Rubi-Ann Barcelona-Benitez is a Consulting Director and Practice Group Head at KSearch Asia Consulting, Inc. Ruby joined KSearch on March 1, 2000 and has since then gone up through the ranks, attaining a Practice Group leadership role in 2010 covering the IT, HR and Sales & Marketing functions within its scope. Prominent among the various industries her group supports are the Pharmaceutical, Telecommunications, Fast Moving Consumer Goods, and the Business Process Outsourcing.
Ruby remembers how in the early years of KSearch she would call prospective companies to randomly offer the services of KSearch and how she would receive series of rejections, just as she relishes the indescribable sense of triumphs the whole of KSearch would celebrate for every new successful hire. The hard work, the required patience and determination each one must demonstrate, the toughness to withstand rejections, the rewards of being resourceful, the virtues of taking the leadership, the initiative and a constant level of enthusiasm – all these have helped form the foundation for the now widely appreciated culture of KSearch. Add to these, she stressed, MRG’s penchant for pursuing a sophisticated KSearch brand, his passion for a relentless professional development of the KSearch employee, and the many travels she enjoyed make KSearch a winning culture.
Ruby is credited for having had a dual role of heading the personnel administration of KSearch up to 2010. During her watch in the earlier years of KSearch, she proved instrumental in the initial design and implementation of the Personnel Policy Manual and the Personnel Performance System.
Ruby has literally grown up with KSearch and a contributor to the company’s steady growth. She will now take our questions:
1. How has KSearch contributed to your growth as a professional?
KSearch made me who I am now. I have gained a lot of confidence when interacting with different people because of industry exposure and solid experience in candidate interviews, client meetings, networking events - - all these through the excellent mentorship of MRG. I’m proud to say that I have already built my own network most especially in the HR field throughout the years.
Being a Practice Head is a critical responsibility because you will be guiding, directing and mentoring people, making sure that they enjoy what they are doing, that they are all challenged with the tasks given to them and that they become successful-- which I really welcome. Difficult as it is, I’ve gone through the “pains” of managing people and I’m continuously learning from it.
2. Your growth as a person?
It’s such a wonderful feeling as a person when you have gained the trust, respect and confidence of your clients and candidates. It’s also a gratifying experience when you help people explore better career opportunities and help clients get the best talents. The mere fact that our industry is all about gaining, developing and building relationships speak highly of us as consultants.
I can say that I have grown mature especially when making tough decisions.
3. What were your major struggles during the starting years of KSearch?
I was initially hired as Administrative Assistant - - thereby, ensuring that MRG and the other associates/consultants get all the admin help they needed. This was not a problem to me because I have had previous work experience. After 3 months, MRG made me an associate but at the same time maintaining me as Admin Assistant.
Having zero knowledge in the Philippines' executive recruitment industry was one of my major struggles but thanks to MRG’s mentorship I overcame them all. Yet, during the few starting years I was having doubts with my capabilities if I will be effective just like the others. Second, I was not very confident speaking with senior executives especially when I’m confronted with intimidating personalities. Third, it’s not that easy to easily understand and grasp the different industries; especially at that time where I had limited exposure to industry research and was not really sure if this was the career I really wanted. There was sort of confusion on my part whether to pursue a career in executive search or not.
4. How did you cope with it?
Honestly, there came a time that I wanted to give up because I asked myself if this was the career I really wanted. I was afraid getting out of my comfort zone. I was 23 years old then and I felt that I had a long way to go but I decided to stay on with KSearch. What made me stay? I think because of the people I have worked with. We were all in the same age group and we had chemistry working together. Everyone was so passionate in what they were doing and this has inspired me to love the job and face the struggles.
I took every opportunity to learn everything about executive search. I stayed late at night and when I had my first placement, it was such a sweet one and the rest is history. Never did I regret staying on with KSearch.
5. What does it feel to be a part of the company’s struggles and success?
I feel proud of myself and the people I have worked with. It was a journey and the journey was such a fantastic one. Whenever there is a new employee, I would always tell them how KSearch persevered to become what it is today so that they can appreciate and learn from the experience.
It’s a different feeling when you have witnessed how a firm has grown. It brings a lot of good and fun memories.
6. What more to expect from the company? From your team?
KSearch: I expect the firm to become bigger in terms of revenue, to have more clients and to have a more fruitful business partnership with Horton International.
Team: I expect the HR and IT Teams to grow, bring in higher revenues and have more clients. There will be more senior consultants in HR, Marketing and IT practice. I expect team members to be experts on other functions/industries.
7. How do you keep your staff motivated?
I have always made it clear to them that my doors are open if they need to talk to me whether personal or work related. Daily encounters with your staff are very important because it gives you the opportunity to know them more as a person. I empower them because I would like to see how they respond to situations, learn from their mistakes and at the same time become independent-minded. I see to it that I have a one on one talk with them. I always give words of encouragement even if they are under performing but a leader’s motivation and support could only do so much. The person has to motivate herself/himself. I believe in self-motivation for the person to become successful.
8. In retrospect, what would you have done differently for KSearch, say five years ago?
Building the sales and marketing pool/database because it is the only function that has not really grown compared to the other functions.
9. How do you see KSearch five years from now?
To be known as the country’s Top 3 Executive Search Firms