ADVISOR SPOTLIGHT: Alfredo C. Tan, SVP, Strategy, Data & Products, Rogers Sports & Media
Every month we spotlight people from our incredible network who support MATR Ventures and our mission to change the game in Venture Capital and actively invest in the Underestimated founder.
We are honoured to spotlight Alfredo C. Tan, SVP, Strategy, Data & Products, Rogers Sports & Media
Who was/were your role model(s) and why?
For me, personally, It’s going to sound cliche but it’s true. It’s my mom. My mom, my dad and my grandmother — all the obvious reasons: they sacrifice everything. If you think about hard work, we work hard but what they had to go through just to get food on the table and to get the basics–it’s not comparable. Today, we work hard to get the luxuries in life we want. They had to work hard just to make sure that we made it day by day. And, you don’t really appreciate until you’re older how hard that must have been. We find it hard in the world of the internet and managing all of our connections. Imagine being completely alone in a new country, in a world still largely dominated by white men — how do you not admire people that don’t look like that and make something out of nothing?
There are two people who I admire immensely: Jordan Banks and Tim Hewatt, who are mentors and close friends of mine. They were probably the two people in my life who made me understand the power of diversity and inclusion because they made me feel like I belong. They didn’t need to do that, but they did. My favourite story is when I was walking down Bay Street, working on a big deal, and I looked over to my left and I saw the reflection in the window. I was surrounded by four tall, powerful white men, and it was the first time I realized I didn’t look like that. But I mentioned that it’s because I felt so included. They both make attempts to include me in things and to expose me to things I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. And that changes your career and your outlook on life because when someone goes out of their way to make you feel like you belong, then you belong. And they’ve been doing that for years and I don’t think I’d be successful without that sort of desire to include me. They obviously don’t do it just for me, they do it for others as well.
What was the biggest factor that contributed to your success?
We always think that we succeed because we deserve it, because we’ve worked hard, and we’re smart. That’s the biggest fallacy. The biggest event that happened in my life, and I was a non-contributor to the event — meaning, I didn’t do anything — was my family’s sacrifice to immigrate here and leave their family, their friends and everyone for a foreign land. This is the biggest thing that contributed to my success, because let’s take my intelligence and my hard work and my desire to succeed and put me in a different country. Given all that, if I had stayed in the Philippines I would still be nowhere. I may even be living in poverty. So the biggest driver of success was I won the geography lottery that allowed me the ability to have success because of my hard work and intelligence. So, I’m going to say luck, and the lottery is what allowed me to succeed, and I don’t think people attribute enough of their success to these.
What was the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make?
So I think it’s not a single decision. It’s always about whether it’s the right time to find your next adventure? And that’s never an easy decision because I’ve been lucky to have really enjoyed every job I’ve had. When I was selling shoes in high school, I really enjoyed it. I’ve always found work to be a privilege, but I think it shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right. Everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to work. So, the hardest decision is knowing when to leave and knowing when to start the next chapter. This is especially hard when you’re passionate about the people and the company you work for, so I’ve always found it hard to find the right time, when to go on to the next adventure.
What was the one book that has influenced your path?
From a very young age, I grew up in a wonderful family environment where there was encouragement, but unlike some families, there was no pressure to box me in, in terms of what I should become. But I was lucky enough that, while there was this imperative to succeed, it wasn’t a pressure to succeed in any specific area. My grandma used to tell me, “People can take a lot of things away from you, but they can’t take away what’s in your head, and in your heart, so study as much as you can.”
The book that influenced me was My First Visit to the Dinosaurs by Aliki. I actually have two copies of the book. It’s a book I remember first reading when I was in grade one or two. I have fond memories of my passion and fascination with dinosaurs. I remember signing it out so many times at the library, growing up and I only mentioned it because of what it sparked in me.
One of my characteristics that helps me succeed is I’m just endlessly curious, which makes me continuously want to pursue learning to better myself. I didn’t feel like I’ve ever had to spark that curiosity; it was always there and my family constantly enabled me. That book opened up a world where my imagination couldn’t fathom what a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a triceratops was like. And so it was my first foray into just asking lots of questions and imagining things which I knew little about. That extended through school, in my life and through to today — to make sure I continue to learn. That curiosity continues to be part of me and that book was indeed transformative in my life.
What motivated you to support MATR Ventures?
There’s so many great ideas out there and there’s so many people trying to do great in the world and I want to be involved because I want to find a way to help. But to help to make a difference is where my skepticism comes from.
I’m not an expert in the space I’ve benefited greatly from, however If we want to bring it full circle, then maybe the role in life is to help other people get lucky as well. As people help me get lucky, this is my way of giving back to try to create some of that luck. But the answer is I don’t know how to do that, so maybe that’s the reason I’m involved. I’m learning with you, Hessie, on how I can do that. Is it mentorship? Is it providing employment opportunities, advisory work, or giving feedback on technology ideas? I don’t know what that is but it matters because to me, because today, there isn’t enough opportunity. As we know, based on the data you just provided [about the extreme lack of investment in the underestimated community] the work matters in order to get the proper representation to help society become better.
Part of the answer is that, even if it’s just one conversation I can have with someone that changes how they have an effect, then the work is worth it, right? So, if the question is why do I want to get involved — one is because I think it’s our duty, for those of us who’ve been lucky enough to pay that luck back. And then two, I guess I’m saying I’m skeptical that I could make a difference, but I’m here to help try in whatever way you need me.
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