TFCU asked attendee Karen Go (aka KGo) to give us her point of view from our recent TFCU Talks NYC: Visionary Leadership. Everyone on the TFCU team thanks Karen for the feedback!
On April 14, TFCU Talks hosted its first-ever East Coast event featuring presentations about Visionary Leadership by Jhett Tolentino, Sarah Meier, Norman Dalager, and Rich Tu at the Philippine Consulate in New York City. Each speaker shared a different personal story along with insights into their creative process and what helped them get to where they are today. An extraordinary panel, as each individual is a pioneer in their own respective fields. Each with awards and benchmark successes marking their achievements. For Visionary Leaders in the making, TFCU had put together a dream team line up. And, I made sure I was there.
Rich Tu is an Artist who has worked on EVERYTHING from designing apparel and sneakers for Nike and Converse to illustrations for the New York Times, New Yorker, and NPR. He is the VP of Design at MTV with over 15 years of experience and received a Young Gun’s award from the Art Directors Club. Whether designing sneakers inspired by basketball superstars like Michael Jordan and LeBron James or drawing from his influences from Hip Hop and pop culture, he has a wide range of clientele.
He shared the concept of “pivot” which is defined as “the central point on which a mechanism turns.” This has helped him survive in a quick and constant changing industry. Rich approaches creativity like an athlete on the court who constantly pivots; he challenges himself and his craft regularly and said that he likes “to go right into the battlefield” to see what he can execute quickly.
As a Visionary Leader, Rich expressed:
He then offered encouragement by saying that it is not cliché to say that doing things for the culture is meaningful. It is possible to do multiple projects while being you.
Next to take the stage: Norman Dalager, Director of Digital Product Development at Bloomberg LP. He began his presentation with these two words, “Stay Connected.” From mentors, peers, and audiences it’s obvious that Norman thrives on human experiences and developing connections. “You can learn about things across the world, but in order to maximize your potential, you really have to break through that superficial barrier of relationships that you’ve created and really just deeply connect with people.”
He advised the audience to seize opportunities because they come fast. He shared on how when he was let go from one job, he quickly accepted an opportunity that eventually lead him to win an Emmy Award. Working with publications from the Boston Globe to Bravo, Norman has been recognized to seamlessly blend the experiences from news and television to interactive media for over 15 years, taking in all the opportunities presented to him.
At some point in his life, Norman started the Masarap Supper Club of New York. This led to placing himself within the recent Filipino food movement. Chef Dalager has gained respect from New York foodies while also representing Filipino culture by exploring a modern take on his favorite family recipes and traditional Filipino meals. Norman expressed at the end of his discussion, “If you want to feel like you are a part of something, start with being part of the Filipino culture because we have so much.”
Sarah Meier, co-founder of She Talks Asia, began her presentation by recounting the story of her mother, former ‘70s supermodel, Josephine “Elektrika” Go and meeting with Fashion Designer Dante Ramirez in Manila. She paid homage to these Filipino Visionary Leaders before her and was candid about how she was ushered into the fashion world at a very young age. By 5 years old, she had her first modeling gig and by 14, a modeling career. Later, she became an MTV Asia VJ to present day editor, empowerment leader, entrepreneur, and mother.
Sarah did not hold back when she admitted that her life, in some respects, has been #blessed, referring to her upbringing and experiences. But, that even when she was comfortable, she was always elevating her game. When offered the position of Editor in Chief for Metro Magazine, the Philippines premier fashion and style magazine, she said that it was a big leap for her but had a boss that believed in her. “I am supposed to be here” is the phrase that she often used to encourage herself to keep going in the face of doubts.
Sarah inspired everyone “to know their personal why” and to dream big, but she also said, “leadership doesn’t have to be large or loud.” As an editor, she did more little things to build empowerment, like deciding when not to Photoshop. Her advice to emerging Visionary Leaders was to “count all the parts of achieving your vision, be that people, be that circumstances” and “to help uplift everything around you.” She continued to say that with experience comes more confidence, and it is important “to know what your dope at.” When you figure out where the journey is going to take you, “ execute it [and] complete your vision.”
Lastly, Jhett Tolentino, an award-winning Broadway Producer from Iloilo City, presented his talk titled, “From the Slums to Broadway.” Jhett previously had 6 different jobs. His father was a Jeepney driver and Jhett’s journey began in poverty. From the Philippines to the Bay Area, he eventually made his way to New York and became a personal assistant and later, caregiver to a very wealthy person. This work experience was Jhett’s first exposure to wealthy living and although his circumstances had improved, his job was still very challenging.
In order to relieve stress and to escape, he began to go to the theatre – “the theatre was my sanity.” Regularly attending Broadway shows, he would meet with other theatergoers to discuss the shows. With encouragement from his peers, they asked him to share his reviews on a blog that attracted so much attention that it eventually lead to his career as a Theatre Producer.
Being a Visionary Leader, he explained that he has “the ability to identify projects that specifically push the envelope in what really matters socially.” Furthermore, he noted that what makes a Visionary Leader is not just the ability to conceptualize “a unique idea but also making sure that it happens.” Jhett closed his powerful story with a quote and a reminder to all future Visionary Leaders that “success is not final and that failure is not fatal.”
I was born in Pasay City but spent the majority of my life growing up in New England. This experience was invaluable because I had little exposure or access to Filipino-American role models. I am constantly seeking for inspiration and more connections to Filipino culture. TFCU Talk NYC delivered an incredible event! I reserved my ticket immediately and invited two grad student guests who adore me and Filipino culture. If I could only have a lumpia for every time I heard “wow” during each presentation, I would have several trays! Filipino or not, anyone interested in Technology, Entertainment, Art, Fashion, Media, Design, and Human Excellence would have been blown away by the presenters. Imagine a TED Talks, but add a whole bunch of awesome Filipino folks and food, along with a price tag of FREE!
And, hearing the advice from the panel, their words of encouragement and personal ups and downs was priceless. Suddenly, I had full access and exposure to some truly bada$$ Filipinos. I am usually quite uncomfortable at networking events, but being at the Philippine Consulate and surrounded by so many Filipinos – I felt at home and comfortable in my own skin. I found it easy to connect and mingle.
I had left Pasay when I was a baby and when I shared with some family back home that I was going to this event, they let me know that Sarah and I are cousins! I couldn’t believe it myself! This was my first opportunity to ever meet her. I was ecstatic and honestly, quite nervous. After the presentation, I was able to introduce myself to Sarah. I immediately was greeted with an embrace. She called me cousin right away and introduced me as Tita to her daughter, Kaya! I almost cried as I told Sarah that I had always longed to hear about family members who were leading successful creative lives as it has been a dream of my own. Thank you TFCU and the Philippine Consulate for hosting an event and a family reunion that I will never forget. I definitely felt connected, inspired, and empowered and full of Filipino food!
– Words by Karen Go