Janette Toral - My 10 Maven Secrets

In the DigitalFilipino Club, I am quite proud on the kind of members that I have been able to attract. I knew right from the start that it is a service offering not meant for everyone.

Entrepreneur Anton Diaz is one of them. He joined when he was still working for a multinational entity around 2004 and recalled the first eyeball he attended at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (organized a briefing on taxation for freelancers) where I encouraged him to organize food trips for his readers.

I believe that what makes a community great is how each and every member has transformed through the years. More so, how you rise above the various challenges and remain supportive - seeing things from a bigger picture, rather than be influenced by emotions-at-the-moment.

This coming October 29, will be guesting at Anton's Maven Secrets class. Been planning to blog about it and Anton's e-mail on the questions to be asked gave the push needed to make this post. So here are my notes.

1. Can you give a background about yourself? What do you do exactly?

I'm a person who wears different hats. But strive to become an effective maven, connector, and salesman altogether based on Malcolm Gladwell's defintion in the book Tipping Point:
  • Share knowledge, become a catalyst, and let others tinker it further to their own advantage.
  • Connect people who don't know each other so that they can collaborate through the club.
  • Sell ideas and projects to people "eventually" by first supporting or sustaining it personally.
2. How did you get started? What are your humble beginnings?
Prior to 1997, I was just enjoying life as a yuppie and had my share of excesses. While organizing the Internet Commerce Expo 97 (ICE '97), I read a U.S. White House paper that in order for e-commerce to thrive, private sector must take the lead. Sounded off the idea in the PH-ISP mailing list that eventually paved the way for a tribe to be created, that was the Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS).

Almost at full time capacity back then lobbying for the passage of the Y2K Law and E-Commerce Law. Freelance gigs (local and international) and small consulting projects kept me sustained.

Eventually, I started DigitalFilipino.com in 1999 and used it as a means to share e-commerce information. As I stepped down in 2002 as head of PICS, got more focused into research writing and was speaking in various international events every month up to 2003.

Realized that writing research reports can be hard to sustain while maintaining independence. That is where the idea of DigitalFilipino Club got started and was launched last December 25, 2003.

3. What are your lessons learned throughout your Maven journey?
  • It is important that you take charge of your time and always self-assess whether there are other things that you begin to neglect.
  • Health-wise, I've been fortunate. Only get into stuff that I truly enjoy. Where the tasks at hand becomes a pleasurable experience rather than a burden.
  • Never be afraid to experiment and fail. At times, what other folks sees as success were actually my failures (did not reach the goals originally targeted). Nevertheless, I thrive and gradually become better because of it.
4. What do you think are the critical success factors in your success?
  • Focus on benefits to be given rather than gain.
    Benefits in the club are always designed to exceed the price paid for by club members.
  • Challenge the status quo and be a market disruptor.
    Carry out especially whenever I hear players being compared to me or witnessing industry developments I don't like.
  • Learn and share.
    Hardly keep what I learned to myself. Usually unloaded and shared immediately to others.
  • Live a humble life.
    I continuously re-invest resources gained to items/services where there's substantive value.
5. What are the most difficult challenge you encountered? Is there a point that you almost gave up?

I haven't as changing perspective or approach always makes a big difference. I have experiments and quit if it isn't worth it.

6. Can you share technical details about the setup of your website?

The DigitalFilipino.com Club site runs on a service offered by WebsiteWizard.

7. Where do you go from here? What is your vision 2-3 years from now?

I had been thinking about that for the past two weeks as to where will the DigitalFilipino Club go from here. In 2005, I was looking at Ecademy as a model and have already went beyond it in terms of service offerings to the club.

I already set my mind that from hereon to 2014, DigitalFilipino Club will evolve to become a TED-like community. Recently, I signed up as a TED Associate (including TED book club) member and can say the direction is clearly set.

Will also start training people in doing what I do, get apprentices and gradually unload myself.

8. Who are the people that helped you along the way?

The club members and bloggers themselves have helped me along the way. By telling their concerns and wants, I took the challenge of coming up with new offerings to support them. In the process, whenever we have big projects, they are also there to lend a helping hand.

Never really had the benefit of having a great mentor. Some I thought were ok but end up getting spoiled so I let them go (don't spoil the guru).

But have identified a set of change masters where some of the lessons learned, I have blogged here.

9. Why do you do what you do? What is your motivating force that keeps you going?

My experience in lobbying for legislations was empowering. It made me believe that everything is possible if you only set your mind to it. To make e-commerce grow in the country requires reaching out to as many people as possible, some in a passive manner while others more personal.

For as long as I see people growing and becoming e-commerce champions themselves, the advocacy shall continue.

10. What is your advice for future Internet mavens?
  • Focus on the benefits and solutions that you can give.
  • Don't over-hype, lie, over-sell, neither take advantage of the gullible. These actions not only harms you but all players in the industry.
  • Keep your feet on the ground.
  • Know your purpose in life.
  • Keep learning.
  • Be around sharp people to improve your thinking.
  • Measure success based on your impact to the community.
(Postscript: October 29, 2009 eventually happened and for some weird reason, I had sore throat on that day only, hardly had any voice but still discussed most of the stuff written here that night. Next day, sore throat was gone. Guess my subconscious has its way of stopping me from sharing too much.)

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