Would you ever consider giving up a high-paying job and a growing career in a big multinational company for a small Filipino-run startup?
Now think about having to make the same decision during a pandemic. For some people, this may sound absurd or ridiculous. Despite contrary opinions, I gave up a significantly higher paycheck and dozens of benefits from my previous job to join PayMongo in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, I've never been this grateful to God about my career and I'm excited to share my story with you.
I first heard about PayMongo when my friend Jolo and I were trying to set up a podcast for our alumni association. Our first interviewee was Ronna, whom I went to college with under the Management Engineering program of Ateneo de Manila University. When she mentioned that she left her previous job to join the Customer Success team of a startup named PayMongo, I thought to myself, "Wow, who would name their company after a bean?" From out of nowhere, Ronna cheerfully mentioned that their work laptop was the latest Macbook Pro with the touch bar. Now I thought, "Wow, this bean company is quite interesting!"
After that online meeting, I spent days researching about PayMongo. I read articles that popped out of Google, video interviews of the co-founders available on YouTube, and looked into other people who worked at the company through LinkedIn. I found out that Joaqui, who was also my friend back in college, had been working in the company for a few months already. I reached out to him and jumped into a Zoom call with him. Joaqui was one of those people I knew who was really into startups and understood how things operated. But like how he was kind and supportive to PayMongo merchants, he was as patient in explaining startup terms to me. We talked about stock options, Y Combinator, and unicorns.
Unicorns are commonly associated to the rare mystical horse-like creatures. But in the startup world it refers to companies that grow big enough to reach at least a billion dollar valuation. Think about startups who started small decades ago but are now huge like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Similar to where the term was drawn from, startups that survive and reach unicorn status are extremely rare.
I was only 23 years old, but I was somewhat the breadwinner of our family. Both my parents were retired senior citizens, barely making much from their pensions. My brother has a chronic kidney illness that disabled him from taking any form of work. Since I graduated, I took charge of paying for household bills, medical bills, and my nephew's tuition. My first job compensated me generously that I can fund shoulder these and at least save some for my future.
While considering these risks, I still moved to PayMongo. I sent in my resume through Joaqui and got to schedule an interview for an opening in the Growth team. A few days after my interview, Luis, one of the co-founders, sent my job offer via email and within five minutes of receipt, I filed my resignation.
Thankfully, I could still fulfill my financial responsibilities in the family but I had to let go of most of my personal desires — travel, gadgets, and other forms of leisure. I made that decision because my lifelong dreams had evolved from a flourishing career for myself to taking part in empowering Filipino entrepreneurs. I've always wanted to be like Steve Jobs some day, but that changed to making a thousand more Filipino 'Steve Jobs'.
Eight months later, this is how my work looks like. Everyday, the opportunity to solve exciting problems for our company gets me out of bed like an alarm clock. My personal dream is to build the Silicon Valley of the Philippines. And whenever I help our company progress towards its goals, it's also a step towards my dreams.
After a morning jog and about half an hour of prayer and meditation, I dive into my work as if I'm entering a video game. I'm thrilled. What quests will I complete today? Who will I collaborate with to go on a team adventure? I have the autonomy to choose my quests. I never run out of people to either cheer me on or coach me to success. After I finish work, I still get to spend enough time on my other interests — entrepreneurship, investing, and learning to code. And what's cool about it is that I nurture these interests with the same people from work. The lines between my work and my interests were virtually non-existent. Because of that I can find the time to do both and it doesn't feel like work in an exhausting way but rather in a manner that's fulfilling and makes me feel fully alive. It wasn't long enough until I realized I've found my dream job.
When I started at PayMongo, I also wanted to learn software engineering through Avion School. I asked for permission from my manager, Josh, if I could start work at 10am since I had classes from 7-9am. What struck me was how he focused the conversation on my ability to accomplish my work than on my work schedule or how many hours I put in each day.
Avion School allows anyone to become a software engineer in 12 weeks and pay only after they're hired. The co-founder and CEO, Victor, was a previous PayMongo employee whose story is worth looking into. Our PayMongo CEO, Francis, also taught the first batch of students.
I have a workmate who we nicknamed Carebear and she lives up to that name. But I'd say that most of the people I get to work with live up to that moniker, too. When Josh found out that I had problem sleeping he gave me a memory pillow for Christmas. My experience with sleep improved significantly afterwards. It became easier to fall asleep at night and I'd often get at least 8 hours of sleep. However, a few months later, I had some relapse with my sleeping habits and shared it with Luis. He immediately sent over non-habit forming sleep-aids to help me get back on track again.
We operate on a "remote-first" work policy which means for PayMongo employees, working from home is the norm with or without the pandemic. But whenever I would visit the office, I'd always go home packed with a lot of learnings and aspirations for our future. We talk about our crazy startup ideas and our dream to become successful entrepreneurs. The most exciting thing about working for PayMongo is that while we're faced with a lot of uncertainties beyond our control, I'm certain about sharing that journey with the most awesome startup folks.
We have lots of products in our pipeline that would empower more Filipino online businesses. In the coming months, I look forward to being on the frontlines of bringing those products closer to our customers. In the long run, I want to build my own startup or accelerate other startups that leverage the payments infrastructure that PayMongo built.
And by then, I hope to see you around at the heart of Philippines' Silicon Valley, wherever it may be. 🌱
Visit https://jobs.lever.co/paymongo/ for job opportunities and internship programs at PayMongo.