Sharon Dayoan literally hit the ground running with the turn of the new year, settling into her official role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairman of KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. on January 1. “And my very first order of business was ‘inaugurating’ the pantry!” the bubbly executive reports.
Of course, that small task soon tumbled into an avalanche of paperwork and executive orders, coinciding with the immediate move into her new office. “I had wanted to do it earlier, but according to the feng shui expert, this was the most auspicious time. So why not do everything to ensure your success?”
A Certified Public Accountant and a BS Business Administration and Accountancy graduate from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City (cum laude), Dayoan is celebrating her 11th year with KPMG, and was in fact one of the pioneering players of the firm.
She was previously a partner with another auditing firm where she worked for over a decade. But the young mother with two young sons felt that she needed a more balanced life that nurtured both her dreams of a fulfilling career as well as becoming a hands-on parent. And so in 2007, she joined KMPG in the Philippines, which was then pegging down stakes in the country, as Risk Management Partner.
KPMG, a prestigious, global and professional entity providing audit, tax and advisory services, has a presence in 154 countries and territories and employs over 200,000 people. Its assets grew to $26.40 billion in 2017.
Within this great firm, Dayoan has found her place. She has served as Head of Audit since 2012, and now heads the entire KPMG in the Philippines operations.
While the title of “CEO” and “Chairman” is indeed impressive, Dayoan is far from being intimidated by it. “Some people look at the title, but for me it was just like moving to another floor and taking more strategic action.” Born and trained for the job, Dayoan was already hands-on with the auditing practice, and was given the freedom to manage her division. And so, the move to the “top office” proved a smooth transition and a step up that the executive embraced with passion.
“When they asked me to be Chairman and CEO, it was not a surprise by any means,” Dayoan reveals, adding that she and the senior board and management held continuous talks about her eventual succession.
Dayoan may have felt she was a perfect fit for the plum post, but she never assumed it was in the bag, “as I felt like I was too young.”
And at 47, Dayoan, indeed, looks well below her years, but her exceptional track record working in the industry with mega global clients in the entertainment, shared services and consumer market industries has enriched her skill set and defined her expertise, making her more than qualified for the position. In addition, she is a confident leader, one who has achieved a masterful balance of leadership and compassion, which is leading KPMG in the right direction.
Full speed ahead
Of her vision for KPMG, Dayaon says: “I will prioritize our long-term goals, which starts with investing in people, putting them into programs that fit them better, and moving into a digital and IT enabled work place to increase engagement and efficiency.” It’s about maximizing efforts and ensuring that people are fulfilled, which encourages them to stay on longer. Happy employees make a happy company as they say.
An excited Dayoan is gearing up for the expected fast-paced growth of KPMG in the Philippines, and her people are ready to join her, fired by her positivity and fully trusting in her leadership.
Distinguished and driven
Dayoan boasts an exceptional career and was recently recognized as one of the 2017 U.P. Virata School of Business Distinguished Alumni Awardees. “While I was getting to know the other awardees and the people behind the awards, they kept saying: ‘Ang bata bata mo [you’re so young].’ I, of course, took it as a compliment,” she laughs.
While one gains wisdom and expertise over time, age presumably is not the best measure to gauge one’s ability to lead. Dayoan is one fine example, reflecting the fresh, inspired leadership and talent that KPMG seeks.
“It’s our profile,” she nods. “We hire a lot of new graduates so they will be in the pipeline to become our future leaders.“
What she wants
While bringing in fresh talents is easy, keeping them is a different challenge, admits Dayoan.
She gives priority to training and guiding these new talents from the get-go, and personally takes time to assess and talk to standout employees. KPMG has a mentoring system that seeks out and supports those who are seen to exude great potential.
Dayoan understands the importance of this mechanism since she was greatly supported by several mentors throughout her career. “There are people who will leave us, but there are some people that we really hope to keep for the rest of their lives. So, we try to focus on minimizing our regrettable attrition, through the mentoring system.” Unfortunately, due to the sheer size of the company (now more than 1,000 employees), “We can only do these for a select few,” she says, “with people that we feel are a good fit with us.”
She has been disheartened, if not heartbroken, many times, especially if those who resign are talented female employees whom she reckons have great promise. Dayoan is heavily invested in supporting women professionals and executives.
In the West where the divide in gender inequality is deep and apparent, the Philippines presents a more equitable scenario, with many women executives at the helm of companies. A number of them, however, continue to struggle with both internal and external challenges. “There may be more female CEOs, but it’s still very much a boys’ club when you enter most boardrooms,” Daoyoan declares.
But more than the company structure, Dayoan aims to address the mental roadblocks that prohibit her counterparts from scaling greater heights. “Sometime, we, women, just don’t expect (bigger things for ourselves) and strive (for higher positions or take on further education and training) because we think that we don’t need it.” Dayoan says she had never aspired for the chairmanship, but looking back now, she asks herself: “Why didn’t I?”
This culprit thinking, Dayoan believes, can be traced to the prevailing culture that Asian women are raised in. “In KPMG, we start with many accounting graduates, many of whom are female. But as soon as they get married and start having families, they feel like they have to give up something, which is usually their careers.” Dayoan respects their decision, but she often urges them to consider all possibilities and discern whether stunting their careers is the best option for them and their families.
“Sometimes, you see women who are holding themselves back because they think that they don’t need it and can’t do. (They don’t need the promotion, because it’ll mean more responsibility; they don’t need the training, because it’ll take time away from family).” Dayoan looks back at her own journey, and admits that she, at one time, was one of these women.
Years ago, the firm where she used to work for had wanted to send her out of the country for post-graduate education, but the first thought that popped into her head was, “Do I really need it? Do I have to go?” This is an instinctive reaction for many women, especially those with children. It’s deeply ingrained in the culture to want to sacrifice your own goals as a woman, to give way to the needs of the family, husband and children.
Dayoan stresses: “It’s not a selfish decision to want to better yourself. There’s so much to gain from such experiences. I really believe you can be a good mother and a great leader at the same time.”
Best of both worlds
Today, Dayoan is a happy mother to a 17-year-old and 14-year-old. Thanks to KPMG, she was able to achieve a certain work-life balance, which has allowed her job fulfillment as well as an office schedule that gets her home in time to help the kids prep for their exams when they need it. She understands that other women don’t enjoy the same liberties and, therefore, with KMPG support, is exploring programs to help her “sisters” manage their professional and maternal responsibilities.
As part of her personal advocacy, Dayoan co-founded the Filipina CEO Circle (FCC). The purpose of the FCC is to “advance the status of women business leaders by providing a supportive resource where knowledge and skills to excel can be shared through members volunteering their talent and network.”
The FCC was incorporated in 2015 and they kicked off their existence a year later with a conference.
“At events that we hold, we invite women, who are heads of industries, to join and take part in, for example, conferences, whether as speakers or participants,” says Dayoan. “We just really wish to inform, educate and empower women, and tackle a whole range of topics and issues, from politics in the workplace to global mindsets and the like.”
The office remains one of the arenas where women still need to assert themselves, Dayaon says, and through FCC and firms like KPMG, women can gain the skills and confidence to take part in the power play and not be intimidated by it. “I’m proud to have come this far… The woman in me says it’s by luck, but the man in me says that it’s because I deserve it.”
LEAD & INSPIRE
Sharon Dayoan speaks straight to the professionals who wish to get to the top.
• COLLABORATION IS KEY. My leadership style comes across as more collaborative. I seek others input before making a decision; I know that I should not expect to know everything. I always make sure to I get the right information before I make any major decision. Some would say that decisions are made too slow, but it’s better for them to be well-planned and calculated.
• START NETWORKING NOW. Had I known that I would need it, I would have started much sooner. People think of accountants as introverted individuals in the backroom, who push papers from behind a desk. They’re reserved and don’t often have the opportunity to interact. I often tell the younger ones to start building their network now. Even if you don’t think you need it, in time, as you go up the ranks, you will.
• BE A LEADER, NOT A TYRANT. People should like to work with you and not be forced to work with you.
• ASSERT YOURSELF. Don’t wait for your work to speak for yourself. You have to promote yourself also. Sometimes your work may be overlooked because the bosses are focused on other things and there simply is too many of you (employees). So position yourself in a way that allows you and your work to be recognized.
• SPEAK UP! It’s part of our culture to not be assertive. At seminars attended by Asians, there will be hardly anyone who will raise their hand to speak up. Westerners, on the other hand, are more proactive and engage in the conversation. We can learn a thing or two from them, as it’s better to ask and get an answer, than be quiet and leave with nothing.
• BE GUIDED. For me, in life and in work, I follow an important tenet – do the right thing. That’s been my mantra even in audit, which is founded on truth and transparency. We push for audit quality, which is very clear in my messaging. I try to reflect this philosophy as well in my everyday leadership. Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing, but at the end of the day, the sleepless night you get for not doing the right thing is not worth it.