From Admin Coordinator to Nielsen’s top-level executive, Filipino shares secret of happy living in “little Saudi”

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I had the privilege of meeting one of the inspiring Filipino executives in Middle East. He’s presently the Senior Human Resource Manager and Business Partner, Global Business Services for Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan of The Nielsen Company. He lives in Sharjah, the “Little Saudi” as expats call this emirate.

Today, he’s being looked up to as one of Top 5 Most Inspiring Human Resource Executives in the United Arab Emirates.

3Inspired by his successful pursuits in the gulf, I included his story in my first published book, the Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold. Straight from his golden heart, allow me to share what he said about the “positive angles of failures and rejections” so as to inspire a greater number of Filipinos around the world.

Here’s the interview with Alexie T. Rieza:

“I think what is unique about me is my ability to see opportunities and the positive angles of failures and rejections. Just like in photography seeing the world in various lens and angles give you different perspectives.”

A day in his life

My office and home are very close to each other, about 15 minutes walk, and we are based here in Sharjah for over 5 years now. Despite of the Sharjah’s reputation of being “little Saudi,” we actually love it. Having been born in Bulacan, a province adjacent to Manila, I associate Sharjah with Bulacan and Dubai with Manila. The emirate is built for raising a family and this a paradise for those who love culture and the arts.

We have the beautiful Qanat Al Qasba where the Eye of Emirates is, the Al Majaz Waterfront where there is a fountain and lights show, the Blue Souk, which aside from being an iconic structure, this architectural gem is the building featured at the back of 5 dirhams bill. Yes, Sharjah might not be as glamorous as Dubai, but my family and I are perfectly fine with what the place has to offer.

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On regular days, I wake up at around 7 am and do my morning rituals. At around 8:30 am, I leave home en route to our office. The biggest advantage that I have working and living here in Sharjah is that I don’t need to worry about traffic, Salik or petrol. Even if I leave the office half past 8, I still arrive in the office early. That definitely relieves me of unnecessary and additional stress everyday. During weekends, I used to go to my school at Knowledge Village in Dubai.

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From 2011 until recently, I used to spend my Fridays and Saturdays attending lectures from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm and again for 1 weekday (Monday) from 6:00 pm up to 9:00 pm once a month. Currently, since I have already completed my academic requirements, I now spend my weekends with my family exclusively doing our grocery and sometimes we visit Dubai and go to malls to unwind. On Sundays, we see to it that we go to Church. Right after work I pick up my wife and son and the three of us attend the Sunday Eucharistic service at St. Michael’s Church here in Sharjah. My family and I live a very modest and simple life and this is the world that I live in.

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His work

As an HR Manager and as an HR Business Partner, my work in a nutshell is to align HR strategies with business objectives. HR used to be perceived as a support function to all departments whose role is to attend to the transactional needs of employees such as salary certificates, contracts, leave management, payroll, etc.

But with the evolved role of HR in the changing landscape of the business, HR in our company is expected to provide more than the transactional services but more so strategic business perspectives to stakeholders to achieve our company’s 5 main objectives: portfolio expansion, academy company, cost leadership, innovation and organic growth. On top of that, it is also my responsibility to provide transformational services by means of counseling and soft-skills trainings to our people. I currently lead the HR operations across UAE, Bahrain, Oman Qatar and Kuwait for the Global Business Services Division in our company.

Publication6 (2)His company

The Nielsen Company is known around the world as a company who conducts TV audience measurement. In fact in the Philippines, TV networks and even radio stations rely on Nielsen’s data to know which shows have the best ratings/most watched to aid advertisers. But in reality, our company does more than that. To quickly summarize the multitude of businesses and services that we provide, Nielsen measures what people watch and what people buy.

Nielsen’s vision is to provide the most complete understanding of consumer and media behavior worldwide. We are proud to say that we are not just the largest marketing research company around the world with offices in almost 100 plus countries with almost 35,000 employees, but we are the undisputed global leader in our industry today. With a very rich history, Nielsen, founded in 1923, currently celebrates its 90 years of continuous successful existence. Our company’s headquarters is in New York, USA.

Greatest achievement in life

I remember my Spiritual Director in high school who always tells us “Let go and let God.” Though I do have a clear vision on what I wanted to achieve in life, I still always leave everything to God’s hands. As I mature, I realized that the key to avoid depressions in life is by setting short term goals and then once you achieve them, calibrate your plans again and move to the next.

Picture1My greatest achievement in life is having a family of my own. When I saw our son for the first time, I felt an inner joy that I cannot explain. It is truly a remarkable experience. Since all my family and friends knew about my love for studying, I always tell them that among the certificates that I have got, the 2 certificates that are so dearest to me are my wedding and son’s birth certificates.

Ordinary days

Whenever I have time, I normally just play guitar, read books or play with my son. Sometimes, I also do carpentry for my weekend projects. And occasionally, I print my own shirts, or do photoshoots.

Proud migrant

I cannot tell enough how proud I am for being a Filipino. In fact, if given a chance for a second lifetime, I will still choose to be born a Filipino. Our culture, our values, our traditions, our beautiful country… the list could go on and on and on…there are just so many things to be thankful for. In fact, I feel privileged to be born and raised as a Filipino. But as I used to remind my students then, “hindi mahalaga kung gaano ka ka-proud sa bansa mo bagkus ang mas mahalaga ay kung proud ba ang bansa mo sa iyo?”

Below is Alexie’s story as it appears in Precious Gems in Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book ever published about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates.

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First impression of Dubai

Dubai for me is as a land of dreams, ambitions and opportunities and that impression has remained unchanged until today. Now it is all up to us expatriates on how our brief sojourn here will become successful.

First work in Dubai

My first job in UAE was an Admin Coordinator in a contracting company. I remember I had to wake up very early everyday at around 4:30 am because our company service picks us up at around 6:00 am and brings us to the project site that is almost in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, due to overwhelming scorching heat, I only managed to last for about 2 months.

Luckily, I immediately got another job an HR Coordinator in one of the 5 stars hotel in Dubai. It was during my tenure there that I learned the fundamentals of the transactional HR activities. I stayed with them for almost a year until I was invited to be an adjunct faculty of one of the colleges in Dubai for 1 term teaching Philosophy subjects. After my brief stint there, I transferred to my current company.

Most Valuable Lesson

The most valuable lesson in life that I have learned when I became an OFW here in UAE is to never underestimate your skills and capabilities and never stop dreaming.

The best way to succeed in getting into the top of the corporate ladder is not by waiting for the perfect opportunity but rather by creating it. And how do you create opportunities for yourself?

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Study and learn. Instead of buying the latest and the most advanced gadgets available in the market today, why not invest your money in education? There are hundreds of universities and colleges all-over the UAE that offer various courses and degrees. I really do hope that Filipino expatriates would soon realize this golden opportunity. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

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My journey in UAE is still ongoing and so does my book of adventures and misadventures. I know that I still have a lot to learn and there are still so many things that I want to do and to achieve. I just wish that when the time comes where I have to put the last chapter of my story here in UAE, I will be able to end it with these last words: “Veni, Vidi, Vici” or “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

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IMG_3984THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique.  While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. In 2014, he released Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates. Connect with him on facebook.

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