#Why Guanghua# is a special feature on our MBA students' stories with Guanghua School of Management. Jordan worked at the Manila Bulletin, the Philippines’ leading newspaper publishing company, for five years. Graduating with an engineering degree, this allowed him to contribute a different perspective in the company’s ongoing transformation from being a newspaper publisher to a content creation company. He also started and managed the company’s café start-up, Paper+Cup. Let's read his story.

Geffcristian Jordan C. Tan

"星火燎原 (xīng huǒ liáo yuán) -‘a single spark can create a blaze.' "

Basic Info

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Fun Fact About Yourself: I don’t like coffee, but I like coffee ice cream.

Previous School and Major: De La Salle University - Manufacturing Engineering and Management, with Specialization in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation - Business Development Assistant


Q: A brief introduction of your experience:

After graduating from De La Salle University with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management, with Specialization in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering, I entered the media industry as a Business Development Assistant for the Philippines’ leading newspaper publishing company, the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.

In the five years that I’ve been with the company, I aided in its (ongoing) transformation from being a newspaper publisher to a content creation company. I was also responsible for starting up and managing its café startup, Paper+Cup. I also led planning the reorganization and restructuring of the company’s products and processes after the COVID-19 pandemic made us rethink the way we did business.

Q: You majored in engineering. What made you pursue a career in media?

Local demand for graduates of my course at the time was not high. Living a life abroad was also something that I didn’t consider back then. A lot of my classmates also ended up in fields unrelated to engineering. Those who left the country pursued a higher degree (in the same field) to enhance their competitive positions.

I chose to enter the media industry for several reasons. First, it was an opportunity to be a part of a big, established company. Second, it aligned with what I was hoping for. Back in 2015, a year before I finished my undergraduate studies, the buzz was all about disruption and change. I told myself back then that I wanted to find work that allowed me to contribute and participate in this disruptive change that was sweeping the world. At the time I started work with the company, it was at the crossroads of change. Third, the media plays a very big role in Philippine politics, business, and society. I saw the job as an opportunity to better understand the (inner and outer) workings of the Philippines, knowing that these learnings will one day prove useful as I carve my path in life.

The things I learned in engineering proved to be useful even in a different industry. It made me realize that the most important takeaway from my five years of studying engineering was developing a structured thinking framework and mindset. I used the engineering framework to approach every challenge in the workplace. Not only did it allow me to achieve results, it also allowed me to get things done efficiently.

Q: What's your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of businesses to rethink the way they did business. I saw the opportunity for us to do the same and also, in part, to hasten our ongoing transformation. I worked with the company’s creative chief and several key people to come up with a plan to reorganize and restructure the company’s products and processes.

I consider leading the initiative and having the plan approved as the biggest accomplishment in my career, thus far. When completed, it will redefine the company. That for me is something—being able to take the lead in revitalizing a legacy company. We have been in operation for 120 years already.

Q: Can you describe some difficulties you met when helping with Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation’s transition?

Not knowing where to start was the first. When we began the transformation process a few years back, the question all too often brought up was “where do we start?” After all, the beginning is the hardest, as they always say, especially when it comes to starting change because it brings with it the element of uncertainty, and people fear uncertainty a lot.

This brings us to the other difficulty: people. When change brings with it a break in everything we thought we knew well, I dare say that it is human nature to resist it. But c’est la vie and in order to progress, change is necessary. Imagine the world if people didn’t dare to change anything, no matter how difficult it was to do so.

When we overcame those two, and their other related challenges, it made things easier for us to go about our (still ongoing) transformation.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of creating company’s own coffee shop brand, Paper+Cup?

It wasn’t actually my idea. Over the course of the holiday season a few years back, a small corner pop-up was set up by a local chain of cafes in our office’s lobby which sold coffee and pastries. It was a big hit with the office people, our office’s guests, and the people who happened to pass by our office.

When the pop-up closed after that holiday season, our CEO thought to set up our own coffee shop, also as a pop-up (initially), in the same corner. He tasked me with starting it up. That’s how Paper+Cup came to be.

Q: What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?

Although my engineering education proved to be useful in the workplace, as it allowed me to have an engineer’s point of view in addressing business concerns, I realized that to succeed in doing business, I also needed to have a good knowledge of business per se. Especially in this age of increased knowledge and global competition, the long-standing idea that it is enough to just have a good sense of business no longer holds.

I used to also think that I could wing it by just reading business books and reference materials, or taking short courses, but after doing research and talking with people, I realized that an MBA would serve its purpose well, for me at least (as this is a much often debated topic).

Thus, I saw the pursuit of this Global MBA as an opportunity to enhance my knowledge about global business and industry. At the same time, with the Chinese characteristics of Guanghua’s GMBA program, it would also allow me to gain a better understanding of business and industry in modern-day China.

In addition to this, I saw the MBA as an avenue for me to make new friends and meet people from different countries and backgrounds, allowing me to better understand the world given diverse perspectives. Perhaps through these conversations, we’d be able to come up with the next big thing.

Q: Why China?

On a professional level: A good friend recently asked me the same question too and this was my answer to her: “Why not?” Ever since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated with China. Growing up, I was also always told that China was the future. With all the current developments, it seems that what I was always told became true, as evidenced by the growing power and influence that China now commands. Furthermore, Asia is currently ripe for growth and China, in my opinion, will lead the way. I want to be a part of this, and that’s why I chose China.

On a personal level: This Chinese idiom comes to mind, 落叶归根 (luò yè guī gēn): “Fallen leaves return to roots”. Being ethnically Chinese, this opportunity to study in China was an opportunity for me to return to my roots. Furthermore, I think that one of the best ways I could honor and continue my Chinese heritage is to practice it, but I’d first need to get to know it better, and learning in China is the best way I can see this happening.

Q: What was the key factors that led you to determine on Guanghua instead of other schools, and why was it so important to you?

I’ve always believed that putting one’s learnings into practice is the best gauge to determine whether or not one has truly learned something. This is why one of the key factors that led me to choose Guanghua over my other choices was because in Guanghua, students are not only taught theory, they are also taught practical ways to put theory into practice. The best example for this is the Integrated Practicum Project. It’s when the students get the chance to take on consulting projects for the school’s partner firms during the course of their second semester. To me, this is the best way to put into practice all that’s been taught to the students during the first two semesters of core courses.

I also liked the emphasis that Guanghua puts on critical thinking—to not take things for how and what they are just because. Students are constantly encouraged to think outside the box, to see the other perspective, and to consider different possibilities. To me, this is a very important thing to have especially nowadays where, thanks to the abundance of information, generalizations and conclusions are easily made, often by uninformed people too, sadly.

Aside from this, I chose Guanghua because it’s China’s best. Being a part of PKU is both an honor and a privilege as you’ll get to learn from China’s best professors and be classmates with China’s best students.

On a less serious but equally important note, the campus also played a role in my decision making. PKU campus is China’s most beautiful campus after all.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the admissions process?

It had to be the interview. It was the first interview that I did after quite a long while. Also, because I really wanted to be in the program, I wanted the interview to be perfect and I guess that didn’t help at all in calming my nerves before the interview started. I was so tense during the start that I stuttered a lot and panicked, as such I wasn’t able to construct my ideas well. Eventually, after I calmed myself down, the interview became a conversation and I enjoyed it. Though honestly, I really thought that I had failed afterwards.

Q: What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why?

My classmates are awesome. During class, they are hardworking, insightful, and smart. I’d like to especially highlight their insightfulness. The insights they contribute during class discussions are very thought provoking, sometimes they even have references you’d never expect.

Outside of class, they’re kind, caring, and great people who I’ve easily made friends with. They also know how and when to have fun. They’d go on skiing trips, hikes, runs around the campus, dinners, and karaoke. They’d even have game nights with us online students, so we won’t feel so far away. It made me yearn all the more to meet them in China soon.


Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read books. Biographies and historical non-fiction especially interest me. They’ve allowed me to gain a better understanding of the world and how people act and think. I like having classical music play in the background while I read. It helps me concentrate. I also enjoy watching movies and series, exercising, and meeting with friends.

Q: Why do you like playing golf?

Three reasons: First, I enjoy the scenery and the fresh air. Second, I enjoy the long walks that allow me to reflect and have a sense of peace. Third, it teaches me discipline, patience, and self-improvement (because the only competition in the game is the competition with yourself).

Q: What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are?

I’ve actually never thought about this until now. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of great moments throughout my life, thus far. I guess I’m yet to have that one defining moment. Although I think it’s because I’ve always believed that one’s present self is the sum of all of one’s moments in life. To me, each moment we live, whether it be big or small, good or bad, shapes the way we think, act, feel, see, and understand the world and the people around us.

Q: What’s the plan after graduation, and where do you see yourself in ten years?

The plan is to turn the spark into a blaze. Hahaha. Kidding aside, there’s nothing set in stone at the moment. I’m keeping my mind and eyes open to different opportunities and possibilities. I don’t want to be that person who missed out on a great opportunity because he was too laser-focused on that one goal he set himself to have. One thing is for sure, I want to start my own venture and turn it into a big successful group (with a heart, of course) within my lifetime—perhaps be the next Bill Gates ?

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