Robie Torre-Gonzales was already in her 30s when she decided to work abroad. According to her, it never crossed her mind that she will be working in the UAE as she had a decent job and a good career pathway in the Philippines then. As she has a house to manage and two growing up kids to take care of, she grabbed the chance to work abroad while her husband was working in Qatar.
Even with an OFW in the family, leaving her kids behind was still relatively difficult. “We need to have an income that will allow us to pay the educators and therapists of my eldest for her to play and behavioral therapy sessions; at the same time, we need to fund our second daughter’s overdue surgery,” she said. Gonzales, before starting an OFW journey, has already been part of the HR team of ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, Alexander Resources, Asia Select, and Jollibee Foods Group.
In February of 2009, she arrived in the UAE after being recruited through a manpower agency in the Philippines. She was hired as an HR Senior Executive in one of the leading electronics retailers in the UAE. Her role was purely HR operations: recruitment, onboarding, employee discipline, and grievance handling, benefits administration, employee engagement, and policy drafting. Gonzales’ first break was when she was tasked to lead the implementation of the Human Resource Information System (HRIS) in the company. She spent two months of her mornings populating the system with employee data so that they could beta-test it. When the beta-testing was completed, she went to work on the other modules of the system–meeting the developer, incorporating all the necessary employee-support tabs in the system, among others. Gonzales successfully developed the content in less than six months and went running in less than a year. This breakthrough paved the way for her first job promotion abroad.
“I think that the HR profession has the most colorful career path amongst all the professions we have in the world. If there is an Oscar award for professionals, it should be given to HR practitioners! All the dramas are in this field. I’ve learned how to read people’s behavior and I have realized I have become their conduit to express their feelings. Imagine the flow of emotions I have to deal with in the past 19 years,” she said.
The seasoned HR professional had already planned to leave the company after six years in order to join another company. However, with the constant morning tete-a-tete with her seniors, plus a pep talk with the CEO, she eventually gave in by staying with the same company for the next six years. Since then, she got double promotions in four years, skipping a level in the hierarchy of promotion. Through her leadership, her company has been awarded Great Places to Work twice in a row because of the initiatives she had spearheaded. Gonzales was heading the Learning and Organizational Development Department until last year.
In between work, she made sure that she developed herself constantly. She completed her Masters of Business Administration at the prestigious Swiss Business School, Switzerland. She is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming Coaching, as well as Human Resources Manager Professional. Currently, she is working on her Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and DISC Assessor Certification.
Leap of faith
With challenges in the professional field and in the job market, Gonzales made a leap of faith. Backed with more than 40 years of HR progressive experience, she and her friend put up the People Bureau International FZLLC, a human capital, organization development, and executive search consultancy, formed in response to clients’ business needs in the current time and need for people-focused solutions and products. The company’s goal is to become a support arm of Filipino entrepreneurs in the UAE and even those who are working professionals who would want to progress in their respective careers.
Currently, she is also the president of the Filipino Human Resources Practioners’ Association in the UAE (FILHR-DNE). They are the only Filipino organization registered and licensed to operate in the UAE. For years, the organization has become an avenue for fellow HR colleagues to connect with a professional network, aimed to excel through career development opportunities and encourage leadership development. According to Gonzales, their mission is to develop competent Filipino HR practitioners while promoting integrity, excellence, and social responsibility.
She is also one of the three Filipinos from the Hiligaynon region who showcased mastery of the art as well as vision amid the crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic through Hublas–an art exhibit held by the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
“Be with people who can guide you and whom you think can elevate you. Don’t underestimate your capability. Accept the job that will make you excited waking up every day. Spend time with your family. Take a leave and visit them. Be optimistic! And most especially, trust the Lord God!” she said when she was asked about her advice to her fellow Filipinos abroad.
This story has been featured on the 13th issue of The Global Filipino Magazine. To get a copy, you may contact Mr Orli Gayeta at +971503196856. If you have an inspiring story or know someone with one, please send an email at email@example.com.
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