October 2018. 

A Filipino, then Operations Manager, arrived at the San Francisco International Airport. It was a first visit to the U.S. 

All alone. And the trip’s purpose was not for leisure. 

The person was given a chance to represent the company, to talk to an offshoring client that only had 40 or so employed to convince them to pursue their expansion plans with them. 

The target: 200 or more new hires. A 500% increase if completed. 

You’d think that the company would send someone experienced, maybe even the CEO or President.

But they decided to send the newly promoted Operations Manager, in what would be the first time talking to clients face-to-face. 

Given the circumstances, it would be a scary experience for anyone. Despite being given weeks of preparations, the Operations Manager still had doubts, like anyone would. “Am I the right person to do this? Am I going to pull this off by myself? What should I do if they did not want to continue?” 

While women have enjoyed significant progress in terms of employment and narrowing the gender wage gap, there are still lots of work to do. Due to occupational segregation or family caregiving responsibilities, men continue to receive more opportunities to advance their careers than women. 

Self-confidence is not at its best. And fear is taking over the body. 

However, there was another feeling that stood out more. 

Excitement for the opportunity.

Because among the many options, it was a woman who was selected to handle an opportunity to talk to high-value clients. 

In the end, she was able to pull it off. And suddenly, the opportunity became an accomplishment. 

Mariebien Custodio received a promotion months after. She is now one of the top Client Services Managers for iSupport Worldwide. She is handling over 30 accounts, helping create good relationships with CEOs and business owners for the offshoring company based in the Philippines. 

That first trip to the U.S. signified a drastic turning point in her career. If there was one thing that the situation taught her, it was that she felt she could persevere and succeed against any challenge. 

And it is not just in her work. 

As the only child, Mariebien took responsibility for taking care of her aging parents, an almost family-oriented tradition in the Philippines. Unfortunately, her father suffered from stroke in 2015. 

“It was emotionally and financially tough, especially being the only adult in the family who is working,” Mariebien said. “We were in the dumps because of medical bills, in debt of around P500,000 to 1,000,000. It was the toughest year for me, for us. I was draining my savings and walking from my office to home every day to pay off the overwhelming debt little by little.” 

Still, she persevered through the struggle and was able to pay off all her credit card debt and loans. During that time, unfortunately, her father passed away. 

It was a challenging time for the Custodio family, but Mariebien was able to move forward. After many ups and downs, as well as a pandemic, she found her way to iSupport Worldwide. There, she reunited with the person who gave her the biggest career opportunity of her life: Courtney Bissett. 

Building a Support Network: Nobody Has to Do Everything Alone

Taking on any challenge, whether in your career or personal life, can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. However, taking them on by yourself exposes you to the risk of social isolation. There are plenty of long-term health issues associated with trying to take on your problems alone, making it necessary to find people you can lean on. Fortunately for Mariebien, she found them. 

Courtney, the current president of iSupport Worldwide, has been part of Mariebien’s professional network over the past ten years and has also been present for her during personal struggles. By giving Mariebien a well-deserved opportunity to talk to high-value clients, it was evident that Courtney fully supported her career development. 

“I have a strong network full of women, and we’ve all become capable and empowered leaders in the BPO industry after working under Courtney,” Mariebien said. “My personal situation with my late father was one of the most challenging times of my life, and I thought I wouldn’t make it because I no longer had savings.” 

“However, my professional network, including Courtney, became my much-needed support group. They offered assistance, encouragement, and advice. They constantly checked up on me, especially Courtney. And they really inspired me to persevere despite my struggles and emotions.” 

There are plenty of statistics that show how much a professional network can help people in their careers and life. About 85% of jobs are filled through professional connections, while 79% believe that networking plays a role in career development. The benefits also translate to personal progress, helping develop a better reputation and creating lifelong friends. For Mariebien, her professional network helped boost her confidence and land a promotion during one of the toughest times in her life. 

“A few months following my father’s death, I got promoted,” Mariebien shared humbly. “I remember having a dream wherein my departed dad hugged me and congratulated me for my promotion.” 

While sharing that dream, Mariebien’s voice trembled, holding back tears while remembering her late father. 

Overcoming Challenges and Learning from Them

The untimely death of Mariebien’s father taught her a harsh yet significant life lesson. It became clear as her mother started to experience severe health issues, leaving her hospitalized due to chronic kidney disease. Fortunately, Mariebien joined iSupport Worldwide, a company that offered significant employee HMO benefits. 

Mariebien, enjoying a well-deserved leadership role and a supportive company, now has the means to provide sufficient care for her mother without struggling with medical bills. 

During this time, Mariebien also has her eyes set on another challenge: to become a loving mother for her stepson. 

“Being a stepmom isn’t easy, especially being a stepmom to a teenager,” Mariebien said about her relationship with her 16-year-old stepson.

“However, I am grateful because the family dynamic is healthy. It’s a lot of adjustment for me in the beginning, but he’s a good kid, and I consider him as my own already.”

Mariebien also shared praises about her husband for helping her create a healthy relationship with her stepson and helping her take care of her sickly parents. “We’ve been together ever since the kid was eight years old, and my husband made it a point that we are a happy family. He has always been there, and I am grateful for his help.” 

A Little Persistence and Humility

Mariebien’s journey is a story of  perseverance. Plenty of challenges tested her resolve, both from a career and personal standpoint. However, she overcame those struggles and showed how determination could take you to the top. Mariebien shared her story in hopes of inspiring others to show what a good support system can do for people, especially young women. To attract the people who will go the extra mile for you, Mariebien shares a secret that everyone should try to work on. 

“Accepting feedback from others, being teachable, and being open to the learnings you get regularly can help you develop humility. If you don’t have humility, it’s not going to be easy to get the support you need from others.” 

About #iSupportHER:

iSupport Worldwide, a premier offshoring company in the Philippines, is celebrating International Women’s Month by sharing the achievements of women in the company, from empowered leaders to up-and-coming talent. For this month, women will share their experiences and success stories, highlighting their contributions to the industry. 

By showcasing the women of iSupport, we hope to inspire and empower women everywhere to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals while supporting diversity and equality in all its forms.