As an international school, we are proud to have alumni members all around the world and holding respected roles in the chosen career path. This time round, we have the honour of connecting with Tom SILVA who is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy of The Alter Group in the United States.
1) My background
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, educated at the University of Chicago (where I am getting an MAPH or Master of Arts in the Humanities); Columbia College (MFA in Film Directing); and Long Island University (B.A. Marketing). I lived in New York for five years and moved to Chicago in 1990.
My career in the arts:I directed the feature film, The Quiet, which won Best Independent Film from Screen Magazine. I am currently in post-production on the film Silhouettes with the Hollywood producer, Brett Thompson. The film is expected to be completed this year.
I want to impress on young students that they can pursue multiple goals – both as successful professionals and also pursue their creative passions. We need to encourage young people to do this.
2) Getting the job
I answered an ad in the paper for a marketing PR person when I was 28 years old. It was a rigorous interview process with 3 interviews and I had to come in to work for a day to show my skills. I competed against people who had far more experience than me. Ultimately, the Senior VP who hired me told me that I got the job because I was the calmest through the entire process.
3) Who or what inspired you to choose this career/industry/line of work?
My first degree was in Marketing and Business Administration so I was looking for an opportunity in the corporate world. My father was a real estate developer so it is ironic that I made my career within the corporate real estate field in the United States. He was a very dynamic, inspiring person who encouraged me to pursue both my business and artistic interests.
I was also inspired by the American real estate tycoon, Bill Alter, who I worked with for, for more than a decade. I learnt a great deal from Bill. He taught me to be ethical and ambitious in order to succeed in business. He gave me the opportunity to ascend through the corporate ranks at a relatively young age. I owe a great deal to him and his son, Michael Alter, President of The Alter Group.
4) My company and job
The Alter Group is one of America’s top private commercial real estate developers. I am the Head of Marketing and Strategy and have been there for 18 years (with one break when I left to join the multinational firm PM Realty Group).
5) The best and worst bits about my job
I love my job. I don’t think there are any drawbacks. I help to create the strategy for our various affiliates, using business planning models and processes to establish their strategy, develop their brand identity, including logos, brochures, websites, and advertising. I work with my team of designers, programmers, copywriters, event planners, social media experts and PR professionals to execute the strategy.
6) My happiest moment at work
Working with my team. We do weekly meetings and truly enjoy our time together. We work very efficiently and with a lot of enthusiasm. I create an environment with a lot of freedom and creativity and I encourage people to work outside the office and to take classes to develop their skills. I want everyone on my team to succeed and grow.
7) Would you have made the same choice if you are given another chance?
Yes. Absolutely. I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in the United States and to live in two different continents.
8) What is your most memorable experience in GIS?
My time with my dear friends and the teachers who inspired me. Two teachers I owe a great deal to are Halidah Phillips, my English teacher, who encouraged me to be a fiction writer (I am taking a degree in fiction writing at the University of Chicago); and also Helen Chan, my primary school teacher, who believed in all of her students and treated them with so much respect and care. I have never forgotten the both of them and the impact they had on me.
9) What’s your say on life-long learning?
It’s crucial to keep learning in order to succeed. I only hire people who demonstrate a thirst for knowledge. I like people who’ve traveled a great deal, who read literature, and who have deep knowledge of their field. I am doing a third degree in a field that I don’t have a lot of experience in because I want to challenge myself. It ultimately makes your life richer and more fulfilling.
10) What advice would you give to the current students in GIS?
Don’t give up on your dreams no matter how impractical they are. I had a dream to be a filmmaker and musician when I was young and I made those dreams come true. You have to do it responsibly. I was able to build a career in the corporate world so I could be financially independent. Once you do that, it gives you the freedom to pursue your passions. Whether you want to be an artist or a writer or a photographer, you should hold on to those dreams because they are what make you unique.
Also, remember that GIS is an extraordinary school. They prepare you to enter top universities around the world and to compete at the highest level. I am grateful for their high standards and their rigor. I also greatly value the international student body which instilled a spirit of cosmopolitanism in all of us.
Thank you Tom! Truly inspiring.
It feels great to be successful, but even greater knowing you’ve been an inspiration to others and to the younger generation. To our Alumnus, share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!