Instead of naming three specific people, I will cite three groups of people who have greatly influenced me to be the best person that I can be. I will then go mention specific people under each category if it’s possible.
I consider myself very fortunate that I went to one of the best schools in our city for high school. The stuff I learned there served me well when I got into college and even well into corporate world. Our school had a snobby reputation but it was really more of strict discipline and consistent quality. Looking back, I was either in awe or annoyed with my teachers in high school because of sheer talent and intelligence for the former and of the actual subject for the latter. I never really appreciated Filipino and Religion as a kid and I still don’t up to now.
The teachers I had, like Mr. De Guzman for Integrated Writing, were the epitome of dedication and expertise. Early on I respected smart people. People who could tell a story and keep your attention focused without using fear or intimidation. I had another teacher, Mrs. Yabut who taught us Health Education (also known as Sex Ed) and showed how powerful a great sense of humor can be. I was a virgin and was a closet case but that didn’t stop me from understanding and appreciating women’s menstrual cycles thanks to her comedic approach to teaching. She actually reminds me of Kathy Najimy from Sister Act. Yes, she’s that adorable. Another high school teacher who influenced me to try and push harder than usual was Mr. Dave Santos – our Physics teacher. I think he also taught Algebra. All I’m sure of is that he was one of those teachers who just emanated intelligence. He had dry wit and sarcasm. Very subtle but effective. From him, I learned that one can’t just be all funny. You had to know you subject like the back of your hand.
When I went to the University I couldn’t help but compare the professors to my high school teachers. In my freshman and sophomore year I had to endure professors who almost made me lose my respect for teachers. I had an English teacher who consistently made grammatical mistakes and whose pronunciation would have earned him extra homework from Mr. De Guzman. On the upside, it was also in college that I met Ms. Olga Tulabut, Mr. Ochoa, and Ma’am Malay who were my favorites because each of them were the perfect mix of intelligence, good humor, passion to teach, and sass. They showed me that a teacher can be funny and friendly without having their competence or authority undermined. This is something I aspired to achieve when I started out as a trainer.
I learned from my teachers that LOVE creates and feeds the hunger to share your knowledge, to see your students improve and be better people and not just smarter people. All of the teachers who influenced me had all loved two things: Learning and People. To be an awesome teacher, you need to love both. No shortcuts, no excuses.
My Former Bosses
One boss I had, Lina Tuazon, was the one who got me into Training. I remember returning to my old college to get my transcript of records and right beside me was this woman who needed a trainer. The Dean for Student Affairs who accommodated us both pointed to me and said I should give my resume to her. I got hired and started working for this lady who was funny as can be and who knew more gay people than I did. I was just this former call center agent in his early 20s who had a knack for pissing off people when she hired me. As I reported directly to her, I also had to do stuff for her Manager who happened to be homophobic. Yep. Of all the companies in the entire complex, I had to end up with the homophobic uberboss. This manager even asked me to go to the office on the weekend for a….Prayer Meeting to pray the gay away. Yes, cuckoo, I know. And no I didn’t go. He almost kicked me out insubordination or something until Lina told him to give me a second chance. She put her job on the line by stating if I messed up, she was willing to resign. She had that much faith in me.
Another boss I had, Adele, was a total sweetheart who knew her shit. It was my return to being a trainer after having been a training sup/manager in a different company. And she showed me that she wasn’t one of those managers who delegated the crap away and then took credit for their subordinates’ work. I remember her asking me to make a Powerpoint presentation and then replying with the most detailed feedback I’ve ever received. She gave me the slide number and the actual line where a typo was found. Plus, she never sugarcoated how things were going at work. Just like Lina, Adele sometimes cussed which I liked because it meant my boss was human. Even though I was their subordinate, they took me under their wing, set my expectations, told me if I was toeing the line, and never treated me like I was incapable of handling the truth.
From my former bosses I learned that there is a place for LOVE in the workplace. Their love for the business makes them go to work everyday and set a good example for everyone else even without meaning to. There is LOVE in the way they respect their teams’ limitations, strengths, and uniqueness. They ask you questions if they want to know stuff; they don’t assume. They make mistakes and when they do, they know how to apologize. Their Love for Work and Success filters down to you.
Some of my trainees keep thanking me for helping them change their lives. They don’t know that they’ve changed and improved mine as much as they think I affected theirs. Whether it’s a lesson on grammar, customer service, the program’s system tools, or life; whenever I speak in front of them, I am reminded of these lessons. More than half of the life-lessons I share with my class are random and spontaneous – lessons that are triggered by behavior I saw at that exact moment and I felt needed to be addressed, not by a coaching log or a reprimand, but by a serious talk.
I have had many trainees (a thousand is a safe estimate) in my 8 years as a trainer and with each class I handled, I have been allowed to put into practice the stuff I had learned from my Teachers and Former bosses. My trainees make me value my job and my role as a mentor, educator, and sometimes, as a friend. They make me remember to be grateful, to be humble, to persevere, and to be ambitious.
My trainees taught me to believe that sometimes one person just needs just one more break to turn things around. Some trainees come into the room on the first day like they want to punch you and everyone else. After a week or two and tons of patience, you find out about their insecurities and large gaping holes these left on his identity and confidence. I don’t patch these holes, I teach them how to fix these themselves.
My trainees are bags full of hopeful dreams, displaced anger, sad back stories, resilient souls, denied opportunities, eager energy, funny jokes, and seeds of great potential. I cannot pick and choose what I get in the beginning, but I can choose what to do with the ones I receive.
From my former trainees I learned that LOVE will fuel you to work for 8 hours and stay up for 8 hours more to take care of your child. They taught me that if they are given that one sliver of chance to succeed, they will nurture it with dedication and unrelenting focus so they can show you their gratitude. They taught me that LOVE will make them push harder than ever before to either prove to themselves, their loved ones, and even their detractors that they can and will change their lot in life. My trainees have proven time and again that anything is truly possible if you know someone out there believes in you.