Monday, February 22, 2016

Yay for retirement

Olmedo relaxes outside the classroom.

Yay Padua Olmedo never thought that her best years were just about to unfold when she retired from her executive position at San Miguel Corporation.

Among the renewed purposes she found for herself is teaching what she loved doing: marketing, advertising, public relations and communication at an international school in Las Piñas. Her targets are, she said, “yuppies who have no idea what to do in the corporate world.”

She describes her post-retirement job as energizing. In between this grandmother has found time to write three OMF books: Going Up? Making Right Choices at Work; Grandparenting: Happiness and Hard Work; and the latest, Now That You’re Boss: Timely and Timeless Lessons for New and Experienced Leaders.

She said in a forum of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, “When I retired, I thought my productive days would be over because I’d seen how some of my co-retirees faced a blank wall the morning after retirement, having built much of their identity around their positions and careers. Never did I realize that my best years ever — my mochachino grande with its frosted creamy topping—were still to come.”

One of the things she does in class is to survey who among the students have experienced air travel.

She explained, “The first time I rode the plane, I was already a mother of two. I always poll my students when they first rode the plane. Almost all say they started traveling when they were babies. People nowadays also travel more. Why? Because the cost of travel has become cheaper. Today, you’ll see groups of teens and yuppies in backpacks flying overseas, seeing the sights as if they’re just going to Quiapo. Hong Kong or Singapore has become the new Divisoria. For example, our nephew’s elementary grade son from Sydney had their ‘immersion’ in Manila recently with Smokey Mountain as part of their itinerary. Flying overseas has become the new normal.”

She observed that because members of the millennial generation travel younger, they are also smarter consumers who are “exposed to more sophisticated products and brands, naturally increasing their quality standards, and making them more demanding even in the products or services they source domestically.”

Her caveat: “Even if you say your business operates only in the Philippines and your target is the local consumer, be warned. Juan or John, Juana or Joan have become more sophisticated and demanding, and exposed to a plethora of global brands.”

She added, “Of the students I teach today, some 30 percent have parents working overseas, or they are children of Filipinos married to foreign spouses. The Filipino is a global consumer.”

On the other hand, many millennial students have caused her to sigh in frustration. She noted how “their biggest problem for the day is not finding a parking space for their car. They don’t make an effort to learn. They lack motivation because they think their parents are already rich. Though privileged, they see no reason to excel.”

She continued, “They’re used to getting things from the Internet and think that they have all the answers. They can’t analyze and synthesize or think of themselves.”

During consultations she’d have this kind of exchange:

Olmedo: “How can you pass this subject?”

Student: “By working hard.”

Olmedo: “What do you mean by working hard?”

Student: (No answer)

What the teacher has tried to do is to understand how the millennial student’s mind works. She said, “It’s a generation of multi-taskers with scattered or divided attention.”

One way she asks these business communication majors to express themselves at the start of a schoolyear is to introduce themselves by using food as a metaphor. “Are you an ice cream?” she’d ask. Or “are you coffee, tea or kare-kare?” She said this works because “you’re using word pictures that they can imagine.”

On the other hand, she warned that a generation reliant on word pictures alone “can be easily fooled by the flashy imagery of politicians.” This is why she strongly encourages her students to read, starting with slim books like “The Little Prince.” She adds a game of “What if?” for the ending to draw out creative responses.

In her work, Olmedo feels that she is “growing as a Christian” as she gets her students excited about marketing and advertising with no thought of pleasing their parents alone as goal. She said she’s practically shouting at them, “Hoy gising (hey, wake up)! You have a life ahead of you.”

Her books have become her platform for her seminars in churches and in the corporate world. She said some of her talks are focused on “finding your purpose, having the dream and having the integrity of heart to pursue that dream.”

Of her fairly late start in writing books, she said she realized that “God is the best product in the world. He’s the product that never fails, and I want to write about that product. In a human world, sometimes products and companies fail, disappoint or disappear. God has never disappointed me so I want to walk in the Lord.” - Text and photo by Elizabeth Lolarga, first published in Sunday Biz section of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb. 21, 2016

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