You can never truly predict the opportunities of the future, but you best be prepared to catch them.
We’re back with another recap of CHiNOY TV’s Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart. In the series’ penultimate episode, Dr. Donald Lim recounts his experiences as one of the pioneer figures in the Philippine digital marketing industry. From learning how to cook burgers and manning the cashier register at Burger King to becoming the 24-year-old CEO of internet marketing service Yehey Corporation, Lim reveals the hows and whys of seizing digital opportunities and advertising business in a modern society.
Discovering curveball opportunities
Udenna Corporation’s chief innovation officer Dr. Donald Lim first entered the workforce with humble beginnings, during the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Although there were assumptions that being a business management graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University was supposed to afford him more employment opportunities, Lim initially spent some months wading through the waters before eventually landing an operations job at Burger King.
“[At the time,] I said I would like to take on a marketing role, but the president said, ‘No, you can’t. You have to start in operations. You have to understand how the restaurant is being run before you can really do marketing,’” shared Lim. “That was a very good experience. Because even up to now, I have always been very adamant that all my marketing people who are now training under me have to undergo operations experience. You cannot execute [and], you cannot strategize if you have never been on the ground.”
While working, Lim decided to take up his MBA, entering an offshore program at Murdoch University. It was during that time that he was able to befriend his seatmate Rene Reinoso, the then senior vice president of marketing of The Inquirer.
Reinoso, seeing potential in Lim, offered him an opportunity, saying: “I don’t know what will happen to your career, but if you want something more stable, why don’t you join me here at the Inquirer?”
From then on, Lim’s marketing career began its ascent. During his four-year stint at The Inquirer, Lim established connections and learned marketing techniques that would eventually lead him to take on the CEO role of Yehey Corporation.
“That was my jump into digital [marketing],” said Lim. “We were like prophets in the desert. We were preaching that everyone should go digital. But no one would listen. They knew that it was important, but they would say that it’s not a priority.”
Ultimately, however, Lim remained in the right. More than a decade later, an entirely different landscape for businesses operating during the modern age has revealed itself. His efforts, which involved gathering the industry’s digital players and starting up organizations like the Internet and Mobile Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), eventually paved the way for the country’s now thriving digital economy.
Since then, Lim has been recognized by various awarding bodies and was even conferred the title of being the Philippines’ Father of Digital Marketing.
Looking back at the long and winding road of his career, Lim said, “Life has a way of throwing curveballs to you and you just take it as it is. What is more important is that day in and day out, you try to give your best in everything that you do.”
Recognizing the value of responsibility
Despite his numerous achievements and awards, Dr. Donald Lim admits that he is still looking toward the future of his work and career.
“10 years ago, I was very much blinded by [the idea] that I need to win this award. Then [I] began to realize, after winning so many awards in my 30s, what do these awards mean? They’re sitting on my shelf, but what do they mean? And you realize — pardon the cliche — that with great power comes great responsibility. I’m not saying I have great powers, but the network and access that I have, I realize that I can put them to better use,” said Lim.
Lim continued: “Some people know very early on what they want in life — their mission and purpose in life. For me, I’m not sure. I try to make sure that, [while] wearing my corporate hat, I will continue to give my best to the company I serve, to the organizations that I am connected with. I am there, hopefully, to affect change: what they’re trying to espouse and what they’re trying to transform. In their own way, [that’s the] Philippine ecosystem.”
On a more personal note, Lim also shares that he wants to pass on these values of responsibility and perseverance to his children. “I think the world is different, but there are certain principles and values that I want [my children] to take on.”
“[There’s the] principle of living a humble life. We can buy a lot of things that they want, but we’re very choosy with what we give. If they want something, we would always say that you have to earn it. We always tell them to be frugal. I’m proud of my kids because they don’t ask much. They know, also, that happiness in life is not from all the material things.”
“We teach them how to save,” Lim explained. “We teach them how to appreciate life by the experiences rather than by what they have or what they could buy.”
At the end of the day, Lim values a life molded by meaningful experiences. Whether that involves developing the digital marketing landscape to what it is today or teaching his children to work hard for their own goals, Lim continues to pursue opportunities that go beyond defining the modern Chinoy identity — they now shape the new norm.
Catch the next episode of Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart on Sunday at 8 PM, airing on CNN Philippines.