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Empower Seminar Series 3: EMPOWER Women@Work ~ Anchor On Your Core Values, Purpose & Principles!

By Elaine Cercado

That was Nina Aguas’ big advice during the Professional Talks Series 3: EMPOWER Women@Work event held last 28th of January at 7107 Flavours.

Nina, a highly successful business & banking leader, identified honesty, hard work and ownership, humility and generosity as most important, and considered herself anchored on her Catholic faith and on her Filipino-provincial values. Nina also regarded herself a dreamer, and she said, “If you really believe in your dream, nature conspires to fulfill it.” Armed with this  strong belief in her dream, Nina rose above her humble beginnings to become one of the top women business leaders in retail and private banking.

She has successfully managed global, regional and country level businesses and operations in large global companies across developed and emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and the US. Yet above all Nina credited her innate authenticity, positivity and energy as blessings that helped her managed such large-scale businesses. Throughout the event, Nina often referred to listening to the “language of the heart.” She said, “When you have a heavy heart, you can’t get to work.” She believed in not compromising core values, and in attaining inner peace, even if that would mean saying ‘goodbye’ to a job/company.


“Where do I as an individual fit into global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally?” (Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat)

Nina’s concise advices: Speak up! Raise your hand! Expand your network! Sadly, not speaking up is sometimes seen as incompetence. Nina said. Our four other distinguished panelists also gave the following practical tips:

  • Communicate well! Listen, pause then comment (don’t react too fast). Empathize.
  • Be personal! Touch the human heart. Show you are a finely Filipino☺! Make a difference!
  • Excel! Focus on your core competencies. Find your passion and shine through. Synergize-understand what others in your team can deliver and contribute your best to achieve team goals.


“To endure, you need to continuously adapt, improve or change rapidly. You also need to communicate clearly and consistently – upward, sideward, downward. Maximize every challenge and opportunity to develop and prepare your self for bigger roles and responsibilities.” (Elaine Cercado’s Power Notes/Blog, 2008)

Nina pointed out the reality that achieving success in today’s turbulent world is very challenging. When asked how could one be secure at work, Nina’s answer was “no one is secure.” One could and should learn to ride through the times. A case in point – there are more men than women in the boardroom, and for the same top executive position, women are paid lower than men. Her words of wisdom: Just keep going! Fight it out! Live your life through your eyes! Project self-confidence! If there’s one advantage women has, it’s charm! Our other distinguished panelists shared very wise advices:

  • Understand yourself – your values and priorities. Learn to say “not now.”
  • Know what you know and what you don’t know. Ask help. Don’t pretend. Don’t be afraid to “fail forward.”
  • Prepare for every occasion. Singaporeans are known to be thinkers, want data/facts, and have the kiasu and kiasi mentality.


“Values should be anchored in principles so that your life will have a changeless core and inner source of security, guidance, wisdom and power.” (Stephen Covey)

Nina’s key question was “What matters most?” She said that no one should be so worried about money that one couldn’t walk away from it. Throughout the talk, Nina kept saying, “Listen to your heart!” – an indication that the answer to ‘what matters most’ could be found somewhere there. Other values considered important by our panelists were: integrity, passion, excellence, being engaged, integrity, honesty, respect, and humility. They all agreed such ‘old-fashioned’ values were non-negotiable.


“As we work hard, we should make sure that your efforts do not got to waste. At the same time, we should define our priorities and decide what will make us happy. If we thoughtfully reflect, happiness may be simple and being financially sound just becomes the icing on the cake.” (Roland Pagdanganan on Money Management, F Magazine, 2011)

All the panelists, including Nina, shared the same advice: Live within your means. Don’t spend more than you earn! More specific advices included:

  • Use credit wisely
  • Look at your investments. “Don’t go into instruments you don’t understand.” (W. Buffet)
  • If you are helping out family members / relatives – make recipients accountable (so they would value the money)
  • Say no to vices (gambling included)
  • S.I.S.S. (save, invest, share, spend – in that order)


“The quality of your life will be in direct proportion to the types of relationships you choose to build.” (Mick Ukleja, author)

Indeed, this was one of the most interesting parts of the event – as Nina has put it, “The heart (love) is a global language.” Nina’s advices about building and sustaining relationships: Don’t substitute human interaction with Facebook and twitter! Understand the impact of smile and thank you! Follow the golden rule (treat others how you want to be treated)! Nina’s advices to those looking for love: Let love find you. To put it romantically, “Life is living – for someone who lives because of you.” For love to find you, you must present yourself as “lovable.” Here are some tips from our panelists on how to be lovable:

  • Be a good listener! Don’t go into solution mode! Don’t be preachy!
  • Stay pretty! Be confident! When asked what they considered as critical success factors in relationships, the panel enumerated: time, honesty, communication, reliability, grace, respect, sincerity, reaching out, and giving attention.

Each woman who attended the event had her “tapau” (takeaway package) – be it about career or personal development, financial or relationship management. But what is essential to all aspects is the anchor. Find your anchors –your core values, purpose and principles – and be firm with them. Once you are firmly anchored, you are strongly empowered!

Participants of the EMPOWER Seminar, Workshop, Panel

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