From telephone operator to CEO: The story of SGS’ lady boss

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Rosario Cajucom-Bradbury, managing director and CEO, SGS Philippines. PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

Rosario Cajucom-Bradbury, managing director and CEO, SGS Philippines. PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

At first glance, one wouldn’t immediately think she was the head of one of Switzerland’s big multinational corporations doing business in the Philippines. Even with a petite frame in high heels, Rosario Cajucom-Bradbury, managing director and chief executive officer of SGS Philippines, exuded grace and optimism. Hers is a remarkable story of success, rising as she did from a telephone operator job in the company, to its top post in just 25 years.

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SGS S.A. (formerly Societe Generale de Surveillance) is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The core services offered by SGS include the inspection and verification of the quantity, weight, and quality of traded goods, the testing of product quality and performance against various health safety and regulatory standards, and ensuring that products, systems or services meet the requirements of standards set by governments, standardization bodies, or by SGS customers.

It was founded in Rouen, France in 1878. The company moved its headquarters from Paris to Geneva, in order to continue its operations in a neutral country. In the mid-20th century, SGS began to diversify and started offering inspection, testing and verification services across a variety of sectors, including industrial, minerals and oil, gas and chemicals, among others.

Today, the company’s structure consists of ten business segments, including agriculture; automotive; consumer testing services; environment; governments and institutions; industrial; life sciences; minerals; oil, gas and chemicals; and systems and services certification. The Swiss-based company currently employs more than 80,000, with a network of more than 1,650 offices and laboratories around the world.

In the Philippines, SGS started in 1949 with the establishment of a satellite office as a representative agent. The company then went into various industries, where it eventually got into a contract with the Philippine government through the Bureau of Customs in 1986. It was also that same year when Bradbury joined SGS.

But, she says, that contract was just one of the business segments that SGS Philippines was involved in. “Our existence at that time was not as well known, as the contract we entered into with the Philippine government. We became more well known in the media, because it has more emotional impact, because it was duties and taxes.”

Bradbury remembers that when SGS finished the contract with the government, many people thought the company had also left the country. She admits it was a challenging time for them, especially for their employees in the division that used to handle the inspection operations for the Bureau of Customs.

“We believe in the talent of the Philippines, of the infrastructure we had created, that is why we turned it into a back office that created even more jobs. We turned around the staff there to become a BPO (business process outsourcing) handling back office operations for the SGS Group.”

Today, Bradbury proudly shares that their company had grown corollary to the economic growth of the country, including its international trade.

She says that one of their current strengths is in the mining industry, noting that the Philippines is one of the richest sources of minerals in the world. They have also expanded their laboratory facilities to accommodate the fast pace of growth in the country’s export industry, and life sciences division, among others.

These days, the main focus for growth of the company is the automotive segment. This has a lot of potential, she says, since people now put more importance to the environment and climate change.

In general, Bradbury is very optimistic about hitting their targets given the strong economic performance of the Philippines. This is a far cry from the weak economic conditions she saw when she first joined the company in 1986.

“I didn’t know what SGS was all about, I was very young, working in McDonald’s, and several other companies before that.” She was interviewed by several SGS expatriates, who were looking for people for their pre-shipment inspection contract with the customs bureau.

They told her all positions were taken except for one—a telephone operator with a salary of P1,800 a month—a position where she was overqualified. But then she was determined to try working for a multinational company, so she boldly told them she would take the job. She saw her decision then not as a “gamble,” but more as a leap of faith. And as fate would have it, more than twenty-five years later, this diminutive yet plucky lady finds herself at the top of her game.

But she says the real icing on the cake was her personal life’s journey, including her marriage and her son, who is now the center of her world. She and her son have this practice of praying together at night, wherever they may be in the world. They also go to their beach house whenever time permits, she says. And for her, this is the meaning of true success—finding the right balance in one’s career and personal life, and being happy in both.

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3 Comments

  1. Frankensteini on

    Then… where the story goes? Misleading Title: From telephone operator to CEO: The story of SGS’ lady boss