For CEO and founder Christeen Rico of Dream Bigger, reordering her heart toward Christ transformed herself and her career.
“It's the freedom that we have in Christ that enables us to dream bigger,” said Rico. “That has been a journey of learning for me, and that's why I named my company Dream Bigger Ventures, because that is the invitation that we want to share with Filipinos. They can dream bigger with God not because of their own capacity but because of what Christ has done for them on the cross.”
Rico was born in the Philippines, the youngest of eight, and migrated to America at age three. She completed her undergraduate and master's degrees at New York University, and spent the past decade in Silicon Valley, most recently with Apple. Today she's working to solve major problems in the Philippines through venture building as founder and CEO of Dream Bigger Ventures. At Crowell School of Business’ Distinguished Speaker event, she shared how God convinced her that the workplace was her calling.
How I Recalibrated to Seek God First
I grew up in a Christian home, I chose to get baptized when I was 11, and I've been pursuing Christ in some way, shape or form since I can remember. But there've always been things in my life that come first, ahead of Christ: “First, let me get my degree. First, let me get this job. Let me get that promotion. Let me get the money first. Let me travel some.” And coming from an immigrant family, there's also this deep desire to give back, because of all the sacrifices that came before you, so you have to do that, too.
And when all that stuff is taken care of, then we'll do the things for Christ that matter!
These other things — degree, job, money, promotions, travel, family — are not bad things. But some of us get so focused on what we’re doing that we lose sight of why we're doing it and who we're doing it for — God.
For me as an achiever — that’s my StrengthsFinder number one — I can get so focused on the outcomes that I forget that God is actually in control of everything. Instead, it becomes about me.
So my life verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” It really came alive to me in college at NYU, when I was pretty bold with God and I prayed, “Hey God, you say this in your word, so I'm going to test it out, okay? I'm going to obey it as best as I possibly can, and then you show me what you got.”
That was 20-year-old me really challenging God.
What I learned over time was that this verse is trustworthy. But given the way that I am wired, theorder is very important. So seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you. When you realize who God is and how good he is, then just being with him is the best place to be. Those things do get added, but they're just the cherry on top.
Yes, Even “Tech” Makes an Impact for God
I went back to Silicon Valley and started doing management consulting and I wanted to make disciples of all nations! But once I started at Apple, I faced this tension — ‘I really like what I do here in tech, but does it really matter to God?’ Does God really care that this product launch goes well? Does God really care that we hit these financial targets? Does God really care about this meeting that I have?
Because if he doesn't, then I don't want to do it. And so I prayed: God, am I being who you designed me to be?
And that's when God revealed to me, through his word, that work matters to God. Having not gone to a Christian business school, I was not taught that, and my church didn't teach me that. It was a journey of God revealing to me, especially in Genesis, that in the beginning there was work and it was part of the foundational design of God and a form of worship and sacrifice to God. Work is done in relationship with others, as a perfect harmony between God and man and creation. It was a beautiful thing, not a dreadful thing needed for survival.
Because I still had the image that if you really love God, you'll leave it all and go abroad to some remote place and share the gospel there. I was being affirmed by my pastors and everyone that I could be this missionary and I'd even meet my husband in the mission field. So God had to tell me, “What are you thinking? You think you put yourself at Apple? I put you there. This is your mission field.”
I got to help Apple expand into new countries. I got to work with functions across the organization and was able to create hundreds of jobs. I got to lead the Apple Christian Fellowship, helping other Christian employees in the company wrestle with this faith-and-work stuff. There's thousands of Christians behind the scenes in Silicon Valley, and lots of Christ-followers among senior executives at Apple who have really left a mark on that culture.
So,God, am I being who you have designed me to be? Yes. Being at Apple and being in the marketplace is part of how he's designed me. It was at Apple that God allowed me to see that integration of biblical values and business at scale is possible. And it was the best education that I could ever ask for.
The Process Matters Too, Not Just the Outcomes
What does it mean to seek God's kingdom? Matthew 7:21 says that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” So if I say ‘I want to advance God's kingdom,’ then that requires obeying the will of the father, and the first step of that is to love God and to love people.
It’s wanting to be more Christlike in my character, showing fruits of the spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. Is that growing in my heart? Is that growing in my mind? Is the love of God reflected in my relationships with my coworkers, my boss, my investors? Do the products and services that I get to be a part of make God's love visible in the world?
Growing more like Christ is a holistic endeavor. The culture around us focuses on outcomes — the degree, the money, the house — and much less on process. But how we get there matters at least as much. Are we growing more like Christ in the process?
The Crowell Distinguished Speaker Series brings a selection of accomplished business leaders to campus to share their varied professional and personal insights and provides the opportunity to network with fellow attendees including alumni, MBA mentors, faculty, and current and prospective MBA students. The event is always free and open to all. Future events can be found on the Crowell School of Business events calendar.
Learn more about developing your own leadership skills with Crowell’sM.A. in Leadership and Innovation, Master of Management, Nonprofit Organizations, or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, emphasis in Entrepreneurship.