They say that a woman will never understand her mother’s struggles until she becomes a mother herself. For Sheila Lobien, Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) Philippines’ regional director and head of project leasing, these words hold poignantly true, which is why she has always lived her life inspired by the woman from whose womb she came.
“We came from very humble beginnings, and ever since I can remember, both my parents were always working,” the successful mother an top executive told The Sunday Times Magazine in her cozy and well-appointed home in the southern metro.
Amid a backdrop of priceless artworks by H.R. Ocampo, Arturo Luz, and Ramon Orlina in her equally impressive living room, Lobien’s introduction to her life initially sounded far-fetched. But as she carried on with her story of hard work driven by love, her fine things become well deserved as her humble beginnings shine through her words and actions.
Lobien’s mother was one of the very first Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the charming yet bustling city of Casablanca, Morocco. Patricia worked as a supervisor for an electronics company, while her husband, Lobien’s father, traveled the world as a seaman.
Whereas most OFWs need to leave behind their children to a relative’s care, Patricia found a way to bring her only child to Casablanca refusing to be away from her as she grows up, while tending to her demanding job.
“She insisted on taking me to Morocco. That’s where I grew up and finished my primary schooling,” said the grateful daughter.
Recalling her childhood, Lobien laid out the life lessons she learned early on from her mother. She was taught to appreciate hard work and to understand the value of education.
“I saw my mom and dad work hard all through my growing up years. They were very focused and honest in all of their dealings, so I made sure to bring their ways with me when I joined the workforce,” she shared.
“I also have to say that they’ve been very supportive of me. They told me from the very beginning that they would give me everything I needed and wanted so I have nothing to worry about other than my studies. That’s why somehow, without them saying it directly, I knew I had to do well in school.”
Looking back at her childhood in the North African country, which is a melting pot of cultures [Casablanca is a port city whose culture is heavily influenced by its French colonizers], Lobien has her mother to thank for exposing her early on to different people since it has helped her breeze through her functions for a multinational company.
“Part of what I do is to deal with companies from all around the world at JLL, whose bosses are mainly from Europe. So I think having early exposure to different nationalities and cultures was and advantage for me in joining this global company,” she added.
With the proper life tools, education, and support and inspiration from her hardworking parents, Lobien began her colorful journey in sales and real estate as a Tourism graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Immediately after college, she joined Island Cove Resorts as a sales executive. Two years later, she moved to Fraser Place Serviced Residences as sales manager for its high-end service apartments.
Her final job before starting a career at JLL was as general manager for Regus, an international corporation that sells office spaces at the micro level.
“I’ve been with four companies since graduating from college in 2000; but if there’s one thing that binds all these job, it’s that I’ve been always involved in sales,” Lobien noted.
The executive further highlighted how she treaded a career path that constantly required her to be in the front line as a people person.
“I’ve always enjoyed dealing with people and making things happen. I always want to be a front liner, never in the background, so ever since I started working, I’ve been doing similar things-communicating with clients and helping them solve their problems,” the 39-year-old executive deduced.
Lobien considers this skill as one of her most important assets in heading the dynamic team of young professionals in JLL-a professional services and investment management company specializing in real estate.
She also looks back to how her mom constantly reminded her to value education, and therefore never passed an opportunity to do post-graduate studies and continued training and seminars within her industry.
“I am very lucky because our company has sent me to several schools already as part of their advocacy in helping women grow in their careers,” Lobien proudly shared.
Besides securing a Master in Business Administration from UP on her own, Lobien received assistance from JLL to attend master classes, or “mini-MBAs,” at Asian Institute of Management, National University of Singapore, and most recently, at Insead Business School, dubbed as the “Harvard of Europe.”
“I am very happy that through these trainings I was able to further my horizon and expand my knowledge, not just in the real estate business but in the management of businesses as a whole.”
Indeed the Tourism graduate has come a long way, as she is now a licensed real estate broker and head of a multinational real estate company’s branch in the Philippines.
In essence Lobien’s company acts as matchmaker between building owners who have available spaces to lease, and different business entities looking where to set up operations. Business process outsourcing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and software gaming are the top four industries that currently comprise JLL’s roster of clients on the lessee side. Major developers on the other hand with their skyscrapers make up the leasers’ side to put it simply.
Employed at JLL for almost a decade now, Lobien was more than happy to share with The Sunday Times Magazine how the company broke records in 2016 by going over the 600,000 square meter-mark in terms of office space take up-a first and a feat in the country.
“It’s a good barometer of a healthy economy. When office spaces are taken all around the metro and in the provincial areas, that means jobs are being created in the market and that these companies are expanding and employing Filipino talent,” Lobien remarked.
More than her professional fulfillment, however, the people person is proud to reach her stature in the male-dominated industry. Her success paved the way for her to thank her parents-and her mother especially-for all the sacrifices they made for her.
And on a more personal note, the successful career woman also conquered another challenging realm in life: To become a mother and to do the best job she can in raising two adorable children.
Lobien was just as passionate, if not even more, when the interview shifted to her family and her role as a doting albeit working mother. She gets her stimulating job done at the office and her rewarding duties accomplished at home by acknowledging the concept of “work-life integration.” What it means is that a woman should realize she cannot do everything for the family on her own, but needs to involve the rest of the family as well.
“I think work-life balance is really not a myth because it can be done-but you have to have supportive family. Your husband should be happy for all your achievements, and you his.”
Elaborating, Lobien shared how she and her husband of 14 years-himself a practitioner of work-life integration as a vice president of a local bank-have always made sure they have breakfast with their daughter and son and see them off to school before tending to their own demanding corporate jobs.
“The family is integrated in the work and work is integrated in the family, you see?” she demonstrated. “But at the end of the day, family still comes first, so my husband and I also make it a point we are both present in all of our children’s important milestones.”
One such milestone Lobien was proud to relate was how her daughter, aged 12, became part of her school’s debate team and in fact, sent to Harvard last year to compete. To show their full support, the whole family flew to Massachusetts to cheer on their firstborn before vacationing in New York.
The proud mother then went to sharing how both of her children have excelled consistently topping their classes and representing their schools in both local and international competitions.
“My daughter has even been offered free tuition by her school from all her achievements,” Lobien exclaimed. “I think as a parent, that’s the best achievement you can ever have-to raise very studious, God-fearing children.”
Asked if she and her husband go by specific parenting methods in raising such competent children, the proud mother said it is simply leading by example.
“I think it’s because they see us as hardworking individuals, and they knew also that we both value education so much. The important thing is not to pressure them to do something they don’t like, and so we always ask them if this or that activity is something they enjoy,” Lobien advised.
Mom at work
Beyond her home, Lobien is also a mother to her team at JLL-a brood that has almost doubled in numbers since 2014. She leads them in the same way she raises her children: by example.
“I always lead by example because I like to see my boss and leader that way. It’s hard to take orders from someone who just sits in the office and does nothing. So for me, leadership is walking the talk and I think that’s how you’ll gain respect.”
But more than just delegating, Lobien said she makes sure to talk to her people, coach them and mentor them. She also emphasized that an important aspect of mentoring is validating someone rather than humiliating them when they stumble.
“At the end of the day, people don’t want to be humiliated so when you correct them, you have to correct them in private but praise them all the time in public. With that, I think I am a mix of a fun and strict boss. I want my team to have fun and be happy in what they are doing while of course reaching our targets.”
Another admirable mark of Lobien as a leader is her advocacy in providing tools for women-mothers and wives included-to excel in the corporate world. As such, she has taken the position as the chairman of the Diversity and Inclusion Council of JLL Philippines where gender equality, on top of unity and regardless of culture and background, is pushed to make every employee in the company feel valued.
“When you harness and leverage the strength of different people with different backgrounds, I think its growth will be quicker anywhere in the world,” she offered.
Outside JLL, Lobien further volunteered to chair the Women in Business Committee of European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
Asked why do it when her plate is already full at JLL and at home, Lobien said she finds the energy from wanting more women to have more options like she did.
“I want young women to dream big in life like I did and aspire to do something better. You know what they would say in the past, that women, after college, must find a rich husband, get married to get that shortcut in life. But I want women to chase whatever it is that they want in life no matter how long the journey. If they don’t want to be in the corporate world, they can choose to have their own business and do something good out there, and make a difference,”
She nevertheless encourages more women to join the corporate world because she believes their innate characteristics is what every company needs.
“We can multi-task. We have a very good intuition and can make good decisions so that gone are the days where women will just be stay-at-home moms. Today, we can also help our husbands build the family we want and contribute in nation building,” she averred.
To end the interview, Lobien-a mother and leader-said that just like her children, she wants her team to be the best they can be and in everything that they do.
“Eventually, when I’m old and gray, I want to see them as leaders too,” she smiled.
COVER PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA