AP Diversity and Inclusion Campaign | March 2019
AP’s Diversity Team had the privilege of learning firsthand the story of how our very own Chief Financial Officer, Liza Luv Montelibano, became the leader that she is today. Here are the top things we learned from her Luv story.
Plans don’t always work and that’s completely ok.
Liza never dreamed of having a career in finance when she was younger. She liked watching lawyers on TV, so she decided to take up Legal Management in college with plans of becoming a lawyer. However, it didn’t take long for Liza to realize that her interest was in finance. She then decided to focus on studying business and never looked back at what could have been. While some might regret spending time on something only to change it later, for Liza, these are all just opportunities for learning. She says, “Things just fall into place… you just roll with it.”
Liza felt there were key moments where she was at the right place at the right time. She looks back at the first pivotal moment in her career – the resignation of her senior colleague in a multinational company at a time when there was no ready replacement. Liza was recommended to be promoted although she was too young for the role. Not one to back out from a challenge, Liza accepted the promotion.
“Sabi [n’ya], kaya ko daw eh. So I did it!”
She would then become the youngest category analyst in that company, with only one year of working experience under her belt.
“It was so tough in that environment! I was just surviving to the next day or the next closing or the next report,” she recalls.
However, Liza would later prove that the challenges only made her stronger and better.
“Sabi ko, hindi ako mamimili. Basta kung ano yung sinabi na gagawin ko, I will learn it.”
Never content with just looking at the numbers on her screen, Liza would always go the extra mile to perform her job. She would sit at the production line to see how haircare products were made. She would climb on the back of trucks to determine whether it was more cost-efficient to dead-pile or palletize cases of products. She would attend marketing and advertisement shoots to understand where money was spent.
“You would really sit where the action is. To me, that’s how you can become an effective finance person,” she says. Her strategy seems to have worked as she would later be assigned to perform roles in audit, tax, ASEAN and even global finance business services. Through it all, what kept her motivated to excel was an attitude of gratitude.
I’m really lucky… I’m really blessed. I know that not a lot of people get that kind of opportunity. It was my gratitude for all the opportunities [that came my way] that fueled me to try to do [my job] as best as I can.
Liza would soon realize that instead of having highly specialized roles, a general finance track would make it easier for her to find jobs. She then resigned from her company and decided to pursue becoming a CFO.
A CFO offer (which she would later accept) came at a time when Liza was heavily pregnant with her first child. The offer came from another multinational company who offered to wait for as long as it took Liza to become ready. Right after giving birth, Liza even received yet another CFO offer from a different multinational company.
Liza was 30 when she first became a CFO and her career just kept reaching higher levels after that. Clearly, her being a wife and a mom are not roadblocks to success.
In almost all of the leadership roles she’s handled, Liza would usually be among the youngest in the team. She had direct reports and teammates who were much older than her and yet Liza never felt that her youth or inexperience held her back.
While she lacked experience in some roles assigned to her, Liza simply kept trying her best until she learned different fields. At one point in her career, she was even doing work of an in-house lawyer. As a matter of fact, Liza shares that “it became an inside joke within [that] company that if [the task] is not marketing, it’s not sales, and it’s not HR, malamang trabaho ni Liza yan!” Her bosses were always confident in her abilities that they just kept asking her to take on more assignments, and she always accepted them.
“Sabi ko lang, I’ll do it. If I’m already dying, I will let you know.” But die Liza never did. She only became more well-rounded, creative, and proficient.
There were, of course, some people who felt slighted that they had to report to a boss who was much younger. Liza even recalls dealing with an older teammate, who was rude to her just because she was very young. “I had to win her heart para she will help me. Pero at the same time, [I felt that] I had to prove myself and show why I had this position.”
For Liza, the solution was to strike a balance by asserting her authority, but also doing it in a very respectful manner. It would’ve been much easier to play the boss card, but Liza advises:
You have to acknowledge people who are older than you, who’ve been there longer than you. They know something you don’t. Acknowledge that. You have to give it to them.
Liza admits, however, that being a working mom has its own share of challenges. She gets by through a simple approach: “I just always have this mentality na try. If it doesn’t work out, don’t kill yourself over it.”
Liza shares that when her kids were still babies, she would typically attend morning meetings via teleconference because she had to breastfeed. She would also multi-task during her pumping time by signing or reviewing documents.
When her kids were growing up, they would have events at school that she would be unable to attend because of her job. To make things work, Liza trained her kids’ nanny to take videos for her to watch. Later on, Liza would talk her kids as if she was physically there, “[I would tell them] ‘di ba this happened to you?’ It becomes a shared experience with my kids… That’s what I mean – it’s not perfect, but you find ways. If I would kill myself over not being present like the other mommies, where would that take us?” While patting her own back Liza says further, “You forgive yourself. ‘Di ba? You do the best you can and that’s it.”
For Liza, youth or femininity are non-issues when it comes to work. “When you’re at work, we’re all the same – we’re recognized for our contributions, how we work with others as a team player. I don’t think it makes a difference [whether you’re young or a wife or a mom]. It’s really what you bring as an individual.”
While she admits that it takes a little more effort to find a system for working moms or young leaders, Liza really believes that “[age or gender] can only be a disadvantage if you let it be.” And her story is only one of many which prove that.