Knowing Owen: Taking On the Challenges of the Wee Hours

By Devon Higgins

In general, working on the Graveyard Shift is anything but fun. But here at PhotoUp, you would be surprised that the team that comprises the shift is made up of happy and lively people who never fail to add a dose of fun, music, and laughter.

Owen Beluan, the graveyard shift manager, is the driving force behind these dedicated and creative people. Under his watch, they constantly deliver quality results in the face of an awkward schedule. We had a chance to interview Owen, and here’s what he has to say about his job and his teammates.

Tell us more about who Owen is?

My name is Owen Mordeno Beluan. I hail from Butuan City in Mindanao. I work most effectively with multimedia, design, art, logic, data, statistics, management, planning, and implementation. Critical thinking and creative ideas are thrust at me like meteors from outer space.

Can you explain your role at PhotoUp?

As the shift manager of the Graveyard Shift, I oversee my team’s everyday operations. I ensure that my team delivers top-notch quality service to our clients. Finally, I provide inspiration, motivation, and assistance to ensure the shift’s success and its functioning as a cohesive unit.

Graveyard shift is a physically and mentally draining shift. How do you cope with the exhaustion?

You nailed it! This is true. Being on the Graveyard Shift is, personally, more challenging compared to those in earlier shifts. Just to give you an example, every day, I—and probably the rest of my team—have to deal with hot weather, distractions, and the noisy, daytime environment in our homes just so we can rest 7 to 8 hours in preparation for our shift.

This is where exemplary time management skills and self-discipline come in. As much as I want to do a few things during the daytime, I need to stick to my rest schedule so I’m ready for work later.

Working an unnatural schedule can take a toll on one’s body and mind. That’s why I take care of my health through regular exercise, balanced diet, taking vitamins and nutritional supplements, and maintaining a positive outlook in life.

What are the difficulties that you face as a shift manager?

The most challenging part of being a manager is keeping up and meeting the ever-changing needs of our clients while maintaining a high level of quality service. Doing this is easier said than done, considering our own and the client’s subjectivity. Thus, we need to constantly adapt and readily accept change to make them happy and satisfied.

Another challenge is for me to effectively multi-task, seamlessly shifting from one deliverable to another.

Finally, being the team’s mentor, captain, and friend all at the same time is quite challenging. I have to be fair to everyone, discarding away personal biases and prejudices.

How do you describe yourself as a leader?

I can best describe myself as a reluctant leader. There have been a lot of times when I thought it would be better for me to follow someone else. However, since I am in this position, I have a responsibility. And by doing that responsibility, I see a lot of opportunities to learn more about the industry, develop my people skills, and solve problems in whatever way possible.

I am far from being a perfect leader. There is no perfect leader. But I do try my best to be an effective one instead.

How do you describe your team?

My team is a bunch of fun-loving individuals. We sing, laugh, and dance a lot. That is actually a good thing because it counteracts the tiring, drowsy conditions of working late at night to the wee hours of the morning. I intend to keep it this way. In fact we have a motto: Work Hard, Play Hard.

Ironically though, we call our shift “Grabi-yard” in jest. “Grabi” in Cebuano means “serious.” It also an adjective that describes something as extreme.

How do you keep your team on their feet during graveyard shift?

As I said, we maintain a fun, lively atmosphere during the shift. However, I also do my own initiative by constant communication, asking them how they are doing to get an idea of the daily pulse. I empower them in their decisions to improve their sense of responsibility and growth.

Of course, to keep their spirits up, I give them official recognition and rewards for all their hard work.

You have very good vibes with your team. What’s your secret?

In many companies, managers tend to keep a bit of a distance from their employees to maintain professionalism. In my case, I do the opposite. I project a friendly, informal image to lessen that feeling of position separation. Too much position separation might implicate that I’m an intimidating or unapproachable person.

There is a saying that “respect begets respect.” I make them feel respected, so they will do the same for me.

 

What are a few of your professional and personal goals?

Too many to mention! But if I have the chance, opportunity, and level of experience, I’d like to try out different roles in PhotoUp, perhaps in the administrative or sales side of the business. What’s important for me right now is to learn new skills, preventing myself from stagnating.

Personally, I’d like to enjoy life while I still can. That means, traveling to other places and doing culinary adventures in other countries.

As a long-term goal, I would like to be self-sufficient, perhaps by opening my own business. What business? I still don’t know.

How has your experience working at PhotoUp helped you achieve your professional and personal goals?

The early years of PhotoUp were very challenging. There were very few systems and protocols in place, and we were still discovering the pulse of the company. As a team, we were able to become what we have become now—a successful business. And I’m happy to be part of that growth.

Working here has taught me to develop my problem-solving skills thanks to my bosses and mentors.

Any advice to people who want to venture into the tech industry?

The tech industry is a broad field. There’s graphic design, web design, programming, and more. I recommend that you try everything that appeals to you. In time, you will have a good feel of the specific field that fits you perfectly. But it should be a field that you love and you’re passionate about. Remember that if you love your work, it won’t feel like work at all!

Also, the tech industry is constantly evolving. Thus, there are endless opportunities to learn something new. Always be hungry for new knowledge.

Any advice for newer employees who are interested in leadership positions?

  • Treat each opportunity as a chance of a lifetime—the one that you’ve been waiting for. Make each day count.
  • Give it your 100 percent. Don’t be afraid of committing mistakes because that’s the only way to learn.
  • Invest in learning new things.
  • Realize that success comes over time. It’s not an overnight thing.

Owen is facing a challenging task as a leader. However, his confidence, outgoing personality, and positive vibe are sure to make him overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The Graveyard Shift of PhotoUp, and the company in general, is in good hands with Owen around.

 

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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