How this millennial became a PLDT trade marketing head at 26

An earlier version of this story first appeared on Kalibrr. Visit this page for more on the ups and downs of navigating your career.

According to Marc Roxas' LinkedIn profile, he has been Category Head - Data Solutions, SME Marketing for PLDT since November 2015. At the time of publishing, Marc is 27 years old. The story below is about how he became trade marketing head at 26. He held the position from 2013 to 2015. 

While majority of fresh grads will naturally struggle at the beginning of their careers, some people pull ahead of the crowd and start succeeding early in their careers.

So how do you go from inexperienced fresh grad to whip-smart, seasoned yuppie? Kalibrr talked to Marc Roxas, a 26-year-old Trade Marketing Head at PLDT SME Nation, which covers PLDT, Sun, and SMART fixed and wireless businesses. He is responsible for educating his sales teams of the nitty-gritty technical specifications of over 80 products, and for boosting the teams’ productivity through marketing programs. Marc directly manages a team of 6 and oversees the work of 300 to 500 sales people. 

Not too shabby for someone who just graduated a few years ago. Here’s how he did it.

Finding a way into the field

Many graduates struggle with the realization that their degrees turn out to be unrelated to their dream jobs. Marc has always wanted to do something related to marketing and technology but graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in AB Economics.

He admits that economics is a little far from his intended career. Though he enjoyed economics, it didn’t make his marketing dreams fade. He couldn’t stop thinking about working in marketing. He would ask himself, “How do I go back to marketing?” 

It can be tempting to just stick with what you studied but instead Marc got into his desired field out of sheer determination. “I forced myself into marketing,” Marc recounts. Even if internships weren’t required for his program, he took up a marketing internship with PLDT to get some hands-on experience. 

As a product marketing intern for a newly formed group in PLDT, he had more freedom to go beyond small and menial tasks. He was immersed in real corporate work and was allowed to handle projects that are more complex than what a regular intern might handle.

“The reason I’m here today is because every opportunity that was given to me, I really took it upon myself to make it happen.” His outstanding performance as an intern led to a full-time job in product marketing. PLDT gave him many opportunities across 3 different product categories, all of which helped him grow as a marketing professional.

Using economics for marketing

It can be challenging to pull off a shift from one field of study to another. Although Marc didn’t major in anything directly related to marketing, he credits his economics class as a key factor for his success in the field. Two of the most important lessons he learned in economics class have been crucial in pulling off his transition to marketing and has helped him stand out at work.

First, he learned that economists must not be burdened by numbers, and instead use math as a tool to make sense of the world around them. Second, he applied the Atenean principle of going “down from the hill” to his lessons in economics, meaning he should be able to explain the complex principles of economics so a person unversed in the subject can understand it.

Applying these principles to marketing helped Marc become a valuable member not only to his sales teams but also to his bosses. He explains, “Behind marketing’s creativity and gimmicks are numbers and stats and that’s where economics comes in.” He had a knack for explaining the story behind the stats and figures in a way that made it easier for top management to understand.

The technical aspects of the products he handles can be difficult to understand so he makes it a point to explain them in a way that’s easy enough to comprehend, which has helped him successfully push those products.

The secret sauce

Marc makes it look like landing his position in PLDT is easy as pie, but it took a lot of hard work and fierce competition to get there. He still had to hustle to get a good grasp of his responsibilities and get the job done.

Marc credits his grit and passion for the job for landing him the position of Trade Marketing Head. “A lot of people are look for an 8 to 5 thing. Marketing isn’t an eight to five thing. I really invested a lot of time building rapport with my sales teams and customers.”

Eager to prove himself, Marc proactively took on the difficult task of pushing a particular product that was struggling to sell. On top of juggling his regular work load, he did the extra leg work to sell a seemingly unsellable product. All of the hard work paid off when his superiors took notice of his performance. He credits his “secret sauce” in successfully selling the product for this promotion to Trade Marketing Head, where he is tasked to replicate the same formula and success. 

Not one to be daunted by a challenge, Marc also had to compete with older co-workers in a high stakes, competitive environment to land the position but many of them gave up. He admits that one of the biggest challenges he has faced at work is working with and managing older co-workers. “When you’re in a role where you’re at the same level as the older guys or leading people who are older than [you], how can [you] get them all to work together and get them to listen?”

Despite his youth, he is able to work peacefully and productively with his co-workers whatever their age may be. Marc shares that what helped him overcome his challenges was to ask for help and advice from a mentor. “No one will teach you what to do so I asked for guidance. I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for guidance.” 

The difference that openness makes 

When asked what sets him apart from anyone else he competed with, Marc singles out his openness to taking on new career challenges. “Other people were competent and hard-working but they considered new responsibilities as additional work,” said.

It’s not just about taking every opportunity given to you; it’s about working for those opportunities too. “For some kasi, when they’re given opportunities, they think of it as extra work load. Yeah, it’s going to be tough and take a lot of time, but the problem is we forget about delayed gratification. We have to put in the work to get there.” 

For some people, it is understandably difficult to put in the hard work when you’re not really motivated to do well. Marc suggests finding happiness in the work that you do otherwise there’s no point in pursuing it as a path: “It has to be an art to you. If you’re not happy, why do all of these things?” Another tactic he uses when he’s faced with seemingly insurmountable tasks is to ask himself, “What’s the good in all of this? How am I going to have fun doing all of this?”

Putting all the hard work to advance a career at a young age can take a toll on anyone. But one thing that has helped him cope with adjusting to a young professional’s life is to shrug off the pressure of achieving the perfect balance between work and play.

Marc doesn’t believe in striking a perfect work-life balance and instead says there’s only prioritization of responsibilities.  This way of thinking has helped him manage the gap between work and play and takes “strategic down times” so that he has opportunities to enjoy his free time.

On to the future 

Marc admits that the road to career success is paved with many sacrifices. His advice to those who are also looking for early career success? Focus on your goal. He says, “The moment you think of something else, you might get side tracked. If I focus on making money, I’ll get sidetracked from focusing on my career and be tempted to chase after money.”

For someone who has done a lot at a young age, what comes next? Marc is planning on taking up an MBA a few years down the road while juggling his work for PLDT. But he’s not rushing into it just yet. With so many accomplishments under his belt already, it’s only a matter of time before he conquers all of his dreams. Already looking ahead to the future, Marc confidently says, “I already know what I want to be. I just need to figure out how to get there.” –

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