Mae Flores“I just know that there needs to be more of us weaving our way through this American culture, making a difference in our own ways.”

In 2010, Mae Flores, a young American of Filipino ancestry, spoke before a diverse audience at a bi-annual empowerment conference convened by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) in Burlingame, California. “Building the next generation of community advocates in an intergenerational setting” was the conference’s theme. Mae, an aspiring actress in Hollywood, was already well-known among her peers, from Hampton Roads to Los Angeles, for breaking the glass ceiling in performing arts.

Mae’s reflections during this period helped determine her calling. She wrote: “I just know that there needs to be more of us weaving our way through this American culture, making a difference in our own ways. I think we get so consumed in just surviving because as a people, we are surely survivors  and always have been. But through that, we forget that there’s so much more to us as a people. I really hope that through the arts and entertainment, although a small vehicle, I can help motivate, empower and inspire not only children and youth, but even single mothers in their 40s starting over, widows, “lolos,” “lolas” and undocumented expatriates who feel that there isn’t much left for them in a country they once believed was one full of possibilities. Our people need to believe again. I know I can do my part in helping accomplish this.”

The quezon City-born Mae had studied dance, theater, and music in the Philippines since she was three years old. When she immigrated to Chicago in her “tween” years, her mother and aunt continued to nurture her dance training. By the time she moved to Los Angeles to develop her acting skills, Mae Flores knew that working in an intergenerational and intercultural atmosphere was important to her.

THEN CAME |INDIA

Working with her “partner-in-crime,” Marco Bartoli (the CEO), Mae Flores, the Chief Operations Officer, co-founded “GiLUXE, a technology company that specializes in the development of early-stage technology projects ranging from robotics to artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer animation, computer-generated motion picture special effects, Internet, and video games. GiLUXE’s approach combines internally-developed technology products with outside high-potential, early-stage ventures.”

“it’s hard to teach them unless i get down on my hands and knees and physically show them, which i did.

“it’s hard to teach them unless i get down on my hands and knees and physically show them, which i did.

Marco and Mae believed that a three-month incubation period for their Indian employees was a realistic plan. 18 months later, the co-founders agreed that as entrepreneurs, they had to learn how to adjust to the culture, the people, how people adapted to them and their work habits, India’s accepted business practices as well as their employees’ ways of learning.

“GiLUXE’s brave new world embraces design-driven innovation,” Mae explained. “In India and most outsourcing companies world-wide, we have discovered that there is a significant lack of creativity and imagery. yes, the innovation is usually there. you can hire programmers with specific skills for any project. They’re a dime a dozen. What you cannot always find are employees who can incorporate beautiful  imagery and creativity to their left-brained programming work. And that is what we worked ‘tooth and nail’ to train our young employees to do from the beginning  which is why this initial phase turned out longer than usual.”

In their start-up company, Mae Flores soon found out that each day was not only different from the previous day but that as a COO, she was in charge of employee morale, human resources, accounting, and location hunting aside from being the inhouse interior designer and strategist.

The co-founders discovered a set-up similar to a Silicon valley campus, a gated community that suited their entrepreneurial needs. Enticing the best young talents in India to join their company, GiLUXE included free living facilities on-campus. The employees lived in a three-bedroom villa with three bathrooms, a full kitchen, a mini-game room, lounge, and free wifi — with a free gym and clubhouse benefits in the premises. GiLUXE also hired a local housekeeper who cleaned house, did the employees’ laundry as well as cook the employees’ favorite regional dishes since they were recruited from all over India.

Aside from getting home and entertainment amenities, the employees’ commute to the office was literally a block away.

The partners always arrived at their leased offices before the employees clocked in. Mae also started each work day by warmly greeting the staff, making them feel welcome and comfortable. Even if one of GiLUXE’s employees referred to her as the “glue” that kept them together, who smoothened out all the kinks, who loosened up tightlywound emotions, and who allowed them to speak their minds, she pointed out, “It’s hard to teach them unless I get down on my hands and knees and physically show them, which I did. That’s quite literally what we had to do with EVERYTHING show them everything from beginning to end. The right way to clean the office, how to treat co-workers, the right way to submit work, accountability, responsibility, independent thinking, and others.”

MARCO AND MAE WORKED HARD ON OTHER INTANGIBLES SUCH AS PARADIGMS AND VALUES.

“We literally had to teach them all over again, back to pre-school,” Mae continued. “We wanted them to unlearn whatever they had initially imagined working for an international company would be like.”

Some of the greatest gifts she learned from being an American citizen, Mae candidly disclosed, were about equality, freedom of choice freedom, in general. She said, “When you are faced with employees who initially were willing to do anything, it shakes you to the core. Their willingness to be enslaved in whatever way we chose can shock anyone. It’s been quite a road but we got them there. Hallelujah! We taught them to be independent thinkers! One of our employees told us during a review that if he were to leave the company now, he knows that the greatest gift we ever gave him was not the salary or the free housing that it is the gift of vocalizing his thoughts and ideas.”

The start-up phase that the co-founders and employees went through made them a stronger, connected family that learned how to value each other. The result is a high productivity level, “the most elite work possible.”

Mae Flores, who is now back in hometown USA to work on GiLUXE’s global operations, summarized what she had learned in India: “I feel so strong! India, the land of inequality, caste systems and violence toward women has made me STRONGER. So, thank you, India! Thank you for giving me the roar in my already-obvious growl as a woman!”

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