A Leader With A Heart: Jordana Valencia Paves The Way For The Next Generation Of Filipino Entrepreneurs
In a modern business culture where money is parallel to power and success and equates to notoriety, we find a refreshing voice in a crowd that thirsts for profit. Jordana Valencia stands as a selfless individual with an entire career based on helping others thrive and find success personally and professionally.
She graduated at the top of her batch, summa cum laude, from the University of the Philippines, with a degree in psychology, as pre-med. She explains, "I was supposed to be a doctor. I was on that path, but realized that perhaps it wasn’t for me."
Having tested the waters in the business sector after graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Jordana found herself taking another master's degree, in psychology, at Columbia University. "After Harvard, I felt like I still wanted to dig a little deeper into the kind of humanistic and very psychological aspects of people. That was very interesting because they all came back together."
It wasn't until she entered MIT in 2015 as a managing director for an accelerator class that she realized the action she suitably wanted to make for the Philippine start-up industry. "Just the kind of joy and fulfillment you get from helping others succeed, personally or professionally. (I thought) wow! This is something that I should be doing." Having been able to find her sincere goal in life—a synthesis of business and psychology—Jordana is now certain of the three passions that drive her:
Education: ‘‘I absolutely love education. That could be teaching, actually educating someone, or also through a business. Reach Labs is one of the ventures that I have, and that’s also very education-focused, but also a business, so it can come in any which way."
Professional and personal development: "Now, one of the things I'm doing is, I'm the people development lead in IdeaSpace, and what I do is, I actually coach entrepreneurs there, and help them through their journey."
Last, but most definitely not the least, is mental health: "I see (mental health issues) everywhere, and it's something I've seen with my friends, or my family, and so that’s kind of one of the reasons that inspired me to do Safespace, a three-set explainer video on depression." Reflecting on her thinking process behind Safespace, she credits modern technology for the extent and reach of her unpretentious efforts "to create a really quick video that’s very informative, that’s ethical, that speaks of what (depression) is in a very simple way, easy to understand, and can be shared and scaled."
"There’s a growing video market. Everyone’s on Facebook or some kind of digital device, so we can use that as a medium, and that’s how I think I decided to do that." Surprisingly enough to Jordana, her web series garnered an astounding 600,000 views in less than a week, with an outpouring of support and thanks from people suffering in silence.
Imagining an alternative career route, Jordana recounts how her family’s distinction in the world of performance may have led her down the same path. She candidly expresses, "I think I would love to do theater or improv. I cannot sing, cannot dance, but I think I could do a pretty good comedy show."
Describing herself as having a "quirky" personality, Jordana humorously points out that "acting atypical" most likely stems from her childhood dream of wishing to be a theater actress. "I love to make jokes, love to have fun, I'm just very comfortable with—as my friends say—‘acting weird.'"
Jordana likewise credits her parents for pushing her to achieve to her fullest potential, eventually allowing her to realize her true calling along the way. "My parents, they really showed us the value of an education—a good education. It wasn't even about getting a good grade, but you know, get an education and finish it."
Another influence in her life is her husband, Oliver Segovia: "When I think of mentors, I think of people who not only are wiser than me, but more of who can push you to do things you didn't think you could. Right now, I write for the Harvard Business Review. I do it once in a while, and I remember the first time. I blog, I write a lot, and he told me: 'You know what, I think that the Harvard Business Review would like this,' and I'm like no, of course not—I never would have considered it, and now I write for them, and I think we’re only two Filipinos. Actually, I think I'm the only Filipina who writes for the Business Review."
Suit by Paulo Lazaro
Devotion with a purpose
With 2018 being a year for female empowerment, Jordana exemplifies how women are able to break barriers in the business world. She clarifies how self-assurance can drive a woman even in a male-driven environment. "There’s always a tendency to probably get lost in a crowd where you feel different, look different, are different. I think that the challenge is to speak up more and to be confident."
When thinking about the best advice she can pass on to young Filipinas who hope to follow in her footsteps, Jordana professes, "I think to be fearless is one. There are a lot of things holding women back, and there are psychological reasons, social reasons and maybe institutional as well, and so, I think it's a matter of breaking through that fear of whatever that is—fear of failure, fear of being seen differently, whatever fear is in your heart. Break through it and just keep your head high." She continues, "I look at success stories of people, I feel like a lot of them really worked through psychological fears. I think that’s something that would hold me back as well."
Determined to contribute and provide Filipinos with further chances of success, Jordana finds hope in the upcoming generation. "There are so many initiatives now, whether it's government or private, or even the stuff that we do, that really foster innovative thinking in the youth. The way I look at the landscape now, there are currently a lot of courses—like PhilDev—for younger college level, IdeaSpace that we do for people in their late 20s, and there are also firms here that handle older entrepreneurs. I feel like we’re creating that slowly—we’re creating that ecosystem, and so I hope that it's a trickle-down effect, that’s what I hope to see."
Aiming for a chain of events in the start-up industry for the Philippine culture, Jordana points out the importance of influence and inspiration on the younger generation. "You have these founders that start a company, and if they get successful, the younger ones see it and they think, 'Oh wow, okay! It’s possible, we’ll try too,' and it develops a stream of success stories."
Reach Labs is Jordana’s latest triumph for the next line of Filipino executives. It is an organization that focuses on offering educational programs on innovation and leadership for future entrepreneurs, such as their flagship program, Silicon Valley Trek. It grants leaders a chance to travel to the heart of it all in the United States.
During her time managing an entrepreneurship program at MIT, Jordana observed that among the 200 students in her class, only one was Filipino. "I remember at that moment thinking, there’s just one student, one participant, and I said, wouldn't it be amazing if there were something or some type of program that would allow folks from the Philippines to experience something like that? Because in that program, people all over the world came to Boston."
Jordana expounds on her decision to take on business administrators in the Philippine industry. "We wanna create change and we want to be as close as possible to decision makers. So that you have the people who are leading initiatives or in the heart of the transformation efforts. You want to be with those people. Eventually the plan was, of course, to work more closely with companies and move on to the student population. The goal is really to just equip leaders, young or old, with the knowledge and skills they need to accelerate their goals, whether as a person learning new skills or as a company."
Top and pants by Mark Bumgarner
Jordana exudes humility while contemplating the feeling of being part of someone's success route: "Playing a really important role in someone’s life is for me, one of the most fulfilling things in the world. To see someone just succeed and know that you have a small part in it—I think it gives me a lot of purpose, deep joy." Jordana sees the significance of having people support you and push you, something she wishes to give to the world. "I just realized, one of the reasons I (teach) is because others have done it for me, kind of like paying it back, right? I wouldn't be where I am today if people didn't help me, if I didn't have mentors or people to inspire me or teach me how to do things." While much of the business world revolves around personal gain, Jordana concludes that "everyone should just be helping each other."
Jordana believes that having a firm belief in oneself is the biggest lesson she's learned from her past and present experiences. "I think that being confident, having good self-esteem is really important. Because it can hold you back from reaching your full potential, whatever potential that is, whichever industry you want to be in, and it's hard to do. Sometimes its hard to believe in yourself." She imagines what she would tell her younger self: "Just don't question, don't keep your head down, keep your chin up. Try. Even if you don't make it, at least you tried, and that’s part of believing in yourself."
Having officially started the next chapter of adulthood, Jordana expresses insight on how her life has progressed since getting married. Having celebrated her first wedding anniversary, Jordana reveals, "Your relationship just grows deeper, and you just learn more about the person. I thought I knew a lot about (Oliver) after seven years, but there’s something to learn every single day, which is amazing for me. It fosters a deeper bond. I know him better, I feel closer to him."
Reflecting on her newfound family dynamic, Jordana has adapted her business side to her home style. "I like a clean household. I realized that my organizational skills are very useful. I’m pretty good with handling the household budgets, which I never thought about before."
As a woman and a natural leader, Jordana has shown how her vigor and candor can change both the industry and a person’s development. She has displayed a sense of versatility and proven to be a force to reckon with. At this moment, there is nothing holding Jordana Valencia back from continuing to achieve anything and everything, becoming a representative of the Filipino youth, and a voice for many.
*This story was originally published in Metro Society's June 2018 issue
Photographs by JC Inocian
Makeup by Cats del Rosario
Hairstyling by Francis Guintu
Shot on location at Nest / chair by Kassa