Knowing Mike: Inspiring PhotoUp’s PM Shift to Reach Up High

By Devon Higgins

What differentiates a good leader from an exceptional one? Skills, experience, and finesse at work certainly help, but those are just the toppings of the cake. More importantly, an exceptional leader is one who makes it his personal duty to support, inspire, and motivate everyone on his team. He does his best to help the individuals under his care to reach their personal and professional goals.

Mike, PhotoUp’s PM Shift manager, is one of these exceptional leaders, having a huge heart for his team. Let’s know more about him.

Q: Tell us more about yourself.

A: Hello! I’m Mike. I grew up in Talisay City, Cebu; but during my college years, I moved to Metro Cebu to be conveniently closer to the university I studied in. I took up and completed Advertising Arts in the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus in 2013. A year after I graduated, I joined the PhotoUp family and have been working here ever since.

Q: Can you explain your role at PhotoUp?

A: I’m the shift manager of the PM shift. In a nutshell, I oversee the entire shift operations and ensure that they deliver quality results to our clients.

The simplest way to describe my role is that I am a problem solver. Those problems may be simple technical issues that pop up during the workday, which can be fixed easily. But there are also other concerns that require more effort on my part such as giving extra time and attention to particular editors who are struggling with their work.

I also formulate medium- and long-term solutions to increase efficiency on our shift. This includes tweaking our shift workflow and streamlining our procedures so our operations will be as efficient as possible.

Finally, I provide my team a lot of support so they can improve in their work or reach their personal and professional goals.

Q: What is your leadership style? How do you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I’m the type of leader who makes an effort to find out what fuels the interest of each of my team members. Yes, individually! That’s because everyone has different goals, personalities, and concerns. And these may change over the course of their career.

I strongly believe people work best when they feel that are contributing significantly to an organization’s goal. Figuring out how to align the goals and needs of each individual team member with the goals and needs of PhotoUp and our clients is where my time is best spent.

Q: At which point in your tenure did you realize that a managerial position is for you?

A: To be honest, it took a while. You see, I’m not really a very outgoing person. As far as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed keeping to myself and burying myself in books and films. In fact, I still have doubts on my confidence in doing my role properly. I feel there is still so much for me to learn.

Despite my doubts, there are moments of pride—that indescribable pride in seeing someone you’ve coached and nurtured achieve his or her goals. Pride in seeing someone overcome his or her own weaknesses and fears. Pride in seeing my teams goals being worked on and attained. These are moments that I look forward to having with my team.

Q: What are the challenges that you face as a shift manager?

A: Communicating my own long-term view of the shift to my team and their editors is perhaps my biggest challenge. I always encourage them to look towards a long-term goal and connect that with the idea that what they are doing right now can impact that long-term goal. I’m still working on this, and I hope to be able to spread this idea.

Q: Leading an entire shift is tough. How do you keep your team motivated?

A: Being open and approachable to your team is definitely one act that alleviates stress all around. Ideas, concerns, and feedback can be immediately shared and discussed.

In terms of motivation, one thing that I’ve been doing is to delegate tasks. Delegating gives people a chance to show their capabilities and skills. People feel empowered when they are allowed to make their own decisions (and mistakes). We aim to keep the work environment this way and allow people to find their own way to grow.

Q: Can you tell us about the most difficult situation you experienced as a team? How did you overcome it?

A: The pace of the operations here in the editing floor is quite fast and extremely time-sensitive. People can be in a hurry, sometimes under pressure to meet their quotas especially during peak season. Many times, this can quickly result in a breakdown of communication. This breakdown is the cause of most of the major conflicts we experience.

Rather than give up or whine, we refocus and talk through the issue considering we are one team after all, and our goals are the same.

Q: What are your other interests and hobbies?

A: I’ve always enjoyed photography, and taking great photos is one of the crafts that I feel most fulfilled doing.

I have also been practicing kendo since 2015. Kendo is a Japanese martial art which focuses on self-development using the katana, a traditional Japanese sword. Although there have been kendo clubs in Manila since the 1970’s, it is only recently that Philippine kendo is experiencing a boom with clubs in both the Visayas and in Mindanao.

I am a member of the Cebu Kendo Club. Check us out on Facebook! The 2018 Kendo National Tournament will be hosted by Cebu this October and I extend an invitation to everyone to come and see. Shameless plug. 😉

Q: How does the practice of Kendo help you in becoming a better manager/person?

A: Kendo is physically and psychologically demanding. Your movement in kendo can serve as a mirror that reflects who you are as a person. If you are distracted, fearful, hesitant, arrogant, deceitful, or insincere, this physically manifests in training. It will show on how you stand, how you step, how you approach and attack, or how you react to being attacked.

Every single training session shows you your own flaws, and every single session you strive to overcome them. Every session is always an ego check for me. This idea that there are always things to improve and develop is important to me as manager and as a person.

Q: What are a few of your professional and personal goals?

A: I want to see more leadership roles and leaders rise up from my team. There is a wealth of potential within each member of my team, and I want to see them be able to grow and use that potential to the fullest.

Professionally, I still have a lot to learn about the business, but I am not in a hurry. Each lesson comes along in its own time.

Personally, I want to be a more effective communicator and a more disciplined person. Outside PhotoUp, kendo remains a high personal priority for me. As one of the senior member of the club, I would like to see it grow and have an impact on a national level.

Q: Has your experience working at PhotoUp helped you achieve your professional and personal goals?

A: It has and is still teaching me the importance of discipline and self-control. As someone in a leadership role, I should be a level-headed and calm decision maker. This is carrying over into life outside PhotoUp, and I am forever grateful to those around me who have the patience to put up with me while I work to improve myself.

Q: Any advice to people who want to hold a leadership position?

A: One, patience is key. Two, always approach everything with the mindset of trying to improve, whatever it is you are facing. Finally, don’t wait to be “ready.” Jump at every opportunity that presents itself, then learn along the way. Life is too short to be in a state of perpetual preparation.

Mike is not just a problem solver. He is a coach, a listener, and a friend. He definitely has the qualities of a compassionate, inspiring, exemplary leader. Which is why he is a massive asset to the PhotoUp Team.

Devon

Devon came to PhotoUp with a background in digital marketing and communications. With a BA in Marketing from Michigan State University and previous experience working with both big business and non-profits, Devon brings a well-rounded perspective to the team. Outside of PhotoUp, you can find Devon coaching and playing soccer, socializing in downtown Grand Rapids, or going on adventures throughout the great state of Michigan.

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