What Being a Filipina Means to Me? Being Smart, Focused and Speaking My Mind - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because you have the power to change people’s expectations of who you should be.

By Sisy Vicente

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Growing up in the Philippines, I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamt of going to America. I was happy in Manila. It’s where my family was based, and it’s where I thought I would always live. That is, until an incredible opportunity came my way.

While I worked as a Marketing Director at Johnson & Johnson’s Manila headquarters, I was chosen to complete an 18-month training course in the United States. When I completed this program, I was offered the role of Global Group Product Director for the children’s franchise of Johnson & Johnson in the U.S. Honestly, I was hesitant to say yes. I had never worked outside of Manila, and I didn’t know what a life in America would entail.

But my manager at that time reminded me that globalization was making the world smaller and that the possibilities ahead of me were endless. Upon his advice, I took a leap of faith and moved to the United States. My new job also meant a new home for my family, who moved with me.

I am a quick learner. I ground myself on facts, speak my mind and make rational decisions based on those facts. 

Working in the U.S. was a revelation. I learned a lot about what people expected of me and needed to change the unconscious bias that people had of Filipinas. As a Filipina, I was expected to be meek, mild and not understand the U.S. market that well. These things were not true of me. I am a quick learner. I ground myself on facts, speak my mind and make rational decisions based on those facts. I quickly realized that to counter these perceptions, I needed to know every task that was assigned to me backward and forward so I could demonstrate I knew what I was talking about. At the end of the day, you need to think about where the puck is going and skate there, to borrow a Wayne Gretzky saying.


Eventually, my colleagues recognized I had a lot to offer. After 20 years at Johnson & Johnson, another great opportunity opened up for me at JPMorgan Chase. Despite not having any financial services expertise, I jumped at the chance to work with another wonderful company and learn a new industry. Today, I have more responsibility than ever as JPMorgan Chase’s Head of Market Research and Business Development.

Over the years, I have learned to lean on my own communities for growth. I have found a sense of community through involvement in JPMorgan Chase’s incredible groups and resources – some of which are specifically dedicated to fostering leadership and development opportunities for employees of Asian and Pacific Heritage. We understand each other’s challenges and are a great source of support.

Being a Filipina is part of who I am.  It’s part of my story. I am also more than who I was. I am a culmination of my roots and my new adoptive home and environment, which has helped me become a better person.

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