Rocco is set to continue a family tradition by attending HBSHere is one of the last Lopez Values Vanguards explaining how family, values and continuous learning help in molding him to be the best that he can be. Rocco Puno is the son of Bea Lopez Puno and Eric Puno, a lawyer. Growing up in a closely-knit family has made him develop a strong foundation as he tackles the many challenges of the world away far from his comfort zone. Kindly state your name and educational background, and why you chose your profession.
My full name is Roderico Eugenio Lopez Puno Jr., but my friends and family call me Rocco.
I left Manila in 2009 to study economics, with a minor in business, at New York University (NYU). At school, I was heavily involved in multiple organizations, the most fulfilling of which was as vice chairman of the NYU Student Senators Council. I also chaired the 1831 Fund, a senior committee organized to raise scholarships for needbased students.
Immediately after graduation I joined Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy & Operations group in New York, then moved on to do business development for Compass Group, a Latin American asset manager. I saw both jobs as good springboards for whatever I choose to do in life, as ways to build a broad set of skills and as a means to put me in the best position for business school.
This August, I will be pursuing my MBA at Harvard Business School, proudly continuing the family’s legacy at the university.
Describe your growing-up years. What were the values taught by your elders—parents, grandparents—and how did you live up to these values?
The lessons most ingrained in me by my elders were not told to me, but rather shown through action. From an early age, I was lucky enough to witness my grandparents, parents and uncles/aunts embodying everyday values that I admire. I still try to emulate these values in my everyday life.
One of the most important values I learned was from my Nana and Tata [his grandparents, Connie R. Lopez and Lopez Group chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez]. Similar to what my cousins had said previously, it is the importance of family. The reason this is a recurring theme among all of us is that we were not told to do it, but to live it in practice all throughout our childhood and to this day.
Every Friday without fail, our family would get together for dinner at our Nana’s house, a constant fixture in our lives no matter what else anyone had going on. This taught me that family was not merely a given, but a gift that needed to be cultivated.
When I was growing up, I lived right next door to so many of my cousins, mostly because our Nana and Tata wanted it that way. As a result, I was lucky enough to grow up with a set of friends that I knew would be there for me no matter what. My early friendships with my cousins ingrained in my mind the idea of family unity: standing up for one another in difficult times, but also having the courage to tell one other when they needed to be better.
Another important value that stuck with me was the idea that learning never stops. I was taught to never settle with where I am, to constantly push toward self-improvement every single day.
It was a value that was once again shown to me through action, this time by my father. At 50 years old, he decided to go back to school and pursue a master of laws in the midst of a busy but successful career. When I asked him why, he simply said, “There’s still so much I don’t know.” That notion stuck with me: the idea that none of us is ever a finished product, but a constant work in progress. I’ve practiced this value in my life by constantly discovering worlds and learning as much as I can about them.
This principle also applies to what we can learn from other people: throughout my life, I’ve tried to surround myself with people from different backgrounds and perspectives, so that I am constantly learning from those around me.
Have you ever worked in a Lopez company? Can you describe your job, your dealings with your colleagues, etc.?
I have never worked for a Lopez company. My entire life I’ve trained myself to think that I would never be able to work there, and have thus tried to build a career independent from my family. That said, I do hope that one day I can gain enough experience and skills to contribute to the family in any way I can.
How do you find working abroad? What were your memorable moments there that tested your principles and values?
I’ve lived and studied/ worked abroad for about nine years now. I left when I was 17, which meant that I also had to do some growing up on my own. Without the values that I had learned over years of practice, I surely would have lost my way. Hard work, respect for others and humility were some of the many family values that served as my compass in finding the person I wanted to be.
New York is a place of relativity, where your morals and principles could change depending on the context of your situation; it was a place that challenged your beliefs and questioned your way of thinking, all the while surrounding you with thousands of other points of views. It was crucial that I knew what values to hold on to. After years in this city, it was difficult not to get blinded by ambition and profit, to do whatever it takes to make the most money.
Though I had friends that chased money, I learned from my family early on that profit is just one of the metrics through which we gauge success. Culture, social responsibility and integrity are equally important; without them, profits will not equate to success in the long term.
Who influenced you the most while growing up? Why?
Both my parents influenced me the most growing up. The older I got, the more I appreciated how deliberate their actions were in bringing out the best in my siblings and I. No matter the situation, even if their choice ended up hurting themselves, they always chose to put our growth and success first. I would be nowhere without them.
One small example of that was when I took my first trip abroad at 11 years old. It was my first time away from them, and as a shy and sheltered boy, I was terrified. In the middle of the trip, I remember crying to my coach, no longer wanting to hang out with anyone. I called my parents and immediately felt my mom’s instinct to give in to her crying son. They denied my request, but asked me to take it one day at a time, to embrace the homesickness and find a way around it by hanging out with people I liked. Find a way to be comfortable with the discomfort, they told me.
That trip ended up becoming one of my fondest memories. Beyond the experience itself, I remember that trip as the time that I got comfortable being in difficult situations. I learned that, most of the time, feeling discomfort in the present is a way to make a better version of yourself in the future. It was more than just looking on the bright side, but accepting the inevitability of enduring difficult times in order to make you stronger. I’ve applied this lesson to many aspects of my life, and it has forever changed the way I look at adversity.
What advice would you give your younger siblings and cousins regarding living up to the Lopez Values and how to go about it?
My advice would be to leave your comfort zone and discover who you are away from the environment that you have always known.
In removing yourself from that context, you’ll be able to define the kind of person you are and the kind of person you want to become. Values are not meant to be strict rules, but principles that must evolve and be adapted to fit each person’s life. Each of us should find our own unique way to live these values. I believe that in order to truly embody them, you must first know who you are and why they matter to you.
Imagine a world where all fourthgeneration cousins live and project the Lopez Values in their own unique way—that in itself would be a legacy we can all be proud of.
Celebrating his brother Javier's graduation