From Domestic Helper to Multinational CEO: Rebecca Bustamante
Last year’s official nomination opening of 2014 Asia CEO awards, an event annually held to recognize the top emerging and achieving Filipino CEOs or chief executive officers, has made founder Rebecca Bustamante-Mills excited.
When prompted why, she answered it was because Philippines, her country was hailed as an emerging business hub in Asia.
Rebecca Bustamante-Mills, at 48, is the founder and president of Chalré Associates, a multinational recruitment firm for senior management executive positions, and spends her days at work negotiating deals with foreign companies and coordinating lectures and seminars with local and foreign business authorities. The non-profit organization Asia CEO Forum, Chalré’s Corporate Social Responsibility project is also Bustamante’s brain-child, offering monthly forums for the last five years.
Hard to believe, but Bustamante started her life from poverty. She was the 7th child in 11 children. The death of her mother when she was 18 forced her to work to put her younger siblings to school, as her father had no steady income. She was a working student all throughout high school, doing odd jobs from being a house helper for different families to a saleslady to vending pandesal, ice buko and ice candy. Reminiscing, Bustamante states that she was interested in sales even then.
Bustamante moved to Singapore when she was 19, finding a better paying job as a domestic helper. The three years spent in Singapore was spent juggling her daily tasks assigned by her employers and studying in secret for her degree in Accounting at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management.
She succeeded in keeping her education a secret by studying when everyone was asleep, allowing her body only 4 hours of sleep. She was allowed one day off and that was spent coordinating with professors to get her credits and homework. Bustamante states that her determination to pursue her education to help her younger siblings in the Philippines was her motivation against any obstacle she comes to.
Looking for another better paying job, Bustamante found herself working in Canada as a nanny for almost 4 years. Same in Singapore, she juggled her work and education, completing her graduate studies in Accounting and Marketing at Ryerson University in Ontario. Commenting on education, Bustamante states that learning is very important to her, citing that to be successful you have to continue learning and developing skills. Bustamante further expands that she has never stopped studying.
Bustamante was 27 when she started feeling the pull of wanting to settle down, that is when she was almost done with her promise to her late mother, to let her younger siblings finish their schooling. Upon getting the idea of a serious relationship, she read more on dating and listed the qualities of her ideal man.
It was a friend who first introduced her to businessman Richard Mills, and just after a few weeks of dating, Mills wanted to introduce her to his family. This was the time Bustamante wanted to come clean with her background and financial status, lying about it at first. She brought Mills to the Philippines and introduced him to her family. She was 31 when they tied the knot. They currently have 2 boys.
Bustamante states that their relationship worked out because they believed it can be developed instead of being instantly in love.
Bustamante is a big business personality in Canada, working first as a business executive then founding her own recruitment firm, the High-Q Personnel.
It was on after spending Christmas of 2000 in the Philippines that the couple decided to settle in the Philippines for good. This is mostly due to Richard falling in love with the Filipino culture and values. Both parents wanted their children to grow up in that.
Bustamante was working first for Mary Kay Cosmetics, then for the Canadian Embassy. It was only in 2005 when the couple decided to put up their own company Chalré, a company doing the screening for senior managerial and directorial positions for multinational companies. As of now, their company has operations in Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Canada.
Wanting to give back to the Philippines and the poor, which was where she came from; Bustamante planned to attract more foreign investments to the Philippines, which would generate more jobs for the people, and it was in 2009 when the Asia CEO Forum which the Mills couple inaugurated.
The Asia CEO forum was made for Filipino and foreign leaders to share their experience of doing business in the Philippines. The forum was all about making noise about the Philippines and its people, that Filipino businessmen are ready for the global competition.
Bustamante also expressed her hope of inspiring more women leaders to aim higher, disregarding the notion that men will always be better leaders or CEOs and that being a CEO will rob their families of their time. She states that with time management, open communication and setting priorities, anyone can achieve the highest position. To make your family understand your ambitions, it is also best you share your dreams with them and meet in the middle.
Photo credit: CNN Philippines