Wednesday, March 14, 2007

31. Day one In Unilever

It was towards the end of the first week of January, on a Monday, that I drove my tiny Italian job, a Fiat 600, a small excuse for a car that was even smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle, to my new appointment in Philippine Refining Company. At the parking lot I asked the security guard if I could park in any of the vacant spaces at the yard fronting the main building. Eager to start I was quite early in coming and there were still a lot of empty parking spaces. I knew that in companies like PRC parking spaces were reserved for the company biggies and I didn’t want to get into scrapes no matter how trivial on my first day. The guard pointed out, rather harshly, a space where I could park. I was to find out later that his name was Sgt. Marcelo and was the head of the security guards in the company. He was a gaunt faced elderly man with a wiry frame, bow-legged and with a comic looking squared moustache that partly hid a jutting solitary front tooth. Being used to the bigger cars of the PRC managers the tiny little car might have seemed incongruous to him. Still, I was thankful to him for finding a space for me to park.

Vic Ferriols, Ed Roa, Chris Barber-Lomax, Peter Bachelor, Frankie Gonzales,Tony Tolentino, Joe Feliciano, Ray Harrison, Tony Uy & Ato Maningat
My first stop was the Corporate Affairs Directors office where I was given my familiarization program. Rey Alejandro, the Corporate Affairs Director gave a quick overview of the company’s organization and also the range of products in the company’s business portfolio. He apologized for the scantiness of the information he was able to give but he said that the various departments that I will be visiting in the course of my familiarization program would amply fill in the gaps of the cursory briefing he just gave me.
Before being led into my new boss’ office I had to do the obligatory stop at the Marketing Director’s room to say that I am now here and reporting for duty. Chris Barber-Lomax was on his way out and said that he will catch up with me in the afternoon but for now he had to leave for a meeting with the ad agency. I was eager to impress him and was mildly disappointed that I could not talk to him on day one. I would find out later on that he was a demanding taskmaster and it was not easy to get into his favor. In an effort to make a good impression, I remember having bought a book on increasing one’s facility for mental calculations, the Trachtenberg method, because he was one to get impatient during financial discussions. He was quick to snap at brand managers whenever responses lagged, despite their trusty Monroe calculators, to his queries on costs and margins. With this I might have gained an inch towards his looking kindly at me.

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