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4 Elements Of Success That You Can Learn From Investment Banker-Turned-Social Entrepreneur Ayesha Vera Yu



March is Women’s Month, and we’re all about celebrating the successes and contributions of the female heroes today.

From being the director of the world’s largest bank to becoming a social entrepreneur—who seeks to improve primary education and health of kids in the rural areas of developing countries such as the Philippines—you can tell that Ayesha Vera Yu can succeed in any polarizing world.

Ayesha was the director for French bank BNP Paribas, before she became the CEO and Co-Founder at Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc. (ARK). ARK’s programs are school-based, community-managed, financially sustainable at the local level, and results-oriented; they include keystone feeding program, provisioning of school supplies, high school scholarships, and infrastructure and for-profit projects 

In addition to the local communities, ARK collaborates and partners with volunteer professionals, students, schools, and universities to develop innovative solutions that will keep kids in school, in better health and armed with the critical tools to access opportunities that will lead to a future devoid of poverty. 

At the recent She Talks Asia’s Women Leadership Conference themed “She is Self-Made," this Filipina superwoman shared her words of wisdom on how to find success and build a successful environment for yourself as well as everyone around you.



Here are some of the lessons Ayesha shared:    


1.“If you want someone to invest in you, you gotta hustle.”

In the US, Ayesha worked in a temporary post for a one-week assignment in a bank she got from an agency. The job was not too hard, she recalled, as she just had to pick up calls for the loans syndications department of the largest French Bank in the world, BNP Paribas.

“On free time, I started reading trade magazines for the associates, and I started to ask questions on things I didn’t know. As time progressed, I engaged people and asked more, learned more, and gained more. A one-week assignment turned to two weeks, and turned into one month and after that one month, I was offered a permanent position, and after three months, I was hired as the secretary on the business side. My bosses also agreed to pay for my classes at MYA on Accounting, Corporate Finance, and Quantitative Analysis and all the things I needed to succeed on the business side, “ she shared.

Two months after those courses, they promoted Ayesha as a full-time analyst. A year after that, she was promoted again as an associate, and three years after she was hired as a temp, she was promoted to vice president who’d manage one-third of the business, and at the time she was only 25 years old! After that, she was promoted to director.

“Not that I am being obnoxious about my promotions, but I am just trying to make a point that it is possible to have that kind of progression even if you do not have connections for as long as you know how to hustle. Through hustling hard, you gain experience, and you can gain mentors and advisors that will give support you in your career and will invest in you,” she shared. “My former bosses are actually my investors in what I do now.”


2.“Part of investing in yourself is learning how to say 'yes.'”

“In communities we are managing, I can say that we invest in people who invest in themselves by learning. And saying 'yes' is part of investing in yourself. Say 'yes' to experimenting, take a risk because you never know, you might actually find your passion once you say 'yes.' Saying 'yes' to my mom in 2006 was one of the major breakthroughs in my life. My mom asked me if I wanted to invest in a farm and buy the shares from my cousins. I said 'yes' because I wanted to lean new skill sets. The word 'yes' literally changed my life. Had I said 'no' to my mom, I would not know that I love farming, and we would not have a program that sends children to school, addresses malnutrition, and provides income for parents,” she said.


3.“Passion makes you authentic and real, and people are drawn to that.”

“Passion was an empty word for me until I co-founded Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc. Passion is really important to me because it gave me hope, positivity, and it gave me friends and inspiring people. People are drawn to people with passion, and they support people with passion,” Ayesha explained.


4.“In building a supportive environment, you have to fight for what you believe in.”

“If you want to get paid for what you work, you got to ask employers whether or not they offer paternity leave. And if you own a company, you have to offer paternity leave. Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK) is the first company here in the Philippines that offered four-week paid parental leave, and that’s huge,” she said. “The most leave you can get is seven days, and that’s nothing. When I first did it to my employee, I decided to invest in him and his future because he hustles like there is no tomorrow, and so I wanted him to be happy and I did not want him to miss the magic of being a father,” she said.

Ayesha also showed studies in Iceland, one of the few countries that outlawed wage gap in January 2018, whose government offered three-month paternity and maternity leave to its employees. As a result, more women were able to work and the people became happier and more productive. She noted that in asking for paternity leave, and joining in advocating it, you are investing in yourself.

“Investing in yourself is advocating in creating an environment that lets you succeed,“ she concluded.


Photo from @shetalkasia