10 Things We Learned At Unilever Business Week 2016


6. Work doesn’t have to feel like work.

B: A usual day for us entailed waking up and having breakfast by 6:30am, before a whole day’s worth of talks/activities/challenges/presentations starting at 8am, after which we were usually dismissed at around 9pm, before breaking out into the war room with our groups to work for tomorrow’s presentation until around 2am.

In literally any other scenario, that would be pure hell. But because it was Business Week, it was amazing and so worth it.

I actually remember talking to some people from the HR team during the party on the last night, and I said “Is this what Unilever feels like? Staying up super late to work on projects, but not feeling it because it’s just so much fun??”

My groupmates were amazing. So warm and so funny, but also so dependable. We got so much done, but we had so much fun while we were at it. We were working hard throughout the week, but it didn’t feel like work.

My benchmark for whether I really am passionate about a project is whether I’ll feel bitter losing sleep to do it. In Business Week I literally lost so much sleep, but I hardly felt it because I woke up every morning so energized and so ready to just have fun.

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One of the many tasks that kept us up at night.

J: I totally agree with Betina on the benchmark part. Sleep is the greatest way to measure how much you love something, and I loved Business Week enough to sleep for 5 hours a night. And that’s saying a lot since I sleep 8 hours regularly, even when there’s tons of group works to do. I don’t stay up late for anyone or anything. So staying up to work means I truly love something, which is important in the coming years since that work might be what I’m doing for the rest of my life.

When you think of work as something that drags you to the pits of hell and Friday as the journey back to regular life, then of course work is going to feel like the worse thing on Earth. But if you like what you’re doing, life gets easier in an instant.

One of our Business Week coaches, who has been with Uni since his Business Week days, told us that some of his best friends are there at work. He doesn’t mind staying until 1am in the office because the company (his friends at Uni, not Uni itself) he keeps is amazing. The support system they have in place is beyond enviable. They go abroad together!! That’s goals for me, guys. Going abroad with the people who know you best because you spend 8 hours upwards everyday together is up there on the #lifegoals list.

Can’t stress this enough to everyone reading, but find work you’re passionate about! Do things that excite you, that push you to be a better person, that make you go “why meeeeeee” before you go to bed but when you wake up you go “time to get to work!” Find a job that lets you marry your passion, your vocation, and your skills. Those are 3 very different things that take most people years to figure out. Start now.

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Dennis Perez, program director, host, and wonderful coach to BW2016


7. The best ideas come when you don’t over-think.

B: As an over-thinker, this one was really hard to pick up.

My group was probably dead-last on the first day of challenges. But we resolved to go to the war-room that night and just work for however long it would take for us to come up with a brilliant idea.

By 1am, we were just a bunch of scatter-brained idiots. But our breakthrough idea came out when we were being random and cracking jokes and making ridiculous puns. We ended up winning back-to-back the Customer Development (Sales) and Advertising challenges the next day. I will never forget how good that felt and how much fun we had getting to that magical breakthrough moment.

Another aspect of overthinking is overcomplicating. We already had a winning idea, but refining it sometimes made our plans way way way more complicated than it needed to be. That was the #1 feedback we kept on getting during the first days: The most brilliant ideas are simple. Truly brilliant ideas don’t need to be extrapolated to death.

J: Throughout the competition, my group was middle of the pack. We had a great dynamic that resulted in so-so work because we always decided on the most conventional route. The focus was on winning and it was making us lose.

We stopped thinking about winning. We “gave up” on trying our best to be first place. All we wanted was to put on a great show. And we ended up doing just that.

Our winning idea (my group was overall 2nd place out of the 5 groups cumulative of all challenges + the final presentation, which is winning to me) came about because we were joking around about what our mothers wanted the most. We were talking about face masks and Snapchat selfies and somehow we ended up with our idea of a face mask hybrid band aid that can heat, cool, or vibrate depending on your app usage. After that, Pond’s Stars was up and running at the speed of light towards victory!

The best ideas came out when we were being idiots together. We were dancing on chairs at midnight and that’s how we got our idea of doing an interpretive dance detailing the plight of the modern mom for the commercial portion of our final presentation. We were talking about all the moms at Unilever are super #lifegoals and we ended up adding on an ad campaign using our #hashtags. I don’t think these are the kinds of ideas you stumble upon right away at a normal round table discussion. These are the kind that come about when you’re comfortable in sharing your thoughts and opinions in a safe, supportive environment.

And I remember thinking, “This is what it’s like to work at Unilever.”

This was before the dancing happened. The timestamp says this was at 12:38am.

After Business Week, I noticed more often that the ideas in group projects that got praise were stupid ideas we threw out during group meetings. You refine the initially stupid ideas, and they have the potential to be groundbreaking ones. Think about it. 5 years ago, would you have seriously thought about using mobile internet and an app on a phone with 120M times the processing power of the Apollo Space Shuttle to call a private car to come pick you up anytime anywhere??


8. To-do lists make the world go round.

J: This is more of Betina’s thing than mine, I believe in to-do lists to keep me on track but she can explain better why this makes the world go round. I’m more of a “this guides my day but I don’t have to finish everything on this list to make room for flexible arrangements in my sched” girl.

B: The night before our final presentation, we walked into our war room at around 9pm with no expectations of sleep cause we still had so much work to do! I wrote down all the components of the presentation, all the deliverables, everything that needed to be decided on a whiteboard. We broke down all the big tasks into smaller tasks and then assigned tasks to different people/pairs.

Many of the other groups really did not sleep at all that night (as in I went down to the war rooms at 8:30am and I ran into a lot of people from the other groups still in their pajamas) but I’m really proud of the fact that my group was mostly done by 2am! (I realize how insane that sentence is, but Unilever has this funny way of distorting your sense of time.) Thank god for my OC-ness and my 30-item to-do lists because that really kept my group on track and focused.

The recipients of Betina’s to-do list madness, Wiknorrs!

During the last day, we wrote letters to our other groupmates, and I’m super proud of the fact that 11 different people (groupmates + team mentors + managers) mentioned how much they appreciated my drive to get shit done (Unilever calls it ‘bias for action’) and 4 people specifically mentioned by To-Do lists HAHAHA.

I have this habit of pestering my groupmates into submitting stuff on time and getting 9 people to agree to any one idea is really tough. I’m usually that annoying person in the group who everybody ends up seen-zoning, but seeing how it was genuinely appreciated was so so fulfilling and really made me value being super organized even more!  

J: I … can personally attest to everything she just said. My roommate was her groupmate so when I went to bed at 4am, Christine was just waiting for me to come up too. She waited for 2 hours. I felt horrible and jealous simultaneously because, hello, 2 HOURS OF EXTRA SLEEP. We ended up chatting a little before I fell asleep and she commented on Betina’s to-do lists and post-its as the reason she came up first. God Bless those insane lists she makes.


9. You don’t have to settle with whatever label people give you.

B: During our second day of Business Week, we tackled Customer Development (Sales) and Marketing – which happen to be 2 of the functions where I shine most in. My group won those challenges back-to-back. My boss in HR talked to me later on that night, when a bunch of us were hanging out in the veranda, and he asked me “Are you having second thoughts about HR? Cause I saw your presentation and you look like you’d have fun in brand [marketing].”

I lament a lot about how I thought marketing was my one true calling and it turns out it wasn’t, but maybe I gave up a little too fast. Right now, I’m sticking with HR, but if the opportunity ever comes up, I’d love to get to work on the marketing side again.

One of my favorite things about the program is that we got to do cross-functional challenges. I was the HR person in the group, but I got to be an equal contributor on the challenges that were waaaayyyy out of my function (eg.Finance and Sales). Even though I’m great at HR, I realized that I really really enjoy Marketing and Sales as well.   

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The whole Business Week 2016 team, participants + projects managers! The color of our ID lace means what function we’re in!

J: I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I also thought marketing was my end goal, and it turns out I was dead wrong. I love learning about marketing, but in practice it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever encountered. It’s fun, it’s glitzy, it’s glamorous. And it’s for people who can make razor sharp insights on consumer behavior aka not me.

I jump around between Sales and Tech a lot. Sales is my love since high school; I can sell anything, including people. I can honestly say I’m great at sales. My friends who went around career fair with me all have internships now because I talked them up in front of the recruiters. It was lovely to stretch out my pitching skills while helping my friends out.

But Tech, which has a different name in every company but you’ll know it when you see it, is the place to be. It’s groundbreaking. It’s exciting. And I know I have the extremely good fortune of knowing the latest happenings in Tech since my course is the marriage of business, communications, marketing, and technology. Plus, I’m dating the number 1 collegiate level programmer in the PH, and number 9 in S.E. Asia. So,at first glance, my circumstances and my preferences are telling me to go in 2 separate directions.

Today though, multinational corporations, or MNC’s are creating cross-functional teams, that encapsulate 2 or more different departments on a project. We got a taste of it at Business Week, like Betina said. This is the best news on Earth to me. I’m coming of age at a time when corporations are adapting to the needs of the younger workforce.

I don’t have to give up Sales or Tech. I can work on both. And things are going to get even better in the coming years. So, don’t let yourself be labeled. Work outside of your comfort zone. Just make sure you’re interested in it.


10. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

B: I don’t have a lot of regrets about Business Week but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that I wasn’t very hands-on during the Finance module (cause I suck at math, accounting, and finance in general) and there was one particular time where I felt like I should speak up, but I didn’t cause I know full well that’s not my area of expertise, and it turns out that what I was thinking was right!

I was so scared of possibly messing up in a function that I wasn’t comfortable in, that I let my fear override my instinct. In hindsight I really should have said something and then trusted in the ultimate decision of those who know better (aka the Accountancy students in my group), but at least I know that I spoke up and did what I could!

J: I faced the same thing during the Finance module too, since I felt I could give the least valuable input. (But it was totally OK because my group won that challenge.) What I did throughout the challenge was to play my strength of having a loud, irritating voice.

I was telling everyone how much time was left. I intervened when it was time to make a decision and everyone was shouting their arguments out. My role was roughly to say “shut up for 2 seconds, and decide by vote already” at the 30 second mark.

The converse of this learning is to know when and how to speak up. There’s a way of feeling out the situation to see if it merits pointing out stuff the experts may have overlooked or purposefully ignored. I just don’t know how to put that feeling or how to use it into words.  It’s a trial and error kind of skill that you pick up on your own time.

B: Same. I knew I was pretty much useless during the Finance module, (when the module host, Jeggy, asked me for my thoughts afterwards my exact reply was: “I have never been more confident in my future in Human Resources”) but I did what I could to aid my team. I arranged all the information and synthesized the cards that we got so that the teammates of mine who did know what they were doing (aka the accounting majors), could make a decision faster.  

You do what you can within your capabilities and speak up if you must, then sit back and trust your teammates to do the rest.

Justine: And that’s it for our 10 Things We Learned at Business Week 2016! Apologies again, dear readers, that we haven’t been updating as regularly as before. But that’s what happens when life throws curve balls. 😉

Like we said in Real Talk with Toni Garcia, someone asked us a bunch of standard interview questions in our ask.fm and we will be answering them in the coming days here on the blog, so don’t forget to check that out. Plus, we’ve got some exciting news in store about a partnership that we just can’t divulge yet, but rest assured that the moment the ink is dry, we’ll gladly share the good news with all of you!

On June 1, both Betina and I will be going back to work, her to Unilever and I to Philip Morris, for summer internship season! Tell us where you’re interning too, and you could get featured here on The Border Collective as well!

Any other questions you guys got, just drop them into our ask.fm or Google Form here.

If you’re already going into the interview stage for your summer internship, and can’t wait for our answers, we’ve also written previously how to ace your next phone interview, things to keep in mind during an interview, and about a failproof pre-interview routine here on TBC as well!

If you have anything you want to ask us personally or to comment on, email us at either justine@thebordercollective.com or betina@thebordercollective.com! For partnerships and business deals, email us at admin@thebordercollective.com!

If you want to show us your support, want to help out your friends be more competitive, or just have nothing to do, like The Border Collective on FB and invite your entire friends list to like our page too! This online show of support helps us gauge if what we’re doing is actually useful and should be continued since we could be doing other things with our time! Like, working at a new internship or studying to boost our GPA’s.

Thanks for reading and hope we answered something useful for you! 🙂


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