reason.”
In Holland, Fabia got involved with project management where she was taking care of supply for international projects. When she grew in her career, reaching the Chief Purchasing Officer position at the age of 30, she chose to do something different. She went back to study and holds a Masters Degree in Business Management with Specialization in Foreign Trade, from the Universidade Metodista in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There, she found her professional passion, since she loved talking to people who tell her what their needs are and thinking how to bring solutions to fulfill those needs.
Subsequently, she was given another opportunity in Holland, this time to lead a marketing and sales team. She described the role as ‘super interesting’ because it comprised the end-to-end process of a new product, from idealization to development, to marketing and selling.
A couple of years later, Fabia saw an opening in China and, looking for an Asian experience, moved there seven years ago, where she served as the Marketing Director of the Retail and Hospitality sector in Philips’ Lighting. “We were doing lightings for our hotels and big retail chains in China. McDonald’s for example was one of my customers. They had 6,800 stores, so they would open one store per day in China, and we would renovate one store per day also.”
Then, the offer to come to the Philippines arrived three years ago. Three business sectors also make up for Philips’ presence in the country—namely, domestic appliances, healthcare, and lighting. Fabia mentioned that after 15 years and 4 countries, cultural similarities between the Philippines and Brazil are what she likes the most, and that, jokingly, the worst part was gaining weight because of lechon and other desserts.
As for her role as Country Manager, she said the most interesting part of her job was that 80-90% of it is not based on historical experience, “because for example, during Typhoon Yolanda, we lost a warehouse and 21 people, so when something like that happens, what do you do? I’ve never had that experience before. My colleagues from Philips, nobody experienced that before.”
“A big part of my job is managing the marketing and sales team, so I know that. But managing the organization, managing government relationships, managing business day to day, that is not based on historical knowledge. Opportunities will come to you throughout your life, and getting them, making the best out of them, is the most interesting thing you can experience. And work wise, not necessarily you always know what you have to do. A lot of my time I don’t know what to do. I have to think and reflect and discuss and network, look for a nice solution, not always you’re going to have the answer, almost or around you.”
The Balancing Act
Asked how she balances her work and personal life, Fabia answered, “I’d like to be myself independent of the title. You cannot ever let the title grow into your head. So you have always to perform and be always yourself. So that’s on the work side what I try to do. But the second side is to look for what is important to you personally. And don’t give up on that. I need to have my family time and I make time for it. You just have to balance things and make time for things that matter. If you only do focus on work, and you don’t have a private time, your brain gets a burn out. It doesn’t work.”
During the session, one student also asked what she would advise young people in finding what they want, to which she answered, “Be always open to learn more and to get to learn new things because there are so many new things everyday coming out. And I think the second important one is do what you like. Because work is 8 hours of your day, if you consider that you sleep 8 hours, it’s half of your life at work. So you need to do something you like. It’s horrible if you do something 8 hours a day that you don’t like.”
Fabia also said that her career goal is to keep learning since functions change. As for her management style, she said she assigns tasks to people and leads by example instead of going for micromanagement. So far, the most satisfying part of her career is “coaching people and seeing them developing.”
Before the session ended, Fabia was asked what she will miss about the Philippines. “I’m going to miss the people, I like the people here. The best of every culture is their people. And it’s more fun in the Philippines,” she replied with a smile. Fabia will be moving to Panama this September for a regional role.