‘I think women leaders are more meticulous, organized and give more attention to detail than men. Therefore we get things done faster and better.’
Chroma Hospitality for Sales and Marketing Carmela Bocanegra likes to say that her career hit its stride in big international chains first and then found its true home in a Filipino-owned brand.
Carmela worked her way up from sales executive to manager, director and VP in various hotels at a time when the hospitality industry (and the competition) was getting bigger. Starting with local hotels Silahis and Puerto Azul, she shifted to Hyatt and Intercon, and then back to the leading local hotel groups with Discovery and Chroma. “Every step and experience is different and memorable and worth every time spent with each company,” she says.
Here, she reveals that hospitality is a space for women to thrive and find their own voice.
What is your leadership style?
It’s democratic but at the same time it can easily shift to authoritative in certain situations and if necessary. I encourage my team to speak their mind and to not be afraid. I always manage as a leader through discipline and motherly love and care.
What are the benefits of having women in leadership roles? If hospitality a great space for women?
I think women leaders are more meticulous, organized and give more attention to detail than men. Therefore, we get things done faster and better. In Chroma, there are more strong female leaders than men. In our executive committee, for example, there are more women than men. I think women make a company tick better or do better. We are the life of a company!
What do you think is the behavior or trait that derails women in their careers? What is it that lets them flourish in their careers?
The ability of women to be very vocal and speak their minds freely and correctly enables them to be noticed and therefore flourish in their careers. The opposite—being shy and intimidated by others—can derail progress in their careers.
How did you navigate power structures when you were starting and how do you navigate them now?
It all came naturally, the breaks I got in my hotel career. I never really thought or planned a specific strategy to get where I am now. But I always wanted and aimed to go up the ladder, grow my career, earn more, gain more experience, and travel more. So when opportunities and job offers came by, I always entertained them and took the chance to grow after a thorough evaluation of each one that came along.
Be assertive and don’t be afraid to reach for your goals. Make your presence felt but only as necessary and when appropriate.
Did you have a role model or mentor? What are the lessons they taught you?
I had many mentors, starting off with my father who I always consulted whenever I’d change or accept a new job. Passionate hard work is what I learned from him and my mother too, as both had established careers.
Let me tell you about my mother. She was a strong force in our family—a great influence on me and my siblings until now. She was a great mentor and a leader when she was a Spanish professor at UP Diliman. She is definitely my greatest mentor not just in my career but my life as a whole.
What’s your advice for women to advance professionally?
Be assertive and don’t be afraid to reach for your goals. Make your presence felt but only as necessary and when appropriate. Advancing professionally is more fulfilling if it’s because of hard work, and your achievements, not because you sucked up to the boss. You also need to be a team player and sometimes be the devil’s advocate too. Lastly, do what is right all the time, not what’s popular.
What is your secret in balancing career and family/personal life? How hard was it for you and what was the breakthrough moment when you said, “I got this!”
I think priorities need to be clear from the onset. For me, family is priority over career. But my career and my work supports my family, so it’s really a matter of time management. For example, I don’t remember doing overtime at work ever since. I go to work on time and leave for home on time too—sometimes, a bit later but not to the point of always getting home and not having dinner and talking with the family, especially while the kids were growing up.
I’d like to think that I work hard but we also like to play hard with my family on our weekends together, family vacations and many memorable moments together. I guess it’s also the choice of being in sales and marketing (S&M) and not in the hotel operations. S&M is a Monday to Friday, 9 to 6 job, except on days when there are events and functions to attend. But that’s controllable. Each and every step in my career combined with having a family was a breakthrough moment. Some challenges came about but, thank God, we always got it. Life is a bitch sometimes but at the end of the day, we women survive because we are strong and we deserve to be happy.