CEO says it’s about evolutions, not revolutions

January 9, 2014, 5:22 PM UTC

Sheila Marcelo on what she learned, who she admires, and what she regrets.

FORTUNE — In 2006, Sheila Marcelo struggled to take care of two young children while she helped her father recover from a heart attack. Realizing she wasn’t alone, she founded The website helps connect parents, kids with elderly moms and dads, and pet owners with the appropriate care givers, making their lives drastically less stressful. Marcelo was one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur winners in 2009 — and her company’s become so successful that it has sponsored the contest for the past two years.

Fortune’s Most Powerful Women started as a list in 1998, kicked off its annual Summit the following year, and has since become a community of the preeminent women in business, government, philanthropy, education, and the arts. This weekly Q&A features one MPW’s personal take on leadership, aspirations, and (of course) balance.

1. What is the best advice you ever received?

At the end of the day, think about three things that went really well or went right that day and write them down. It’s amazing how focusing on the positive can change your perspective.

2. What was the last book you read?

Turning the Mind Into an Ally is a great book that I reread every year. Although not a Buddhist myself, I find that Sakyong Mipham offers insights that are an amazing life skill. I believe it is about evolutions, not revolutions, and as both a mom and CEO, I’ve found Sakyong’s work is an influential, provocative journey toward managing stress through self-awareness. As a young woman growing up in the Philippines surrounded by the common scenes of a developing country, growth was something we strove for on a daily basis, and the concept of continued growth and learning has stayed with me.

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3. What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?

I offer this advice all the time, but it’s especially true in a tough job market: Let go of your perception of “success.” Set goals and create plans that work for you and what you want from your life, not what someone else dictates.

4. What was your biggest missed opportunity?

Wishing we had a daughter when we were younger. We hope to consider adoption in several years since we love children. If not, I’m looking forward to being a grandmother.

5. What was the most important thing you learned in school?

  • People fear finance courses or marketing courses or anything they’re not already exposed to. Embrace being a generalist. If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t underestimate the value of skills learned in those classes.
  • Be comfortable with networking and selling and try not to think of them as bad words. The majority of my job as an entrepreneur is selling and networking.
  • Also, learn to work with a team. Study groups outweigh classroom participation.
  • When in school, find mentors and reach out to the alumni database. It’s better to do this as a student because when you’re out in the real world, there’s a sense that you have an agenda. As a student, your agenda is to ask for help and advice.

6. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Dado Banatao, founder of Tallwood Capital, is an inspiration to me. He isn’t only a personal mentor, but a dear friend. He’s given me terrific advice through the years about building companies that scale so that you can help more people. He has the vision behind the Philippine Development Foundation, and he is using his incredible technical background, entrepreneurial experience, and success to make a meaningful difference for millions of families.

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7. What is one trait every entrepreneur needs more today than ever?

Humility. By definition, entrepreneurs are natural risk takers, prepared to swim against the tide. But there can be a tendency to get too wrapped up in oneself. The truth is that leadership is rarely about you; it’s about your team and helping them grow and achieve. Successful entrepreneurs understand that leadership is as much about being selfless as it is being strong.

8. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

The Philippines. I grew up in there, and it’s not only my heritage, it’s my history. It’s where I was born, where my parents raised my five siblings and me. It’s where my journey began and where I often return for renewal. The devastation wreaked by Typhoon Yolanda was crippling, and it is awe-inspiring to witness the number of individuals, businesses, and community leaders who have stepped up to help rebuild the devastated towns. As a member of the Philippine Development Foundation, I’m actively involved in the relief efforts and am trying leverage my position as a Filipino CEO in America to generate continued support.

9. What’s your take on the “having it all” debate?

It is pretty likely that most days you will not be the best CEO and the best mother/daughter/friend/sister … and that’s okay. No one’s perfect, including me, but so often we put so much time and energy trying to be. I’ve learned to let go of the mythical goal of perfection, of all the perception baggage, and it’s liberating. It’s really about defining success for yourself and your family. Giving yourself the license to do what you need to do and be where you need to be, so that you’re servicing yourself, your company, your family best is going to be a daily conversation. Making peace with that is something that takes time, and I still struggle with it.

10. What currently excites you most about your industry?

The potential is really limitless. Care is a global issue, and it touches every family at some point in the lifecycle. But it really begins with women. Women are gatekeepers to a better future. What universally holds women back is the need for reliable, affordable care for their families, whether it’s child care or the growing global issue of senior care. When women, whether they are seeking or providing care, are free to pursue jobs outside the home and contribute to their family’s economic standing, they are able to shape their children’s future and care for aging parents, communities, and nations. Now that is the largest online care destination in the world, we’re having a direct impact in helping make this happen.

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