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Voices@Athena--Neil Albania 

"I am not the most intelligent, but I am resourceful, friendly, confident, and very active on community events that really helped me to reach where I am now today."

Neil Albania
Program Manager
Meet Ventures
Philippines

MBA – General Management Batch 2021

 

 My friend became my boss                    


“We don’t meet people by accident. They’re meant to cross our path for a reason.” ― Kathryn Perez

I am Neil, and this is the story of how my friend became my boss.

I come from a family of farmers. My parents plant flowers and vegetables not for business but for livelihood. I remember that we had a monthly income of $6 (~Php 300). It was tough and that fueled my determination to study and do well. I am not the most intelligent, but I am resourceful, friendly, confident, and very active in community events that really helped me to reach where I am today.

I graduated from secondary school way back in 2010. I was not able to go to college right away since we were poor. After I graduated from secondary school in the summer of March 2010, I was just at home helping my parents work on the farm. I noticed that our $6 monthly income was  barely enough to sustain us due to the increasing price of daily necessities.All of a sudden, there came an opportunity from a friend that her aunt was looking for a helper. So I decided to work as a helper to an old lady, but it only lasted for 6 months.

In 2011, I was appointed by one of our councilors to join  a non-government organization whose goal was to educate men, women, and children about violence against women and children. They taught us about laws regarding violence against women and children and later, I became the president of the youth organization in our community where we disseminated our knowledge to community villagers.

Then came a field project from our NGO where I had to assist college students from Singapore with their month-long community outreach program. I served as the translator (English to Bisaya) between them and the community. The head of that program was John Lim. During the month assisting them, we became friends and kept in touch through Facebook when their outreach program ended.

One day, my mentor from the NGO approached me and told me that one of their partner NGOs was offering a 3-year scholarship program to underprivileged youth having a monthly income below $60, and who was also willing to relocate to study Information Technology. I broke down with excitement since I came from a family of farmers, and I didn’t  know anything about computers. My mentor advised me to think about it before deciding. Nights passed and I kept thinking about it. I reflected on what my life would be if I took  up this opportunity. So, I decided to give it a try.

The scholarship process was difficult, starting with an entrance exam on logic. Since you know the course is IT, and if you pass the exam, you can proceed to the interview stage which  luckily I did. After the interview stage, they would thoroughly check your application and if you pass, they would proceed to the next stage for further validation. Thereafter, they would proceed to your place and check your house and interview you if you truly say that you have a monthly income  below $60.

With over 6,000 applicants, they would only choose 90 best students for the scholarship. In February 2012, they got in touch with me to say that I  had made it to the top 90 students, and I needed to pack my things to relocate to the scholarship center. I was happy that I could make it and sad at the same time as I had to be away from my family for three years to study.

It was not an easy course for me, my classmates were already familiar with the topics and I was still incapable of using the computer. Eventually, I made it through with the help of my classmates and friends that I  had made during the program. I graduated from college in 2015 and bagged my first corporate job as Software Quality Assurance Engineer from where I spent my internship.

I worked at my first corporate job for three years and seven months before realizing that it was no longer healthy for me working from 7am to 9pm without overtime pay so I decided to apply to another job that landed me with better compensation, better benefits, and I found the work and life balance I was looking for.

Despite better compensation, benefits and the work and life balance, I hit a wall where I found myself no longer growing intellectually and professionally. One day, John Lim, my friend whom I had met on their community outreach program, asked me, “How are you, Neil?” and I told him “I am not okay, kuya” (kuya means elder brother in Bisaya). I told him everything, why I was not okay, then he suddenly said, “I am looking for someone to work on my business, are you interested?”. John has always been there every time I needed someone to talk to. He had helped me a lot and he even went out of his way to help me. So, without any second thoughts, I said yes to his offer to work with him.

Now I am working with Meet Ventures as Program Manager and John, who was my friend, became my boss.

P.S. I still call him kuya at work 🤣
 

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