Mirla de Leon believes that her participation in the Swedish Institute’s Management Programme was one of the most significant things she has done in her leadership role. She is the General Manager at Philippine Hydro, Inc. the Subsidiary of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. which supplies bulk water to five municipalities and 1 city outside Metro Manila.
The programme opened her eyes to the scope and possibilities of sustainable business practices, far beyond her expectations.
Initially thinking the programme would focus on just the environment, she was pleasantly surprised that sustainability encompasses many different aspects she hadn’t thought of before. Instead of a traditional leadership programme focusing on the theoretical aspects of leadership, she ended up finding something that was much more thought-provoking and practical – so much so that she ended up examining in-depth her own values and how they influence her everyday work.
For Mirla, it was an awakening experience; one she wants to pass on to her colleagues. Based on what she learned, she is now creating a values examination module for her team, so that they can develop greater awareness of their personal and professional values and how they can use them when deciding on what to do for the company.
With many Filipinos needing to focus on their day-to-day lives, sustainability is rarely a priority. Mirla learned how to improve the company’s communication about sustainability initiatives and how to use Swedish examples to more effectively convey messages to stakeholders and lead discussions about sustainability.
While the European experience was extremely valuable in the programme sessions, sometimes translating this knowledge to an Asian context wasn’t easy. Mirla, however, found that because the programme included participants from all over Asia, their perspectives and insights proved extremely valuable, allowing her to adapt the Swedish data for her home country.
Mirla said that group sessions were so engaging that they often ran out of time while sharing experiences.
-It is not just the lecturers giving you lessons, but also other participants with whom you get to talk to during the breakout sessions that will give valuable lessons and advice on how you could apply their insights in your day-to-day work and take into account cultural differences.
While physical meetings and discussions were not possible during the COVID-19 crisis, for Mirla it was highly convenient as she did not have to take a leave from work to attend.
-Other alumni said that ‘Oh, you missed the opportunity to go to Sweden! I thought, okay, maybe it’s not our time to be in Sweden, but it’s our time to learn from Sweden. The takeaway that you get are what’s important, as you can always go to any country if you have the resources, but you cannot always learn the things that they have learned.
Mirla has never been a person to dream, but after participating, she does find herself dreaming that one day her company could become an influencer for local governments and other relevant groups on environmental issues; to become a real force at the forefront of environmental concerns and in rebuilding the environment – because there won’t be a substitute for clean water.