How diversity helped Ateneans bag the Unilever Future Leaders’ League

April 29, 2021

Bringing together students with different backgrounds gives them a lens through which to learn new facts and gain new experiences. It inspires them to look past their differences, learn from each other, foster collaboration, and even help them win a major competition.
Just ask Ron Edward Nadela (4 BS Management Engineering), Arvin Martin Santos (3 BS Information Technology Entrepreneurship), and Maia Therese Coronel (3 BS Communications Technology Management) of the Loyola Schools' John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM) who won first place in the Unilever Future Leaders' League 2021 National Finals and will represent the Philippines at the Global Finals slated this year.

Screencap from Unilever Careers Facebook page.

An annual global case competition, the Unilever Future Leaders' League allows students to work on Unilever's business challenges. The opportunity also affords students the chance to learn firsthand from Unilever leaders.
The three students, all members of the Ateneo Junior Marketing Association (AJMA), learned about the competition through Unilever's social media. Realizing that their perspectives and different backgrounds could offer deeper insights and understanding to the competition, they decided to enter as a team.
As Santos explained, "We share the same passion for marketing and strategy, so we decided to apply!"
"Our team is dynamic and diverse—Red as an ME Major, Arvin as an ITE Major, and me as a CTM Major. I learned that even though we have worked together in AJMA for so long, there was so much more to learn from each other's backgrounds and experiences," Coronel said.
In an increasingly polarized environment further aggravated by the global health challenge that is COVID-19, the Ateneans were more than willing to open their minds and hearts to ideas different from themselves, to see diversity enrich their understanding.
"The case revolved around developing a cross-functional business strategy with a focus on digital commerce, and thus, we were able to assess what it meant to be students of our respective programs - CTM, ITE, and ME," Santos said.
"As JGSOM students, we were able to use the lessons we were taught in our major subjects. As an ITE student, I was able to apply concepts that I learned from my classes in LAS 20: Philippine Business Environment, ITENT 120: User Experience Design, and ITMGT 45: The Digital Economy," he added.
Coronel echoed the same sentiment.
 "We used the lessons covered in classes such as Marketing, Finance, Communications, IT, and Operations in our planning and execution.  While the business case primarily focused on e-commerce and developing marketing strategies, it included aspects that needed Financial, IT, and operations support. We had to apply Financial Forecasting and Budgeting from our finance classes, Sustainability and Supply Chain Management from our Operations Classes, and UX and App Development from our IT Classes."
For Nadela who is in his senior year as an ME student, his knowledge in Strategic Management concepts like SWOT matrix and Porter's 5 Forces were helpful in "determining needs and tactics to approach the business problem."
While their diverse experiences helped in the competition, the transition to doing everything in an online platform proved to be a challenge.
"Everything was virtual, so imagine how draining it was to have to meet virtually almost every night with screen fatigue and balancing all this with our respective commitment to classes, internships, orgs, and more. It took us a couple of months to prepare everything. At one point, we had to go on a stretch of two weeks to prepare revisions after revisions to meet the standards of our mentor, an Ateneo alumna," Nadela recalled.
Added Santos, "On the day itself, it was pretty nerve-wracking given that our strategy was much more different than that of the other groups. There were many similar ideas and executions, but what set ours apart was how we rooted our strategy was on a powerful insight."
The group's name, Pon de Manila, is a play on the words Ponds (the case product), the local bread shop Pan de Manila, and the school they represent - Ateneo de Manila.
"We were very deliberate in our branding as a fun, quirky team that had creativity in its back pocket," Nadela said.
In today's world, the ability to take the risk, evolve, and collaborate are requisite, and the experience has helped the Ateneans share their passion and desire to help each other. As Santos noted, "We're lifelong learners who need to be willing to keep on learning, especially with new and opposing ideas. I learned that business strategies are much more than just attaining KPIs. It is about the responsibility and impact you have as a corporate entity. Being in a position such as this allows you to affect your consumers' lives significantly. It's a matter of addressing people's problems and making life much better for society."
The three are looking forward to representing the Philippines in the Global Finals of the Unilever Future Leaders' League 2021.

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