Filipino in Middle East: It’s What I Do

Filipino in UAE: Mary Grace Canlas-Santos

Team Head (Social Media) – Dnata Customer Care Center (Emirates Group)

Filipino in UAE

My job

I was only 22 years old when I came to the UAE to work in Emirates Group. I was hired in the Philippines after enduring a long queue of hopeful Filipinos who couldn’t wait for the opportunity to work abroad. I got lucky enough to be selected with my work experience being nonetheless limited to admin, and HR positions. I started as a

Reservations and Sales Agent, and managed to receive 3 promotions during my 7- year tenure in the company. I managed to work my way up to being the Team Head of the Social Media account of our client which is a well-recognized government authority in the UAE.

In my years of stay in the company and having held different positions (reservations and ticketing agent, holidays specialist, supervisor for customer care, and now team head for Social Media Account), I have been blessed to experience dealing with various types of customers, interacting with my colleagues from different levels of the organization, traveling to other countries for familiarization trips, developing my skills and competencies, discovering my inner potential and, of course, finally deciding that I have found the work that I love to do . I take great pride in being able to represent our Filipino workforce in a foreign land where our excellence is recognized. From 2008 till date, I have received a total of 14 awards in recognition for my work, and several projects that I have handled throughout the years.

Being a part of the Social media team is very exciting. It is fun and at the same time very challenging. In my work, I get to showcase my creativity, leadership, and process management skills; I have successfully set up the entire social media team, and streamlined all processes and workflows which are now being utilized by our operations.

My work day

On a daily basis, my responsibilities include overseeing the operations; monitoring social media accounts, live chat and email services for our clients; ensuring that we meet our service levels with the highest standards of quality; monitoring and managing all social media reports using Radian 6 as our analysis tool; conducting reviews and presenting my recommendations to our clients.

Although my hands are full throughout the week, I still manage to schedule enough time with my family. My Fridays, and Saturdays are merely spent with my bonding activities with my husband who also works here, and talking with my family through Skype. I am the breadwinner in our family ever since my dad had a mild stroke in 2009, but I never felt the weight of my responsibilities ever since someone taught me how to pray properly. I was told not to feel bad about my un-answered prayers. And so my prayer has since then changed to this “Dear Lord if you can’t make things better, please give me the strength to help me withstand whatever I am going through right now” From then, my outlook in life has changed, and I became more optimistic. The same went on with my success in my career.

I think ‘Filipinos, being family oriented’ is an understatement. For us, no distance is too far for us not to share funny stories with each other. We always find time to laugh at just about anything, even in the midst of any adversity.

My message to Filipinos across the globe

I honestly don’t think that I have achieved enough to inspire my fellow countrymen, but it’s actually the other way around. I am the one who continuously gets inspired by how our ‘kababayans’ work hard and make do with what little they get out of their long hours of work. It makes me reflect on my humble beginnings in the UAE during the time of the recession when our only hope was to keep our jobs. It was the toughest times and yet we all have survived. I thank God, my family, the UAE, and my country for keeping us all intact. With that, I leave you my most useful learning in life summed up into this, “when your boat is sinking, do not change your course. Instead find something from the boat which can help you swim towards the same direction.”



Filipino in Dubai: Joseph Francis Bihag

Executive Creative Director – Y & R LabStore
Dubai, UAE

Filipino in Dubai: Joseph Francis Bihag

My job

My colleagues know me as Jobi and I’m the Executive Creative Director of Y&R LabStore – part of Y&R Dubai. Y&R (Young & Rubicam) is one of the largest advertising networks in the world with more than 186 offices in 90 countries. We have been around for more than 90 years now.

Through the years I have handled clients such as Land Rover, Kit-Kat, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, 3M, Harvey Nichols, La Senza, Virgin Atlantic, Gulf News, and American Garden amongst others. Winning awards for them across every advertising discipline from Digital, Design, Direct, Shopper Marketing to Integrated Advertising.

Filipino in Dubai: Joseph Francis Bihag

My works has been honored at Andy, Cannes Lions, D&AD, One Show, Clio, London International Advertising Awards, New York Festivals, Adfest, Epica, Effie, Dubai Lynx, Cresta, Webby, Graphis and Wolda. I was also part of the team responsible for Y&R Dubai winning the Agency of the Year three times in a row at Dubai Lynx.

Most recently, I have been tasked with running Y&R LabStore, Y&R’s new Retail & Shopper Marketing arm. Y&R LabStore will complement Y&R’s holistic communication offering by strengthening their presence in all retail environments.

In my free time, I serve as an Advisory Board Member of the Department of Visual Communication at the American University of Dubai and occasionally lecture at the top three Visual Communication schools in the UAE – American University of Sharjah, Zayed University and the American University of Dubai.

I’m happily married with two lovely boys and we love spending weekends together with our three rescued dogs

My work day

A typical day starts meeting my team to discuss jobs in the pipeline. I am mostly in and out of meetings all throughout the day as I review each concept and make sure that the work is up to agency standards. Somewhere along the day I get pulled into client meetings. And when projects get approved and executed, we need to be on ground to make sure it goes as planned, whether it happens in Dubai or somewhere else around the globe. With my time mostly occupied managing my teams, I make sure that I allocate at least two hours per day combing through the internet and keeping up with what’s happening in the industry. This is so important that I make sure my team does it as well. One has to be on the cutting edge in what we do to be able to stay on top of the game.

Part of the beauty of working here in Dubai is having the pleasure of working with different nationalities. This is so true for us as at any given time, there’s at least 5-10 nationalities working on the same project. At one point, we were like the United Nations – having 20 nationalities working in the same company. This diversity brings in a multitude of insights, experiences and ideas to the table. We get to tackle the client brief from multiple angles and come up with ideas we are all proud of.

My message to Filipinos around the globe

Other nationalities already salute Filipinos for being hard workers. And they should, as we are the hardest working class any company would love to have. But being a hard working individual isn’t enough, to reach the top one must always reinvent oneself. Never be complacent. Regardless of the profession you are in, you have to stay relevant. And for those who do, there’s only one way and that is to the top.


Filipino in Middle East: Contessa Podador

HR Generalist – Gulf & Pakistan, NALCO (An Ecolab Company)

Filipino in Middle East

My job

I am a Human Resource Generalist. I’m the one stop shop for employees in my company for all things concerning HR – e.g. inquiries about pay, bonuses, how to hire people into the company, visa process questions, etc.

I’ve recently left a big IT Company in July 2014 to join my new company. I was so used to an autonomous and a virtual way of working; I’ve never met any of my three managers in person or any of my team members from across Europe either. I was very apprehensive in getting back into the “real world.” Going to the office everyday on a specific time is something that is new to me again. So is dealing with my supervisor and my team face to face. I thought I would be struggling for long but I find it a success that I’ve integrated well into the office quite seamlessly and have a good working relationship with my manager and the rest of my team. I am no longer virtual…

My work day

I get into the office, check mails, make phone calls, make reports, make and send out offers/letters/documents/items to employees in my office as well as other satellite offices in the Gulf. It’s a very busy office environment.

My message to Filipinos around the globe

It’s a happy mixture of luck, hard work and patience to be a success in the UAE or anywhere in the world. Keep your chin up and your head down. Hurrah for the Global Filipino!