Eternal student

This young executive joined a business sector traditionally dominated by men. Her motivation was not to tackle any gender issues, but to enrich her knowledge and work with different types of people.
Ann Claire Ramirez
Vice President for Communications
Holcim Philippines

“Work is work, but you need to take care of yourself and your team to ensure you are able to brave these challenging times.”

When Holcim Philippines Vice President for Communications Ann Claire Ramirez — Cara to family and close friends — was a young girl, she set her sights on becoming a teacher. Her mother, however, gently pointed out that she would find the income from the profession frustrating.

“That sidetracked me, given the financial needs we had back then,” Cara recalls. Instead, she chose to major in economics at the University of the Philippines Diliman, graduating in 1999.

“I came from humble beginnings and I was fortunate to study in the State University that didn’t cost much. So, after finishing in April, I was soon employed by Globe Telecomms, Inc. as a contractual. I accepted the job to get the work experience and earn an income to kick start things.”

Three years later, she had a son, which made her work-life balance situation even more intense.

Caring mentors

Through sheer determination, Cara worked her way up the corporate ladder. “I was fortunate to have mentors, who paved the way for me to achieve what I want to be,” she says. “I also gave importance to learning as it has always been helpful to know what I can do and how I can stretch myself and do more.”

At 28, Cara was appointed to the management committee in a previous company. “My struggles then involved how to think more holistically, perform my duties and balance them with my increased responsibilities,” she says. “It was a journey of continuous learning and not an easy path. One could only pray [hard] and be better than yesterday to stay afloat of amid the challenges.”

(From top to bottom) Habitat for Humanity Philippines CEO Kelly Koch (left) hands Cara a plaque of appreciation for Holcim Philippines’ participation in the 7th Annual Pacific
Housing Forum; the vice president for communications (second from right) marks her fifth year with Holcim Philippines with company President and CEO John Stull (right)
and her team; and at the launch of the Holcim Helps project with Stull and Environment Manager Steph Fugoso. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Cara entered Holcim Philippines as head of marketing in January 2015 and was promoted to vice president for communications in 2017. She considers herself fortunate to work for an organization that shares her mission in life. “And that is to be an enabler in improving people’s lives,” she points out. “People and community are among the four strategic pillars of our [company’s] sustainable development goals. Since joining the communications team, I am happy to share that we have directly reached close to 1.4 million people.”

Cara is apparently making her mark in what has traditionally been considered a man’s world, even if that had never been her intention. “When I joined Holcim Philippines, my motivation was to work in the industrial sector in order to enrich and expand my knowledge and also to get to work with many [types of] people,” she says.

New risk

In coping with the pandemic, Holcim Philippines has been guided by protocols set by the local government and the Department of Health, as well as the exacting standards of its mother company, the Swiss multinational LafargeHolcim. “The company has taken aggressive action to cushion the impact of Covid 19 on our business,” says Cara. “Besides that, it has focused on cash and cost management to ensure that we are able to sustain our business operations despite the pandemic.

“We look at Covid-19 as another risk we need to manage in our operations, and we have well-defined principles that we also applied in the current situation. As for specific health and safety controls, we installed on our sites new health facilities and rolled out safety protocols focused on social distancing, proper sanitation, hygiene and health monitoring.”

Holcim Philippines has also implemented the work-from-home (WFH) policy for its support staff. For their operating sites, they had to classify each employee in terms of “critical onsite” or “critical offsite” among other labels to ensure they had the right volume of people to comply with government regulations.

Cara admits that “cabin fever” for those in WFH conditions has become a genuine problem. “We have been working on ‘People Resilience’ initiatives, which include webinars on mental health. Right now, it is really about quality people connection in every way. We need to keep the engagement at all times, even if it has become challenging to do so, with people becoming passive.

“A simple Kumusta? [‘hello’ in Pilipino] can make all the difference. Work is work, but you need to take care of yourself and your team to ensure you are able to weather these challenging times.”

Cara adds: “Personally, WFH, somehow, was an opportunity to maximize productivity versus being stuck on the road due to traffic. However, I miss going to the office and interacting with my colleagues. Hopefully in the near future, things will normalize.”

Holcim Philippines traces its beginnings to the Hi-Cement Corporation (HCC), which was established in November 1964 and later merged with the Davao Union Cement Corporation and Bacnotan Cement Corporation in 2000 to produce HCC. In 2005, the corporate name was changed to Holcim Philippines.

Holcim Philippines currently boasts of cement-manufacturing facilities in La Union, Bulacan, Batangas, Misamis Oriental and Davao provinces.

The youngest of three children, Cara is the daughter of Cita and and Tony Ramirez, a human resource executive who passed away in 2011. She is a single parent to Miggy, a Grade 12 student at the University of Asia and the Pacific. Mother and son count dining at their favorite restaurant as time happily spent. “That is already joy for me,” the young executive says.

As for the earlier dream to become a teacher, Cara believes that could still come true, even on a parttime basis. She is, after all, a person who fervently believes in pursuing new avenues in life.

ABOUT ME

ROLE MODEL
My mom, who is my super woman! She took care of us by herself. I am thankful for who and what I am today because of how she brought me up.

GOAL
To make a difference and be able to help people as much as I can. For my family, it would be to provide security and comfort, especially my son.

FIRST PAYING JOB
Barely P7,000 as I was a contractual employee at Globe Telecom Inc., where I worked as corporate accounts assistant

MORNING RITUAL
Working from home, I am able to do more. I wake up between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.; jog if it is not raining; cool down while taking coffee; and water my plants in the balcony. I keep all these within the right time frame and am ready for work at 8 a.m.

SPECIAL SKILL
Organizing an event or developing an extensive (and economically affordable) itinerary for travel

TIME SPENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
More time than I’m supposed to

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