Breaking the glass ceiling in the BPO world

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Marife Zamora Chairman, Convergys Philippines Services Corp. PHOTO BY MELY N ACOSTA

Marife Zamora Chairman, Convergys Philippines Services Corp. PHOTO BY MELY N ACOSTA

Ask any woman and they’ll agree – it’s never easy breaking the glass ceiling. But every now and then, there comes one who does succeed in doing so, and when that happens, it becomes a gargantuan step for numerous others who dream of breaking their own glass ceilings as well. Meet Marife Zamora, the recently appointed chairman of Convergys Philippines Services Corporation.

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Zamora is a powerhouse all her own in the world of Philippine IT. As chair of Convergys Philippines, she is considered as the largest private employer in the country, with more than 55,000 employees under her wing. Until March 2014, she was also the managing director for Asia Pacific & Europe, Middle East and Africa of the behemoth global company, Convergys Corporation.

Despite the title and the many years in the tech industry however, Zamora still does not look at herself as a technology person.

“I would say I was born and bred in the IT industry, but I’m not a technology geek. Rather, I’ve always been at the sales and marketing side of technology organizations.” Zamora worked with IBM for 18 years, starting as a sales representative.

She remembers her early working days with fondness, saying, “those were some of the best days of my life, and I am what I am now, because of what I learned in IBM.” It was also during this time, she says, that she learned some of the most valuable lessons in the corporate world, and that is “focus on excellence and respect for the individual.”

These were some of the values she brought with her when she was recruited years later to be the country manager for Convergys Philippines in April 2003. It was there where she helped steer the company from an upstart in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, to becoming the largest in the country today.

Convergys Philippines is part of the global brand Convergys Corporation based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that sells customer management and information management products, primarily to large corporations. It sells its customer management products and solutions through agent-assisted services, self-service, and care software geared towards communications, financial services, technology, retail, healthcare and government markets. They also offer information management solutions through convergent billing and business support system products including revenue management, product and order management, and customer care management to telecom, utilities, and cable/satellite/broadband providers.

The company has recently completed its acquisition of Stream, creating a world-class customer management firm made of 125,000 employees working in more than 150 service centers and 31 countries. With the combined assets, Convergys said in its corporate page that they now offer greater expertise and services for their clients and many more career opportunities for their employees.

In the Philippines, Convergys started from a single contact center in Manila in 2003, with Zamora being employee number two. The company has since grown to 33 contact center facilities in the Philippines, expanding to key areas nationwide, such as Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, and Baguio. Convergys Philippines is also considered as one of the premier career destinations especially for the new graduates. It is also one of the primary movers in the making the Philippines number one in the world for call centers and second in the non-voice segment.

The huge success of Convergys Philippines became a stepping-stone for Zamora for an even greater role in the company’s worldwide operations. In July 2010, she was appointed as managing director for Asia Pacific & Europe, Middle East and Africa – the first time a Filipina was ever appointed to such a huge role.

Because of this, she has garnered multiple awards, including the prestigious Philippine-based Asia CEO Awards, and recently being named as among “100 Most Influential Filipinas In the World,” bestowed by the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) in San Francisco. The award recognizes women of Philippine ancestry who are influencing the face of leadership in the global workplace for their outstanding work.

Zamora says success had not changed her. If anything, she says the hurdles she went through further enhanced her character as a person, making her more resilient to challenges and failures, at the same time making her more humble with every success she has attained.

In looking back, Zamora says she still remembers how she would celebrate her little successes way back when she was just starting as a sales rep for IBM.

“My biggest challenge then was reaching the annual quota, and December was my busiest month.” She never really enjoyed Christmas back then as she remembers camping outside the office or even the home of a bank or an insurance CEO just to meet her quota. It wasn’t also a good time for her family back then.

She told herself: “I will only put up my Christmas tree and decors at home when I reach my quota.” She recalls that in the first few years, she put up the tree on December 17. Soon, she found herself putting up the Christmas tree in July, and she was beside herself with happiness.

This year, Zamora says, she intends to put up her tree and decorations in September for her beloved little grandson. After all, with everything that she has achieved in her career, she can put up that Christmas tree anytime of the year.

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