Female Tech Leaders Share How Their Fathers Told Them to Dare and Dream
When a woman succeeds in a male-dominated industry, there’s a good chance she had to work twice as hard just to prove she deserves to be there. But shattering the glass ceiling does not have to be a cause for women only. In the following stories, two daughters—Mel Nava and Cody Flores—share how their fathers empowered them to dare and dream of succeeding in their tech startups.
Mel Nava: My father taught me to focus on things I can control.
Mel Nava with her parents
Mel Nava is the founder of 1Export, a startup that provides end-to-end services that help MSMEs go global. Her first investor happens to be her father, Carlos.
Mel showed early signs of entrepreneurship skills. It goes back to as early as her grade school days, when the craze around themed playing cards was very popular. Mel saw an opportunity. She would buy the cards at the market, then resell them to her classmates for a profit. From selling play cards in her grade school, Mel progressed to selling clothes at seasonal bazaars when she got older. Her father noticed her flair in business.
Carlos acknowledges just how passionate and driven Mel is, and how that passion has translated into successful results.
“She was always very passionate about what she wanted to do,” said Carlos, who has been working in the corporate field for four decades. “She always knew she would take the entrepreneurial route.”
“She has pitched all over the world, and seeing so many people interested in her vision is very telling,” said Carlos. While he does not necessarily have experience in the startup industry, Carlos can see how Mel has made 1Export a very attractive company for investors. “Seeing people believe in her work and invest in it, is something that I am very proud of,” he remarked.
'Everything worth doing is worth doing well.'
There is a difference in dynamic between Mel and Carlos, considering Mel’s background in sales and Carlos’ decades of experience in finance. However, they make it work to their advantage and continue to learn from each other’s different perspectives.
“One of the things I really took to heart was to focus on the things you can control,” said Mel. This advice from her dad is something that she continues to apply to her company. Another piece of advice was something she learned from the fledgling days at her company and is something that she partially attributes her company’s success to: “Everything worth doing is worth doing well.”
“I am very lucky to have a solid support system within my family,” said Mel, who acknowledges the privilege of receiving all kinds of support and empathy from her family. More than support, it is important to establish a clear separation of work and personal life, as well as develop a mutual understanding of boundaries between family and work. “We don’t talk about work at the dinner table. Boundaries are clearly set and respected in our home,” she explained.
Cody Flores: Succeeding in business has roots at home.
Cody Flores and Jojo Flores
Cody Flores is the daughter of Jojo Flores, who is the co-founder of Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley-based innovation platform that connects the best technology startups with the world’s largest corporations. Cody is part of the company’s ventures team.
Although Cody did not immediately show interest in joining her father’s tech business, she tagged along on startup pitching competitions while she was still studying. It was in these events hosted by her father where she found her calling.
Jojo noticed how Cody was so engaged during these events and how she would come up with her own set of winners.
“She’s enjoying her work now, meeting founders every day and learning new things,” he explained.
As part of Plug and Play's ventures team in APAC, Cody gains exposure from startup pitches from around the world. This exposure is vital to the operations and success of Plug and Play.
“She's able to bring this knowledge down to the Philippine startup scene, and we are all able to learn from her insight,” he added.
“I find that most of the advice I follow to this day are all essentially rooted in the importance we give to people and talent,” said Cody. “The time I spend speaking with hundreds of people within the startup ecosystem leads to the most priceless learning experience that I never would have gotten anywhere else,” she added.
“She's able to bring a more regional perspective for the local startups in the country,” said Jojo.
For Cody, there are more similarities to the work and home environments than we think.
“I’ve come to realize that, at the very core of a working relationship, are relationship patterns that can be found in the foundations of a home setting, as well—good communication, respect, and honesty,” shared Cody. For her, accepting and understanding the parallels between home and work settings have helped her build the foundation of seeing Jojo as her boss and as her father.
The Importance of Empowerment Throughout the Startup Journey
While the startup space in the Philippines is still a relatively novel one, it has experienced more rapid growth and spikes in market interest in recent years. That being said, it is more crucial than ever for families to be supportive of their children’s interest in stepping into the startup field. Empowerment should start from the home and can be manifested in many different ways. There should be trust, as well as the understanding that growth and success in this field may manifest in unconventional ways. It should also mean believing in their child’s vision as much as they themselves do.
'Let them set their own standards of success and happiness. Be supportive. In the end, it’s their life.'
“The way that parents can empower and support their children who are undergoing this professional milestone is with an empathetic heart,” said Cody. Parents should fully realize how agile and ambiguous the startup field is, and how this environment can impact their children. It is not a journey that should be emotionally embarked on alone. Having a strong support system founded in a safe and restful home is a privilege, one that both Mel and Cody admit they are very lucky to have.
“Let them set their own standards of success and happiness,” said Jojo. “Be supportive. In the end, it’s their life.”
“Learn when to give input and when to step back,” said Carlos, who shares a similar sentiment with Jojo. “Be there when they need you, but also give them space to grow and learn from their own decisions.”
“Treat yourselves and the whole process with patience, kindness, and excitement,” said Cody. While it is fine and even beneficial to implement family energy in the workplace, it is important to make sure the whole team is involved, and that everyone benefits from this same energy.
“The startup industry is growing so fast, and it is so exciting to see,” says Mel. “It’s something that should be shared and enjoyed with your support system, and is something everyone can definitely grow from.”