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It Is Not About Gender

QUESTION: How and when did you join Del Monte?

Cloy Abejoela, Senior Manager, Pineapple Operations: I'm a one-company woman. I was already a chemical engineer when I applied with the cannery's supervisory training program. At that time they were interested in getting only male applicants. So I applied for the position of an hourly-paid (less than 2 pesos per hour) quality inspector. They agreed to take me in.

Q: But you became a supervisory trainee, didn't you?

Cloy: I guess management changed its mind because it noticed my technical background. It also happened to be looking for a woman with that kind of background to supervise our packing tables where the vast majority were women. I was officially appointed packing table supervisor. And I became the packing table head forelady, supervising all lines.

Q: That appointment was followed by a series of firsts, wasn't it?

Cloy: Yes. I became the cannery's first woman ginaca supervisor. Its first female operation shift supervisor. And finally, the first female manager in pineapple operations, heading the preparation department. I was given a new assignment - QA Manager. It exposed me to a wider and deeper view of the cannery operation.

Q: Did your recent promotion to Senior Manager for Pineapple Operations making you the first female employee ever to reach the senior executive position in Del Monte's Mindanao operations - surprise you?

Cloy: Yes, it surprised me very much, pleasantly of course, because I thought that the position of “manager” was the highest I could ever reach in the company.

Q: As Senior Manager for Pineapple Operations, you'd be in charge of 6 big “pressure cooker” departments - Preparation, Cookroom, Crush, Liquids, Mixed Fruit and Tomato. You'd have more than 1,200 workers under your command, with 4 managers and 32 supervisors. That's around half the cannery workforce. Doesn't that make you nervous?

Cloy: Very. But it's a challenge I must face.

Q: As new pineapple operation head, what are your priorities?

Cloy: Optimizing recoveries and producing quality products tops my list - recoveries from the pineapple fruit, papaya and all the other manufacturing ingredients. I am fortunate that I head a team already knowledgeable about pineapple operations. This is going to make my job easier. I can therefore focus on strengthening teamwork in my team and with the other work teams of the cannery - Can Plant, Maintenance, Labeling, Shipping, Pack Planning and the support groups in Bugo. This is key to higher productivity.

Q: In a speech you once gave to a graduating class of would-be engineers, you said “it's a man's world out there.” Do you still subscribe to that opinion?

Cloy: I believe the time has come for me to revise that view. I've realized success is not about gender but about working hard to excel in everything we do. Making the grade isn't open only to men. Women are also invited.

Q: What particular advantage do you bring into your new job?

Cloy: My QA background. I've developed a sense for what our different customers really want. Like, the U.S. prefers golden yellow pineapple in its natural juice. Japan pays close attention to product presentation. Europe insists on “continental standards” which include social accountability. And Filipinos want more value for their money. Though far from unerring, my instincts for what delights our customers will help me do my job.

Q: Whom do you credit for your success?

Cloy: I thank God for blessing me with a good career, for giving me a devoted husband and supportive family, and for making me part of a modem and forward-looking company. My husband Virgil (who had been Cannery Manager for Liquids Processing for 16 years until he resigned from the company 5 years back) has supported me all these years, holding me up when I'm down and rejoicing in my success. And Del Monte has given me all the chance to prove myself. I also thank my colleagues in Cannery Operations for their unstinting support all these years.

You're an extraordinary woman.

Cloy: No, I'm just an average person, an ordinary woman, who accepted extraordinary challenges. Anyone can do what I've accomplished if only he or she tries hard enough.

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