BPO professional Eden Gutierrez is a Palaweña that left home to pursue her lofty dreams. Over the years, she built a successful and thriving career in the contact center industry rising through the ranks, working with a wide range of global clients, and learning and developing her skills.
She has achieved many of her personal and professional career goals. And now, she has finally ticked something big off of her bucket list – she has come home.
Gutierrez returned to Palawan as the newly appointed Vice President for Operations for Sitel Puerto Princesa. She was excited to return to the province she considers home to help further grow Sitel’s countryside site and develop more local talents into global customer care professionals.
“It was such a thrill to return to Palawan,” Gutierrez admits. “Before, I felt the need to leave to find better opportunities, but thanks to Sitel’s mission to widen its customer care footprint in greenfield locations, Palawan is now able to offer careers to local talents and gives returning talents, like me, the chance to utilize what we have learned and give back to both the company and the region.”
Officially opening its doors in Puerto Princesa, Palawan in 2017, leading global customer experience provider Sitel has been successfully growing and expanding its business in the province while working to enhance the skills of local talents and give them a chance a career in the BPO industry.
“BPO has grown so much in the country,” Gutierrez shares. “What was once seen as a transitional job is now a very promising career and one that has allowed many Filipinos the opportunity to learn, travel, thrive, and reach unparalleled heights of success. For my part, now that I am back home with Sitel in Princesa, I am committed to helping even more Palaweños experience this success too.”
An Auspicious Beginning
Born and raised in the province, Gutierrez was committed to her studies and racked up many accolades during her time in school. After graduating Valedictorian from Puerto Princesa City National Science High School she had to consider leaving the province for college so that she could find more opportunities upon graduation.
She moved to Baguio in 1997 and pursued her studies at the University of the Philippines, skillfully completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science majoring in Political Science and History.
While in college, Gutierrez did not just focus solely on academics. While she did exceptionally well in school, she also made sure to devote time to extracurricular activities like the UP Debate Team, student council, and UP Kamalayan – an organization for history students. And despite a packed schedule, she also made time for giving back to the community through various socio-civic activities.
“I have always been philanthropic,” she shares. “I had a professor who was a nun – Sister Bella – and we became very close. She inspired me to do charity work in local orphanages. Sometimes it would be just the two of us collecting donations for the kids. Sometimes more volunteers would join. It always made me happy to be able to give back whenever I could.”
After graduation, Gutierrez was offered a teaching position at St. Louis University in Baguio. She accepted and after a year of teaching political science and history, she was offered a prestigious three-year scholarship for further studies in Belgium in exchange for another six-years of service to the university.
Despite the excitement of going abroad, she politely declined, as she wanted to focus on building her career and exploring industries outside the academe.
“Teaching is a profession I would like to revisit one day when I am older. I enjoy being an educator, but at the time I wanted to pursue other opportunities.”
Making it in Manila
Gutierrez then decided to move to Manila to look for career prospects. It was there, in 2002, that she began working in the contact center industry as a member of a pioneer BPO company catering to U.S. accounts.
“Looking back, I believe I entered the BPO industry at the perfect time,” Gutierrez reminisces. “It was just starting to grow in the country and I was able to grow with it.”
In 2018, after numerous advances in the company and the many accolades she had accumulated, Gutierrez expressed an interest in retiring to focus on her growing children and winding down and cutting out some stress from her life. She began politely declining any further promotions or job offers.
That is until Sitel asked her if she would be interested in working in Palawan.
“I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be interested in any other offers by that time,” she recalls. “But this was a game-changer because I have always dreamed of going back to Palawan. And having the chance to work in the countryside would remove the stress and overall ‘noise’ of living in Manila. It was serendipity and I could see everything falling into place. Plus the offer came from Haidee, a fellow Palawena passing the torch onto me. I felt we had the same mission for Palawan and I wanted to continue her legacy. I couldn’t say no.”
Two months ago, Gutierrez accepted the offer and moved back home.
Coming back to Palawan was an exciting transition for her and she relished the thought of more quiet living and less stress from things like Metro Manila traffic and pollution. But that didn’t mean that Gutierrez was any less determined in her work. She approached her position in Palawan with renewed passion looking forward to how she could help bolster Sitel’s thriving business in the region.
“Alongside being able to go home, what excited me about working at Sitel in Palawan was the chance to see how I could utilize my position to not only grow our business but also strengthen our programs and partnerships in the local community,” Gutierrez explained.
Sitel has always been committed to actively participating in the Puerto Princesa community. From various corporate social responsibility programs in the area to support local suppliers and craftsmen, to offer feel contact center training to local talents to help them prepare for careers in the BPO industry.
“When we first opened in Palawan we were bringing in talents from our other Sitel sites,” Gutierrez says. “We had to relocate people here because contact center work was new in the region. Sitel was the first BPO in the province and there weren’t talents available locally with the required skills.”
Sitel sought to change that. Following their vision of uplifting the lives of the communities where they operate, the BPO giant focused on strengthening recruitment locally through free call center training, collaborating with the local government for job fairs and workshops, and partnering with academic institutions to help build and launch the curriculum for required contact center skills.
It wasn’t long before Sitel Princesa was seeing their investments in the community bear fruit. Since 2017, the company has successfully hired over 4,000 associates and looks forward to training more and steadily increasing its pool of local talent.
“I know that Palaweños are highly capable of building successful BPO careers and working at all levels in the company,” Gutierrez shares. “There are things we must address and strengthen like building stronger language skills, learning more complex processes, and getting familiar with the emerging technologies, but with access to training and development, they will rise to challenge. Our increased partnerships with the government and local schools will additionally help bridge the skills gap and create an improved and robust pipeline for recruitment.”
With big plans on the horizon, Gutierrez is looking forward to creating a positive impact and is excited to see the mutually beneficial relationship between Sitel and Palawan continue to grow.
“I am deeply committed to making a difference both for Sitel and for Palawan,” she concludes. “I look forward to everything that we can achieve together and I’m so confident in the next generation of BPO professionals that I do not doubt that when the time comes for me to call it a day, the next crop of leaders will be homegrown talents too.”