Influencer Miles Mercera

Interview March 2019

Miles, could you share with me some information of your family life?
“My name is Miles Mercera. I was born in Holland in Amersfoort and grew up in Bonaire, studied in Aruba (2003 – 2007), studied in Curaçao, studied in Holland and the USA. I have one older brother, and my parents are still alive and very supportive. Both my parents and my brother are now living in Curaçao. I am a what I call “an ABC-child”, I have lived in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. My mother is from Curaçao and my father is from Bonaire with roots in Aruba.”

Miles could you share with us some of your educational background?
“After finishing my MAVO in Bonaire, I went to Aruba at age 16 years to do the Hotelschool (MBO) in Aruba (Bushiri). I chose for Aruba because the tourism and hotel sector in Aruba was more developed and I wanted to explore new things even at that age. After that, I came to Curaçao and in those days UNA had a collaboration with the Hotel School Den Haag (HBO) where it was possible to do certain modules here in Curaçao with the same academic standards as in Holland and I graduated with honors at the UNA. In Holland I did my internship at the Starwoods hotel chain (they own Westin and Sheraton chains for example) first at their main office, but then later as they have 4 hotels in Holland every single day I had to travel to a different city in Holland to be at one of these 4 hotels. Later, I did my masters degree at the Rotterdam Business School at the Erasmus Campus in Entrepreneurship and Consultancy.”

Miles, can you tell us something about your vast career at such a young age and how did you become the CEO/President of CHATA at such a young age?
“After graduating from the UNA I applied to become the Online Marketing Products Executive in Bonaire and said to myself, let us shoot for the stars, although I was only 21 years old and had little relevant experience as this was one of the requirements. I was hired and worked with Ronella Croes who became my first boss whom already had a broad experience. As we speak, she is now the CEO of ATA in Aruba. I was lucky to have met her and she was a great mentor. But she moved further in her career and decided to leave Bonaire. Coincidentally during that same period she was leaving Bonaire, that same week I went back to Holland to finish my masters degree at the Rotterdam Business School at the Erasmus Campus in Entrepreneurship and Consultancy. During my 1 year stay in Rotterdam, it was my intention to go back to Bonaire, but then I saw that CHATA was looking for a marketing manager with 5 years of experience. Again I decided to shoot for the stars and applied and was hired and started working here when I was 23 years old.

The fact that I ended up and becoming CEO/President of Chata was in a sense like some invisible hand helping me. There were so many people here that could do this job. But in CHATA there was this vision that they needed to give a new generation opportunities, so they opened the doors for this new generation with university backgrounds and modern skills and especially passion for the hospitality sector, to join the organization and maybe afterwards crash out in the sector.”

We have noticed that you are very young and your staff also seems very young, is this a deliberate policy of CHATA?
“Yes, CHATA is being a trendsetter in giving opportunities for young professionals to get in the organization, we are also an exception in the region for that matter. It shows that CHATA had a vision and courage to embrace new developments. In this, Liza Dindial as the former CEO/ President of Chata was also very instrumental in enabling this transformational change in becoming a more vibrant organization with a young mindset, after she joined CHATA in 2011.

Liza Dindial

As Tourism is a vibrant sector, CHATA also needed to reflect that spirit with a marketing team consisting of experienced experts, that know the market. This was a deliberate choice. Five years before Liza would resign from this job (she stayed 5 years), I was fortunate to be mentored, coached and thus prepared by her to become her successor. This meant that I had 5 years of training and had the opportunity to get to know people relevant in the sector and I was well-prepared before becoming the CEO and I am extremely grateful for this. It showed leadership from Liza and CHATA.”

Miles, I have come to know you via the way you profile yourself in the media as representative of the tourism sector. You energy is contagious. Where does that come from? What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be as passionate as you are?
“My passion for Tourism in the beginning came from curiosity since I was 12 to 13 years old and also it developed because the opportunities my parents gave me to take the lead in whenever we travelled. Like going to Disney World or when we were preparing to go on vacation, I was allowed to choose the hotels that we were going to stay and I was the first one entering the hotel room. Or when we went to Maduro Travel to book our tickets, I felt good and all of this triggered and nourished my interest even more for this sector.

When I was 13 years old I was already very passionate about Tourism and knew that I wanted to work in this sector. Because of this passion and my talent, I was doing so well in my studies and exams, always graduating with honors. As I put my energy on what I wanted, that was “preparing myself for a career in Tourism, it was like the Universe opened up for me during my life’s journey and was and still is very friendly to me.

I was always dreaming and visualizing that I would become an executive in a hotel or a Tourism organization. Like when I was in Aruba, I was doing side jobs, like waitering, or as a cook or doing the front desk, this improved my CV so when I applied for a job when I was 22 years old, it would show that I already had 5 years of work floor experience. So at an early age, I already knew specifically what I wanted to do and be in my life. You know, after I left the restaurant late at night after waitering of whatever work I had done, it felt so powerful to deposit money on my savings account. By then I knew that this is my field of work. This experience clearly gave me an edge compared with my peers, that after graduation couldn’t show any experience that they have accumulated until then. So I feel blessed for have taken some pro-active choices early on in my life.

Leaving home since I was 16 years old and living in Aruba also accelerated my personal development and maturity. As I didn’t have a drivers license, I had to move via public transport and I had to wash and iron my clothes myself. In hindsight, I am happy, that I went through this school of life and matured at a young age. Every Friday and Saturday I would visit Aruba’s Hotel strip and observe what the different hotels were doing during showtime, I watched all their shows and looked at what was the ambiance that was created. This was also very helpful, It was all a confirmation of what I wanted to do.”

Do you have a strong premonition?
“You know, I can feel when something is good or bad. I also anticipate situations that might happen way in advance, months in advance. So when something happens a crisis or so, I have thought it through how this would affect the team and I would have already taken precautionary steps to deal with this situation. It helps to anticipate situations doing this.

I visualize with images, a vision board, with my senses and I believe in the Law of Attraction, but I am inclusive and I involve lots of other people of my inner circle in this vision, so this prepares the whole team.”

In Curaçao, the tourism sector is one of the bright spots and in that sense CHATA is very important as an association of representatives of the hotel sector. As president and CEO of CHATA your youthful dynamism is the reason we wanted to interview you. As CHATA you are dealing with different challenges either among your members or with the government to still be able to stay focused on representing this sector in the best possible ways. At your young age, this can be real challenging, right? Can you expand on this a little? How do you deal with the at times conflicting interests in the sector?

“There is no such thing as just one formula. Every issue has to be dealt with differently. It all depends on whatever decision we need to take, but I will always include as many people as possible. As the CEO/President of CHATA I want to be a liaison and speaker of as many people as possible, I will always try to be inclusive and considering the role I am playing and when at times conflicting interests are involved, it is never only what I think. I will never talk about an issue where there is still disagreement among our members.”

Having the people skills is also an valuable skill. Where did that come from?
“In the hospitality business they teach you how to manage people and how to manage your team. Of course I had some talent in this area, but the focus was always on people skills, because of my training I became so much more aware of the importance of having people skills, of carefully observing people, observing my surroundings and my own self reflection skills. I have learned that having the right attitude, is much more important than having the right knowledge. In the end, what you do, will influence your surroundings is so many ways.”

That is great to hear that self-reflection is so important as of becoming a professional in the hospitality business. Why are so few people doing this?
“I believe that some people have fear and that they are afraid of looking at themselves in a mirror. You might see some parts of yourself that you will not like. This requires courage and it may be one of the most challenging things to do. But I am doing it anyway.”

How are you trying also to keep up with your skills? Do you like reading books, follow courses, invest in networks and people that might help you further your knowledge and skills level?
“I love learning, but I don’t like reading so much. I like to follow lots of people, most of them international figures. Literally, I would be looking at how they present themselves. What do they do, how do they present themselves, how do they speech, how do they manage themselves, all are for me food for thoughts. Like for example Barack Obama. I was living in the USA when he was first elected. I studied him and tried to discern what I could learn from him. But then in 2008 during the election campaign in that year, I went to a rally of late presidential candidate John McCain. And I was noticed in the audience because of my ethnic background and members of the McCain team, approached me to come to the stage and I was put almost on the front row and I was on all the photo’s and camera shots of that campaign rally of McCain, while I was a big Obama fan.
In hindsight I understood what was happening, I was black and they wanted to profile McCain as being multi ethnic. I was young and a little bit ignorant, but anyway I learned a lot.
I also love Oprah Winfrey as the Influencer that she is, on the screen and online etc…. I basically love human beings.”

What are your other strengths?
“I love to communicate and share a message in a presentation or any other means as a person individually or a team. I would never pass an opportunity to share a message.”

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?

“Of course as I had said before Tourism is my number one passion and hobby.

Secondly, I am very interested in politics in general, international politics and especially in politics of the USA and how this all works and not so much in the local politics.

Thirdly, I love music and singing. I have made some CD’s and video clips in the past, when I use to live in Bonaire, you can still find it on YouTube. I now knew, that I was not going to make a living out of it, but music inspires me and I can now take it off my bucket list.”

If you as Miles, would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer? How would you describe Miles in one word or one sentence?
“Forever young. Miles is a person with a forever young mindset, that is taking on life, like an uninfluenced and unbiased child. As we grow up, the society boxes you in. What I mean is that, when you are young you have so much more courage to undertake new things, you are more open and curious for newness (new things/developments). Like for example when it is weekend you are excited about all the nice things that you are going to do. When you are boxed in, you think about all your chores you will have to do. That is what I mean. I want to be forever young to always undertake and experience new things.”

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?

“Liza Dindial because of the leadership skills that she obviously has;
Ronella Tjin a Tjoe-Croes whom is now CEO ATA in Aruba, she taught me business ethics and as a global leader Barack Obama. These are my most inspirational role models.”

Where they always positive role models, or where there also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
“You know, even the negative role models had an up-side, because it makes me become aware of what I didn’t want to be become and in that sense it had a positive effect on my personal development.”

What are some challenges, lessons learned, that you have encountered in your life when you ultimately discovered your talents and strengths? or What was a defining moment in your life, a setback that later turned out to be a great blessing?
“Well, when I was 16 years old, barely one month after I turned 16, I had to leave home and go to Aruba from Bonaire and go and study and live in Aruba. I considered that a big setback in my life. I had the feeling that life wasn’t fair to me. All my friends were still living with their parents, and I felt alone in the world. It was as though and I was suddenly lifted out of my childhood and it meant that I would never go back to live at home with my parents. But, as it turned out, it was also a blessing, as I discovered my passion and talents. I learned to appreciate that life was giving me big life lessons for my future.”

Where do you want to be 10 to 15 years from now with your career?
“When I am 35 years old I want to be financially independent and retire. Meaning that life has so much more to offer and that once I retire and because I am financially independent, I could make so many other choices on what to do in my life. Working a “8 to 5 pm job” in our society boxes you in. I want to have freedom and be able to make other and different choices.”

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years years from now?
“They would say: “Miles is a game changer and he has left a positive legacy behind where generations after this generation, they will still be inspired by his dreams. I want people to dream big, it is okay to dream big. Make the biggest goals for your life and go after them.”
Picture: Miles and his mother.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
“I believe in our people. Even if at times we feel that nothing seems to be working, wherever I go I meet people from top to bottom in our society, that have a fire in them and that there is so much more out of life to get. I firmly believe, that whatever is happening now, is a prelude for an accelerated growth that we are going to experience, where ultimately there will be prosperity for all.”

Do you want to share anything else that might be relevant for those reading this blog?
“Whatever we dream about right now, you should delete and push yourself to think bigger. We can do such much better.”

One of the 250 influencers
As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Miles Mercera, for his inspiring, vibrant, energetic, collaborative and inclusive leadership style of the CHATA representing the Tourism sector, one of the bright spots of our economy in Curaçao at this moment. We will definitely hear more of Miles in the future as his ambitions to dream big and to stay “forever young”-mindset, will impact people way beyond the tourism sector and way beyond Curaçao. We definitely consider him one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better in our society.

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