#CulturePH - AirAsia Philippines CFO to future leaders: Success is about giving, not gaining

Success goes beyond the material things in life, and lies in the value of giving, not gaining. Thus said AirAsia Philippines Chief Financial Officer Ray C. Berja in the latest episode of Orange Chair, a social media series by UBX, the Philippines’ leading Open Finance Platform, featuring today’s top thought leaders and influencers.

“There can only be so much to gain and at the end of the day, it’s about sharing your life, and being an inspiration to others”, noted Berja, who was the pioneering Managing Director of airasia Superapp Philippines.

“I think life is all about giving, not gaining. Being successful is not about how much money there is in your bank account, or about how big or how many houses you have, or followers you have in social media. I think success is more than that. Success is the ability to help others, to empower others. It is a long and continuous pursuit in life,” he said.

Berja also advised future leaders to be hungry in “Rs:” Results and Respect.

He said budding leaders should be able to deliver on their promises to their stakeholders, while respecting each person equally – no matter their status in life. Both of which circles back to his Northstar philosophy of “giving not gaining.”

His story started in a small town in Cagayan, where his mother single handedly raised him and ran a humble karinderya to sustain their daily needs. His mother, whom Berja describes as strong and courageous, also served as an important role model in his life and guided him as he grew up.

After graduating from high school from University of St. Louis of Tuguegarao, he entered the Philippine Military Academy but eventually returned home after realizing that it was not the path he wanted to pursue. Wanting to excel in life, and with only P3,000 in his pocket, Berja was inspired to go to Manila, which called out to him as a big city full of possibilities.

In the capital, he initially worked as a striker for police officers. Eventually, as they discovered his proficiency for simple data processing tasks on the computer, they made him do clerical work until he was doing more and more important tasks for higher ranking officials. It was during this time that Berja decided he wanted to pursue a college degree. He eventually earned the title of Certified Public Accountant after passing the board exam and finishing his accountancy degree from Philippine School of Business Administration QC. Ray continued his lifelong pursuit to learn and get better; he completed his MBA from Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Regis University, Diploma in Fintech from Said Business School Oxford University, Certified Management Accountant from Australia, and Certified Financial Consultant from Canada.

Berja’s humble beginnings are integral to who he is as a person and as a professional to this day.

“It taught me a lot about hard work, commitment, and integrity in all pursuits,” he said.

To date, Berja has many awards under his name. He was named FinTech CFO of the Year and Best Aviation CFO of the Global CFO Excellence Awards in 2019 and 2020. He was also included in the inaugural list of Philippines’ Top 30 Leaders on LinkedIn in 2022 and Aspire Top 50 Finance Leaders in SEA. But while he holds his current position as one of the top executives of the world's best low-cost airline, Berja’s journey is unlike any other.

Faith has also been one of his pillars in life. Despite his many responsibilities and his continued success in management and business, he is also a published author. In 2021, he released “Faith and Grace Everyday”, a 365-day devotional walkthrough inspired by his life experiences during the pandemic and his overall journey.

“When you hit the ground so hard, you can only bounce back the highest you ever can. The trust I had in God, it empowered me and helped me do that,” Berja said.

At the end of the day, faith is a central theme in his success story. More than the spiritual aspect, he credits his achievement to his family and all the other people who supported him along the way.

“The good thing is, someone has to guide you. In my journey in life, many people have helped me. Despite my many mistakes and flaws, I had many people who believed in me,” he shared. He also advised aspiring leaders to do the same, and to always give back regardless of where their work can take them.

“You never know, they could be someone someday,” Berja said.

Orange Chair is a Youtube series developed by UBX, the leading Open Finance Platform in the Philippines, which showcases inspiring corporate stories that give audiences business insights, enabling the company to further drive its goal of including everyone.


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