“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
The career journey of Infosys BPO Philippines Country Head Ma. Rhodora ‘Ayhee’ Campos is one that would surely standout in a pile of many other success stories. She is not just another woman-achiever who proves that hard work pays off especially in the information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry, wherein she was among the first Filipino executives.
Being an obedient daughter, Campos took up medical technology in college as her father wanted her to become a doctor. After passing the board and working in the medical field for some time, she decided to leave to take care of her father who got very ill at that time. She eventually found herself selling street food to help augment family income.
One day, she applied for a position in a local telco company but got rejected because of her lack of prior customer service experience. But after a few weeks, she got a call back and was offered a contractual job as a telephone operator.
That was the start of a successful career and her insightful journey towards becoming one of the best and most inspiring corporate leaders. She generously shares with us the leadership lessons she learned while continuing the journey as a top honcho in one of the country’s biggest income-generating industries.
1. There are no small roles.
“Once the ball is handed to you, take it all the way to the basket,” Campos advises not just leaders but everyone who is entrusted any job. She recalls that during the first three months of her job as a telephone operator, she volunteered to do other tasks aside from doing her main responsibilities to perform administrative and coordination activities.
“I never questioned why I had to do certain tasks—I saw everything as an opportunity, to learn and grow,” she said. “Remember, I started with not knowing how to operate a computer! But I took it upon myself to keep on learning: I took computer lessons, I studied financials, and I read a lot of books to supplement my training.”
In her first few years in the corporate world, Campos made sure to be available for any opportunity where she could improve her skills in the workplace. Consequently, she earned the trust not just of superiors but also of colleagues, leading to her five promotions in her first four years in the same telco.
2. Recognize the strengths of every team member.
Organizations that encourage diversity and collaboration within and among teams have proven to be more successful and innovative. That is why for Campos, the workplace should recognize and uphold each individual’s strengths.
“It is easy to focus on what we are not good at, give attention to the negatives that hold us back instead of the qualities that will move us forward. We have a tendency to limit the people around us with what they cannot do instead of highlighting what they can do,” she reminds.
Campos recommends a simple exercise to make this lesson work: list down the strengths of yourself and everyone in your team. This would initiate understanding of those skills and features and how the team can best use those at work.
3. Welcome constructive criticisms and negative feedback.
“There had been occasions earlier in my career, when I had prepared and labored to create presentations and proposals, which I thought had been perfect—returned or rejected,” she recalls.
“You do get dejected especially if the feedback is highly critical; you sometimes get a sense that the person may even be against you. But take away the individual from the message, and that’s where the magic happens. That’s when you get to rethink your approach and focus on doing better.”
Campos thinks that it is human nature to take time and need push in the right direction to be better as individuals and professionals. “Do not be afraid to seek feedback or ask for help, even from your peers. A good leader is humble enough to know that they cannot do it alone. Asking for help is not a sign of defeat but of courage,” she says.
She also admits that up to this day, she still consults with her former managers and peers. For Campos, doing this is helpful because it gives her different perspectives of things and additional insights that she may never have thought of.
4. Grow with your people.
Campos feels genuinely happy and proud when she sees her current and former team members become successful in their careers as well. “It is heartening, I tell you, when you get together with your team and hear their own leadership journeys,” she says.
Thus, leaders must realize that their impact to the team extends beyond professional relationship. To illustrate, Campos recalls how she was introduced by a former subordinate (now a Senior Director in another company) to the latter’s mom during a chance meeting. “The way she introduced me to her mother went, ‘This is Ayhee. She is my favorite mentor!’ which surprised me. I have always thought that our conversations were not appreciated but it wasn’t the case.”
5. Treat leadership as a journey and let your values be your guide.
“The challenge in developing leadership skills is that it’s not something that can be easily taught,” Campos emphasizes. “Rather, it is a characteristic that needs to be nurtured over time with proper guidance.”
Our guiding principle must always be excellence – always doing our best, without compromising integrity. Failures will get in the way; people will try to bring us down. But a clear purpose with a burning passion to do good will encourage any individual to stay on track.
Campos underlines that while having a mentor is advantageous, leaders should still take it upon their selves to hone their skills through self-learning.
“We have to realize that while there are people around us who inspire us, motivation has to truly come from within. Because every time we learn something new, this is another step towards our aim to reach the peak of our fulfillment. In doing this, our lives become filled with purpose,” she concludes.
Campos is a member of the board of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP).