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Reflections After My Eisenhower Fellowship

Reflections After My Eisenhower Fellowship

The seven-week fellowship program has just ended, but the real work is about to begin. Eisenhower Fellowships has opened so many doors for me and have connected me with the brightest and best individuals and organizations to help me take another step in my journey in creating more jobs through Information Technology. I am to go home to my dear motherland and start implementing the best of what I have learned here in the USA. During my seven weeks of going around the US and meeting people, I have listed down some things in my thoughts and reflections that I would like to share.

A Leadership Journey

“As a leader, you cannot fight a war and be a person of indecision.” Susan Eisenhower said these poignant words during our lunch meeting. I find these words very apt in our world today. Every day, we are fighting a war on terror, poverty, diseases, unemployment, underemployment, lack of or poor education, human rights violation, food shortage, cyber-terrorism, climate change and inequality. I find myself in the middle of the room realizing that this is one of the many reasons why I wanted to be part of this prestigious fellowship program and so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be in it. I am at the point in my career and leadership role whereby I feel that I have done and learned as much as I could, yet still feel inadequate as I know I have so many things I still need to learn to bring my team and cause to a higher level. This fellowship has given me the boost of confidence and knowledge to make me a better leader, a leader who can make better, conscientious and enlightening decisions, confident that the choices I make for the people I serve is based on knowledge and wisdom I have added to my vault during this trip.

Left: With David Eisenhower. Center: Opening the door to the Eisenhower Fellowships headquarters with own Eisenhower Key. Right: With Susan Eisenhower

Left: With David Eisenhower. Center: Opening the door to the Eisenhower Fellowships headquarters with own Eisenhower Key. Right: With Susan Eisenhower

Vox Populi, Vox Dei. The Voice of The People is The Voice of God.

The United States Constitution preambles starts with “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice…. “

Democracy means justice and basic rights given to the people. The very heart of the US laws is the constitution and the very heart of the constitution is its people. My knowledge in American history was further reinforced through my visits to the museums in Philadelphia, Washington, New York and other cities. The fight for freedom has further been emphasized after learning more about America’s declaration of independence from the British rule and eventually the liberation of slaves after the civil war.

Inside the "Signers' Hall" of the Constitution Center, Philadelphia. In the room with the Founding Fathers who added their name to the American Constitution.

Inside the “Signers’ Hall” of the Constitution Center, Philadelphia. In the room with the Founding Fathers who added their name to the American Constitution.

At different stages in America’s history, more and more people are given their freedom and dignity. Freedom from slavery, women’s right to suffrage, segregation and discrimination in all forms (race, religion, LGBT). All these were given due to the people’s march for their freedom, their voice being heard and their words being understood. I am reminded too of how fortunate we are in the Philippines for the freedom we have now and that we too went through our own battles and we continue to march for what we believe in as well. We should always continue to protect this freedom too by continuously teaching and reminding our new generation about it so that we don’t ever lose it ever again.

Our fellowship started at the height of the US Electoral Campaign and we were given more insights pertaining to how the election system in the US works. It was interesting to note how people gave their opinions regarding the candidates. I enjoyed the experience, especially that in my very own country, our nation was also going through the same election fever and I can see too that my fellow Filipinos are also actively discussing theirs views and opinions regarding the candidates running for election in the Philippines. I appreciated more the fact that my fellow Filipinos are no longer sitting idly by and just waiting for things to happen but are more engaged in the process.

At the end of the day, it is the voice of the people that will prevail. These candidates will never sit on the presidency unless the people says so. This is democracy at work and democracy should be protected at all times.

Patriotism & Generosity Builds a Stronger Nation

I sit at the airport and hear the person in charge at the gate saying “Military personnel shall be given priority boarding along with first class passengers, elderly and passengers with children.”  In baseball games, an honored military man/woman is given due recognition. In visiting Washington DC and memorial parks, I see that there is so much respect to the fallen soldiers by giving so much respect by burying their remains in special memorials where people of all walks of life can visit and see how much these men and women have given so much of themselves for their nation. The term hero is given to them and this boosts further the love of the people for the nation. People are reminded all the time that to protect their government and nation, it would also mean giving their life for it, they have a hand in protecting this nation. Because of this too, people are reminded that freedom is worth protecting as so many have given their lives already for the life they enjoy now. There is so much emphasis on the protection of freedom and rights that the people’s sense of continuing this cause is really felt and seen. This is one definite way to develop loyalty and love for country.

Visiting the Liberty Bell at Philadelphia and Paul Revere's Home and Monument at Boston

Visiting the Liberty Bell at Philadelphia and Paul Revere’s Home and Monument at Boston

Generosity abounds the United States. Almost all of the organizations that are doing good for the community are running because of the generosity of individuals and organizations. Governments can never be perfect and we cannot expect the government to solve all our problems. We, as private entities, have to roll up our sleeves and open our hands, share our blessing to others. It is impressive how many organizations are doing their share of the work to help others. They may have the time and the talents but without the support of the sponsors and donors, the good work they need to do can never be done. Because of this generosity, more people are given jobs and are given self-worth and pride knowing that they too can be significant members of society and eventually will want to protect the community and nation they are in.

Visiting the non-profit organizations and the initiatives being implemented to help others has reminded me that we are on the right track in our own organization. We are on the right track on helping others through our own profession, to help create jobs through IT. What is important is that we are contributing to our society in our own little way. We can’t make it a better world for everyone, but we can at least make it a better world for some than no one at all but ourselves. We can all help in our little way and our collective efforts in helping in small ways can mean helping thousands in the end.

Mentorship and Advisers

Leaders need mentors and advisers. No matter how far we have reached in our careers, we continuously need guidance in the form of new mentors and advisers. I have been fortunate enough that my program officer and the Eisenhower Fellowships have paved the way for me in meeting new mentors in my career. We cannot do it alone. We need people who have walked the path before us to help us discern better and make better decisions. I now have someone I can contact and seek advice from for topics such as leadership, Managing IT Companies, customer service, Innovation, big data management, marketing, training processes and so much more.

Left: With Guy Benvente, VP at At&T and Professor at Loyola University Chicago. Center: With Micah Solomon, High Tech High Touch Customer Service Expert. Right: With Professor Peter Fader, Marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Left: With Guy Benvente, VP at At&T and Professor at Loyola University Chicago. Center: With Micah Solomon, High Tech High Touch Customer Service Expert. Right: With
Professor Peter Fader, Marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

On my part, I will continue the mentoring work I have started with my mentees but will also look for new ways to serve as a mentor in order to help in creating more leaders.

Opening Windows of Opportunities for Others

When we started Syntactics, inc., our vision was to create opportunities for our young IT graduates from Cagayan de Oro; Opportunities for them to get a decent job and stay with their families and loved ones and not have to travel to far distant places just to earn a living. As our organization grew, through the help of our friends and clients, we were able to open more doors for more graduates and we were able to be part of the lives of countless people through our various community projects and activities.

We have to constantly remind ourselves that the best way to help is by giving dignity to people. To let them know that they are valued and that they have a place in our world.

Through the Eisenhower Fellowships, it was me this time who was given a window of opportunity to learn and grow further. My fellowship has given me opportunities to expand further my horizons, come up with more ideas, grow as a leader and manager and have given me a new set of friends and colleagues with whom whose friendship I will always treasure. I now have a network of professionals whose mission is to create opportunities for others and I hope that in the near future we will be able to tap each other and collaborate to solve bigger problems or have a wider reach for our initiatives. Among fellows, there are no more elaborate introductions and the barrier of any inhibitions has been lifted. We are all working for a common goal and that is to solve world problems in our own ways, through our professions, time and talents.

In turn, whatever I take back with me from this opportunity, I will be able to implement and find ways to build once more opportunities for more people back home.

All that is needed to be done for each other is creating opportunities. It is of course, up to the person if he or she wants to grab it, but what is important is we don’t stop opening new windows for hope and growth.

Thank You

I am sincerely grateful to the Eisenhower Fellowships, to President George de Lama and the selection team for believing in me. What really propels individuals to do more is the feeling and knowing that people believe in your capacity and in what you can contribute and accomplish.

Receiving my EF pin from Governor Christine Todd Whitman and my certificate from General Colin Powell

My sincerest gratitude also goes to my program officer, Grace and the team who develop my program and have made my fellowship journey absolutely memorable.

With my dear program officer, Grace

With my dear program officer, Grace

I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful opportunity and you have my commitment to continue my work to help others and be a valuable member of this family.

Of course, my journey would not have been as memorable and as fun if it were not for my new found friends and fellow EF Fellows. Thank you very much for the wonderful memories and I look forward to the day we get to meet again and perhaps collaborate in future endeavors too.

At the Grand Canyon, Sedona, During our mid-program retreat.

At the Grand Canyon, Sedona, During our mid-program retreat.

class photo

Class Photo

About The Author

Stephanie

Stephanie Caragos is the President & CEO of the 16 year running IT Company, Syntactics, Inc. and is the founder of letIThelp.org, a program and initiative that envisions in helping young Filipinos hone their skills in IT and increase their chances of getting stable and profitable jobs. She is a speaker and mentor in various Online Marketing, Web, ICT and ICT businesses related seminars and talks and works tirelessly in finding innovative ways of marketing online for clients. She is also a staunch supporter of Filipino Small and Medium Enterprises as she continues to develop products and services that would benefit SMEs as well as help them increase their success rate in using technology in business. Stephanie is currently the president of the CDO ICT Business Council and works with the members and stakeholders in the city in promoting ICT to support more startups and create more jobs in the city. She recently completed her Eisenhower Fellowship and was awarded as the Douglas Dillon Named Fellow for the year 2016.

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