Howard Go: On Working Hard and Being the Ideal Team Player

Summit Media's Chief Operating Officer is a jack-of-all-trades with a soft spot for books and literature

Boxes of donuts and coffee sit untouched on the meeting table, as members of the Summit Books team prefer to talk instead of eat, thoroughly engaged in an animated conversation with Howard Go, chief operating officer of Summit Media.

Howard regularly invites members of different Summit Media teams to what he calls “kapihans” to catch up with them, share strategies, and listen to their ideas, questions, concerns, misgivings, or whatever else they want to talk about.

Noticeably absent is the department head, whom Howard specifically did not invite, in case her team felt the need to discuss any issues about her or the processes within the department itself.

For the record, they didn’t.

Instead they discuss book ideas, marketing concepts, merits of more powerful laptops, among others.

Howard clearly has a soft spot for books and literature.

“I used to love to write. I even did a novella when I was in college which my English professor, Doreen Fernandez, said I should try to publish,” says Howard. “I know I’m currently geared for math and technology, but I love creative stuff so much. Deep inside, I want to create, I want to be in the arts.

“Our Books team faced many challenges during the lockdown, yet they kept such high morale and are doing very well now. The space has a lot of potential,” says Howard. “I’ve always been a big believer of books. Print is still here to stay.”

Howard was a philosophy major at Ateneo de Manila University. If you do a Google search for Howard, you will find him on Quora referencing ideas of Socrates, Plato, Kant, and even C.S. Lewis.

To the question How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? asked on the popular online forum, Howard offered this reply: “It's not a question of the number of roads or even what kind of roads a human being walks down, but rather the transformation (or learnings or growth or what-you-prefer-captures-improvements-best) the person goes through from walking down these roads (one or more) that make him a "man" (or, in some cases, lesser of a "man"). His Facebook bio begins with “God’s work in progress since 1974.” The transformation, for him, continues.

The most important part of a business is people. I believe in having good, strong people on the team. As long as I have good people I can rely on, it’s all good.

Earlier that morning at Summit, Howard met virtually with another of his department heads to discuss an upcoming town hall and planning session with the large editorial team of Summit Digital.

He encouraged her to order alcohol “to spur creative ideas and see where we can move forward” among the editors. She was only happy to oblige.

Summit Media, founded by Lisa Gokongwei Cheng in 1995, is now 29 years old. After decades of being the nation’s magazine juggernaut, it transformed to all-digital platforms in 2018.

It was the first major Philippine publishing group to make the leap from print, pivoting to deliver content to an audience of digital readers. Summit Media currently has seven core brands targeted to very specific audiences: Preview, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Smart Parenting,,, and

It has over 33 million unique monthly users, with 35 million fans following its brands on social media platforms, making it the nation’s leading digital lifestyle network.


After that morning’s call, Howard walked through the open-plan office space, weaving through rows of desks, stopping here and there to say hello and have quick chats.

The young Summit team of millennials and GenZers reacted to him warmly, comfortably.

Howard easily develops rapport with young people, having been a philosophy professor at St. Louis University in Baguio for five years.

“Educators really need to be paid more,” says Howard. “If teachers were paid in the Philippines the way they’re paid in other countries, I might still be teaching. Teaching makes me very happy.”

Now that he has two children, he enjoys teaching them as well.

“Sometimes, my kids ask me, ‘Papa, why are things like this?’ And I enjoy teaching them the history, the background, the reason behind why things are.”

The Summit team is happy to learn from him as well.

“We really appreciate how he takes time to listen to us,” says a member of his Summit Events team. “He doesn’t talk to just the bosses, he spends time on the ground with us too. He’s always very supportive.”

In January, with just three days’ notice, the Summit Events team scrambled to put together an event to welcome President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the JG Summit Olefins Corp. headquarters in Batangas. With the Summit team running on adrenaline and hardly a wink of sleep, everything went smoothly without a hitch.


“The most important part of a business is people. I believe in having good, strong people on the team. As long as I have good people I can rely on, it’s all good,” says Howard.

Howard is relatively new to the Summit Media family, joining the team in October 2022.

Before that, he was with Data Analytics Ventures, Inc. (DAVI), handling the loyalty program of the Gokongwei Group, combining what was then the Cebu Pacific’s GetGo and Robinson Retail Holdings Robinsons Rewards programs into one behemoth, Go Rewards.

“That was the main goal for me when I first joined, to find a way to do it with the existing resources. When that was achieved in 2021, we just needed to develop it further, to make a more complete connection between Robinsons Retail and Cebu Pacific, and to see how to grow the business further. It took a lot of effort, but the many teams in DAVI gelled together and made it happen. We had many late nights, but when we were done, wow, everyone was so proud.  When that was done, I felt an itch to explore new spaces especially since I saw that some of the people below me could be promoted so I would make myself redundant. I think one of the responsibilities of a leader is to develop leaders who can replace them,” Howard says.

Howard pictures himself at Summit Media for the long haul. "I’m enjoying it a lot. There’s a lot of potential, and so many things to do,” he says. 

He said he was looking into working with the Digital Transformation Office of the Gokongwei Group, when the position at Summit Media was offered to him.

“Summit hadn’t even occurred to me before then. I like tinkering with stuff and seeing new things. I didn’t think I’d find so much of this at Summit, but surprisingly, I did.” 

Howard has a background in technology, once a co-founder and game developer at a company called MochiBits, where he developed brain trainers and word games; it was a bootstrapped startup and he beta tested the first few games only on the now discontinued Apple iPod Touch before releasing them.

His Word to Word game developed over a decade ago works with word associations, a precursor of sorts to the current New York Times’ Connections game that has kept players around the world riveted on a daily basis.

Interestingly enough, the games were unique enough to appeal to different demographics. While they had many players who were young, the majority were of the older age group; they received many reviews from senior citizens who said they bought the games to keep their minds working, and even recovering stroke victims who said the apps had been recommended by their doctors.

“It was so heartwarming to receive that feedback,” said Howard. “It validated our work.”


With his technology background and his love for words, he seems to have found a good fit with Summit Media.

Aside from books, websites, and its events business, the multimedia company has operations in out-of-home (OOH) media such as billboards and LED screens, and other forms of interactive digital and on-the-ground content, having entered this market in 2000 and having since developed some of the most advanced large-format LEDs in the country.

“Our out-of-home media business is very healthy. We’re focused on acquiring many new sites and working with more partners this year. We want to be a dominating force in LED screens,” says Howard. “It’s very promising and a lot of beautiful OOH executions are possible at this time.”

Howard says he brought his tech and data background to Summit as a whole.

“Because I knew it enough, I was able to question a lot of things to lessen costs significantly. We really trimmed down a lot of expenses, and operationally we’re much, much better now than we were during the lockdown. For some aspects of the business, we’re close to pre-pandemic numbers in terms of costs. That’s a big thing especially when you adjust due to inflation. ”

“The lockdown and the end of the lockdown changed a lot of things; VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) times, as some call it. We had made certain bets before and during the pandemic, and 2023 was the year we chose which ones to continue and which ones to stop,” says Howard.

“I like looking at financials, processes, where to cut costs and what can be improved. Most of my effort in 2023 was focused on optimization. With all that has happened and what we aimed to achieve, I wanted to make sure we were operationally efficient.”


Howard says in the age of social media, where anyone can be a “content creator,” Summit Media’s digital brands have the advantage of the trust and the authority people believe in.

“We do aim to create engaging content for our audience, readers, and by doing that we are able to create impactful content for our advertisers,” Howard says.

Howard believes that video content will continue to be strong.

“There may be a great opportunity with generative AI to easily grow our video content. Ideally, every article we do can be naturally designed to be available as video content as well,” he says. “There doesn’t have to be a lot of action or animation for a video to work nowadays, especially if one considers how a lot of reels and shorts combine static images with a talking head or even just the right use of captions. Our brands are authoritative across platforms and it may be a question of creating more content in these spaces to own a larger market share. What we need to do now is continue to grow our presence and audience and create more and better ways to monetize them.”

When it comes to competition, Howard says it is less now about other publications; rather, it’s about TikTok and the other social media platforms. 

“If you talk to advertisers, you'll hear some of them carving out more of their budget to capture attention on social media through key opinion leaders (KOLs),” Howard says. “They’re increasing their spend on KOLs because they want more engagement from Gen Z, and many of them are on TikTok.”

And while KOLs may be perceived as rivals to advertising sales, Howard says Summit brands always “look for ways to collaborate with and have a mutually complementary relationship with KOLs.

I think the best way to look at KOLs is to look at them as both a threat and also a complement to our business,” he says. “When we do some events, we have press and KOLs present to cover them.” Summit Media also has its own team of exclusive KOLs to answer this demand from its advertisers: Preview Clique, Cosmo Vibe Tribe, Smart Parenting Squad, and PEP Correspondents.  


Howard has had firsthand experience when it comes to sales. He was Digitel’s Vice President for Sales and Distribution and Integrated Carrier Services back in 2009 and was a Senior Manager of Sun Cellular’s Dealer Sales in 2005 and 2006.

At one point, he left the corporate world to focus on the sale of—believe it or not—live hermit crabs. He and his wife, Sheila Osmeña Go, had a thriving pet shop business called Lucky Hermits, with outlets at Robinsons Ermita and other large malls.

But later, it became very difficult because people put up carts right outside the malls where we had shops, and sold the hermit crabs at a much cheaper price, so it became much less profitable for us and not worth it at some point,” says Howard.

“I sometimes tell people, and I say this with pride, ‘I’m a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none.’ I’ve taken on many roles across multiple industries. In Sun Cellular, I did sales, admin, marketing, revenue assurance, carrier business, and innovation. All of those gave me different views of the whole company and an appreciation of what each department has to deal with and has to do to get things done,” he says.

“Back then, I could talk to network engineers and challenge them on what they claimed the cell sites could and should do. With my revenue assurance team, we developed a data analytics report that became a staple in our ManCom. When I was with MochiBits, I initially focused on game design and eventually also handled the business development and part of the game development. This allowed me to understand the challenges of merging the two loyalty programs in DAVI and arriving at a way forward.

“According to the Gallup StrengthsFinder, my strengths are connectedness, input, learner, intellection, and ideation. It’s almost all on the strategic side, and then there’s the connecting of people, ideas, and events, which I use a lot to get a grasp of all the moving parts, which include people,” he says. “There’s a risk of over-thinking things for me, so I try to push myself by giving deadlines to my decisions. I also like working with people who are great at executing and influencing since these are not my strengths and working with them helps me overcome the risk of analysis paralysis.”


Howard sees himself at Summit Media for the long haul.

“I see myself here right now. I’m enjoying it a lot. There’s a lot of potential, and so many things to do,” he says.

“There is this book which I’ve been using to build the culture we want in Summit Media, these values which we want to support. The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick Lencioni. In it he says only three values matter: Humble, hungry, smart. These are values, competency is not a value but a trait. Assuming we hire competent people, the question is, “are they the ideal culture fit for us? Are they good for our company?” Howard says.

Aside from his leaders, Howard passes on these values to his new hires as well, in a meet and greet called “Nice to Summeet You” every month.

“I try to meet all the new hires, tell them about the Summit values, let them know they have a direct line to me,” he says.

I’ve taken on many roles across multiple industries. All of those gave me different views of the whole company and an appreciation of what each department has to deal with and has to do to get things done.

“Humble is how you correctly value yourself and other people. Hungry is how you’re always driven to do what needs to be done and to better yourself and your team. You learn or do things on your own without waiting to be taught or told, always looking for what’s next. Smart is not about having intelligence or competence, it’s about being people smart. It’s learning how to read a room, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and being able to influence them. That ability of understanding and thinking, and how to inspire people to do their jobs well.”

Howard says if someone has just one of the values and not the two others, then it’s easy. They get fired or leave since the gap is so obvious. It’s having two out of three values that becomes dangerous or problematic.

“When you’re hungry and smart but not humble, that’s dangerous, that means you’re a Skillful Politician.  You’re only nice to the bosses and those in power, and usually treat others with disrespect,” he says. “Because of that, you know how to make management feel good. So, you pretend to be humble, but you’re not. I explained that to people, and how they need to be more open with me if someone is bad, is not humble.

“If you’re humble and smart but not hungry, then you become the Lovable Slacker. People like you as a person but those around you have to keep doing your work since you don’t do any more than the bare minimum and often less than that. So, you create a team of overworked people who like you, but only as a person and not as a teammate.

“If you’re humble and hungry but not smart, then you’re the Accidental Mess-maker. You work hard and you mean well, but you often say the wrong things or use the wrong tone and people end up hurt or offended or misunderstand what you’re saying or even your intentions. The good part is this kind of person can often easily be corrected as they do want to help and do want to be better and so they can take the feedback properly.”

Howard says Summit wants everyone to have all three values, and to give them the chance to have all three.

I think one of the responsibilities of a leader is to develop leaders who can replace them.

“The problem is, if they don’t have all three, and they don’t sincerely make an effort or remain unable to fill the gap, then they usually make it hard for others to work with them. And, if you keep these problematic people long enough, you will lose the right people,” he says. “If you think about it, you will probably see you enjoyed working in a company because of people who are humble, hungry, and smart and you may have left a company because one or more people were those who had only two out of three.”

Howard says he wants to make sure the right people are treated well, and get promoted, and the wrong people leave the company.

“The idea is you need to work on having all three values,” Howard says, “then you’re the ideal team player. This takes effort from everyone; to be aware of the values and to call each other out when we fail at this. We need everyone at Summit to have these values. And we continue to work on and with each other to make sure we do.” -- Yvette P. Fernandez