Being a Female Leader in the Philippines while studying at ICS - Joana Lisa DOCA Dungca (Class of 2017)
Students from the Class of 2017 come from many different countries with varied educational and career backgrounds, and it is a great honor to have Doca, the YLP student representative, here to tell her story about joining ICS.
Can you tell us your story about joining ICS?
In 2008, I acquired a bachelor's degree in architecture at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. After working for 5 years at a medium-sized architectural firm as a project architect, I felt the need to learn more to enhance my skills and craft. So I decided in 2013 to pursue a master's degree in architecture at my alma mater. At the same time, I was offered a partnership to establish AMD Architects, an architectural design firm. By having my own business, I was able to set aside time for study while also being involved in extracurricular activities, such as organizing Christian fellowships for young professionals as part of the Generation of Winners (GENWIN) program and actively participating in an architects' professional organization called the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP). From all these activities I learned how to interact and deal with different kinds of people. In all these aspects of my career, I simply started out as someone who enjoyed using her skills to help and serve others, but other people saw me as a leader. The combination of all these things have proven valuable that led me to ICS.
Tell us about your own business, for example, how did you start your business?
AMD Architects started in 2013, founded by three female architects, with the first letters of our surnames forming the A-M-D (Anagaran-Mata-Dungca). The three of us were classmates while taking our undergraduate degrees; we took the licensure exam together and became architects in 2010. What gave us the courage to establish this firm was the construction boom in the Philippines as well as the persistent support of a loyal corporate client who encouraged us to register as a legitimate business and even offered office space in its corporate building. Not being employed by a company was unsettling for some, especially in my family where we had no history of successful entrepreneurs. Forming our own company was risky, but our parents, friends and colleagues gave us the support we needed. Our connections and good reputation built up over our previous projects helped us gain the backing of consulting engineers, contractors and suppliers who aided us in our projects and continue to work with us today. We started small and humble. I remember working and eating lunch under scaffolding while our office took so long to build due to budget limitations. We didn't take any salary until five months later to keep the initial company expenses down. Working together on our own felt like we were doing class projects again as undergraduates, at least until we began to hire undergraduate architectural students as summer interns. Including outsiders into the pack, made us more responsible for the future of the people we hired. Currently, we are a growing family of four partners, an administrative assistant, and five junior architects/designers, along with a network of joint ventures and consulting accountants, construction engineers, and other design trades. So far, we have not done any move to market the company. All our projects have been acquired through referrals and connections. We are currently designing buildings and interiors for hospitals, clinics, schools, restaurants, and entertainment facility projects.
Why did you choose to obtain an MBA degree and why did you choose Japan? What made you decide to come to ICS for your MBA?
To maintain our business, my partners and I must wear the two hats: as project architects and as executive committee members of the company. Architects in the Philippines are well trained to become good architects, but we are not trained to be entrepreneurs. We excel in technical skills but lack business skills. This is the main reason why I became interested in taking an MBA degree. Now, why Japan? Because I wanted to travel to Japan. I have always admired Japan's architecture and culture. For me, it's the country that triumphs in both beauty and success in Asia. In terms of business, I find Japanese companies very loyal, detail-oriented, and focused on high-quality goods and services. I wanted to emulate the same characteristics, so that's why I wanted to learn about business here in Japan. Coming to ICS was not a decision that I made, but rather the result of divine intervention. I was chosen to come to ICS. I learned about ICS through the Young Leaders Program (YLP) scholarship, which my mom's friend referred to her. I decided to take a chance and applied for the scholarship, and now I am here.
How do you think ICS can help you develop yourself and your business?
So far, I have been given a lot of opportunities to mingle and talk with people from various companies through ICS's organized company visits, guest speakers, and collaborations with other schools. These activities are stepping stones for me to learn how I can make our company more competitive and create its own identity within our industry. On the other hand, the intensity of ICS's program is making me even more resilient and helping me to understand myself as a person and as a leader. I also get the chance to learn how to interact with various cultures, since ICS enrolls a wide variety of students from different countries and cultures. This experience is widening my horizon and boosting my confidence in connecting with people.
How would you like to maintain your connections with Japan after graduation?
I have a vision of AMD Architects becoming a bridge between the Philippines and Japan in terms of architectural design. I plan to network continuously to find possible Japanese consultants or partnerships we can work with on projects in the Philippines, and hopefully in Japan as well. Because AMD Architects is trying to specialize in hospital design, collaborations with Japanese architects who design highly advanced hospitals would be helpful for the Philippines. On the other hand, I am trying to find a niche here in Japan where we can provide valuable assistance. It's a two-way learning process. I love Japan and I will make sure that I keep coming back, either for leisure or business reasons. Should ICS ever need my services in anyway, I would be happy to come back and help.
Have you encountered any challenges or struggles as a female entrepreneur?
We conquered the first step by becoming female architects in a male-dominated industry, so handling a business as a woman has been less of a problem. In my line of work where service matters most, people prefer detail-oriented, approachable, and assertive architects to work with. However, I am not stereotyping female architects, or saying that we are better, because male architects may also exhibit the same characteristics or even portray greater strengths. What I am saying is that both men and women can work well in this industry. At this time in the Philippines, whether you are a man or a woman does not matter in gauging whether you can do the job or not. What most people in the Philippines would rather look at are your credentials, connections, experience and, most commonly, your age that equates to years of experience.
I am service-oriented in a way that makes me want to use my skills to help others. I feel a sense of accomplishment when people are happy and satisfied when I help them. I am detailed-oriented and highly collaborative. I always show people how much I enjoy working and how they can enjoy working too. I am also inclusive and empathetic. I am sensitive to people's feelings and do not want people to be left out or be alone. I always try to be strong and resilient to any challenge that may arise. I love a good challenge. I have always believed that I can overcome anything that comes my way, because I have strong faith in God. Yet with all these strengths, I never feel that I'm viewed as a threat by anybody. Every person I talk with and work with responds in a positive way. They said I have this "charm." I just want to do well in any job that I undertake and hope that I never hinder others from doing the same. In fact, I would likely support them, especially if I share the same strong belief in what they are doing.
What do you think of the differences between being a female leader in the Philippines and in Japan?
I realized that Japan may still be in the process of acknowledging women in the business world. All of our classes' guest speakers so far, who are mostly CEOs or department heads of specific companies, have been men. In contrast, the Philippines has been embracing female leaders since the latter part of the 20th century. Filipinas have already proven to the nation that they are superwomen who can do anything as well as any Filipino can. Filipina women have voices and are heard. A lot of women have been given rights and opportunities, or rely on their own capabilities, to become industry leaders in the Philippines.