Interview #2: Tatum Zablan

Last time, I was able to illustrate a glimpse of what it was like to be part of the research and teaching academe. But my small project didn’t end there.

Aside from research, I wanted to take a glimpse of another field most physical science-related majors (most especially a percentage of psychology majors) end up in: the corporate world. I was determined at gaining insight on what it’s like to have an office space for myself and incentives for some sort of motivation, but I wanted insight from the experience of a fresh psychology graduate rather than another professional veteran.

The corporate world just seems like a very adult piece of workforce in the perspective of a 19-year old teenager. It would just seem so bias for this small project if I just interviewed two professionals who have been veterans in their professions. Besides, my goal was to gain perspective on where I’d end up after I graduate. It would seem fitting if one of those perspectives came from a fresh graduate.

For this part of the project, I have decided to interview 22-year-old psychology graduate and BPO agent Tatum Zablan- who coincidentally is an alumni from my school.

With over 4 billion pesos in contribution to the country’s overall economy, it’s no wonder why the BPO industry has become a rising success for both business veterans and fresh graduates alike. It’s also the perfect industry to witness how a microcosm of the corporate world unfolds. Despite the rapid economic growth and opportunities this industry has contributed to the Philippines, it has unintentionally ingrained a sort of negative stigma with regards to the agents who work there .

Agents who work at a BPO company, at least in the Philippines,  seem to carry a stereotype of having an ‘easy job’ that pays too much to graduates without any form of intellect. In other words, you’re in a low point in your life when you’re in a BPO company and you’re only in it for the money. That’s pretty much one of the reasons why a large portion of fresh graduates don’t want to land in that sort of job. And I think it’s degrading to say the least.

There’s no such thing as an easy job. Every occupation has its levels of stress and harships. Having to degrade such hardworking people on that behalf serves no justice to the immense contribution the industry itself has given to the Philippine economy.

But as much as I want to defend this point further, the very nature of the profession has, until this day, been unclear to me.

So without further ado, here is my interview with dearest Tatum Zablan. And as with before, I opted to leave some more personal information out and stick to what I think is important.

Disclaimer: Every response the interviewee has given may or may not be verbatim since the interviewer transcribed and fixed some dialogue while writing during the interview at the same time. But rest assure that the thoughts are the same.

Interviewer: So, can you give a brief description about your work?

Tatum: I currently work at the BPO Industry, but in colloquial terms, it’s called the call center. BPO stands for Business Process Outsourcing and what we basically do is be the mediator between customer service and the company that has hired us to take manual calls. We do outsourcing, answer complaints and inquiries to clients overseas and deal with offshore businesses.

So it’s basically like freelance writing?

Yes and no. Yes because you are hired to do a company’s labor but no because you are given initial training before being part of the business.

What company do you work for now?

I work at Telecommunications and I handle UK clients. I mainly answer concerns about broadband, phones, emails…basically technology.

You mentioned something about training. May you tell me more about this?

Gladly. New recruits train for 2 initial months. 1 month is spent in a classroom-like setting in which you get to know more about the product you answer to and the other 1 month is spent training at actual phone time. That is to say you receive mock calls from team leaders and actual calls. So, in a sense, it’s like a crash course on products and problems, that sort of thing.

We basically train under teams with an assigned team leader who manages and leads your accounts. There’s an interdependent dynamic between you; you answer calls and they check the quality. On their side, they get positive feedback from the head and the company itself.

And the benefits. There are a lot of benefits.

 What do you think interests freshly graduated millennials in attaining a position in the BPO Industry?

Honestly for me, money and practicality. You get Pxxxxx a month plus allowance and incentives. That’s a lot of cash. There are graveyard shifts the workers risk taking because the pay is incredibly good. You get around Pxxxx incentives for your performance and you enjoy your job with the positive work like you have. You tackle different interpersonal issues and you learn every day.

This sounds like a very corporate job that involves a lot of assessment.

Oh, it is. You are graded by performance numbers which basically summarizes how you resolve problems and the feedback your team leaders give you. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a team leader who really knows how to give feedback.

Can you tell me more about the environment? The culture of the people around you?

My co-workers are friendly, but competitive. Very competitive. I’ve learned here that attendance is a must if you want to have a good resume in case you want to go job hopping as a fresh grad.

When you want to leave a company, do it properly. Remember that. Do it properly and don’t let them fire you. You’ll get even more benefits from it. Say you’ll file for a resignation on an August 21. You’ll work for thirty days before leaving on September 21st with Pxxxxx incentives if possible.

What if you were stuck in a scenario where you have to work with a team and one of its members can easily get on your nerves?

I get professional. I focus on my performance numbers, work every day and be reminded that I am proud to be part of a growing industry.

I am getting a lot of motivation of you in terms of incentives and the work place. If your work environment wasn’t as atmospheric and open, would you still handle it?

No, absolutely not. Motivation is the reason why employees stay. Confidence and personality over performance. The BPO Industry, as it is fun, is also very stressful. You’re exposed to people insulting you over nothing and you have no choice but to be calm. So when a company has a calm atmosphere, employee benefits, and a load of incentives, expect happy, rewarded employees.

The company I work with even goes far as to give slippers when we’re forced to go to work in the storm. Slippers and extra t-shirt. There’s still a dress code, but the company understands your situation so much you’re treated like a human.

I think that’s what’s important in every company. Being treated like a human rather than a capital.

Do you think that the BPO Industry is practical from the allowance and incentives you have estimated for me?

It is a very practical occupation. I work with working students who want to fend for themselves and I’m a fresh graduate. I used to want to be in the HR department, but what I love about BPO is that there’s no specific course. You only take these sort of entrance exams, take 3 interviews and work to get in so there’s little to no discrimination. You’re there to work.

So I think this is an ideal job for millennials in the transitioning stage.

Exactly! But don’t take it from me. A lot of people have devoted their lives to the growth of a business that contributes 4 billion to the Philippine economy. To me, anyway, it gives me a sense of adulthood. How a company depends on you, you depend on the company and you have a healthy relationship from the interdependence.

What can you say about the negative stigma that comes along with working at the BPO industry?

That does ring an impact, doesn’t it? People think I get easy money and easy work- but the truth is, it’s just as hard and fun as any other job. I have mentored a bunch of fresh graduates from this industry and a lot of them are crushed that they didn’t get their dream job. To me, it makes little sense since it’s practical to be there, but I understand where they’re coming from.

To those who think so negatively of the BPO industry, I say give it a shot! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it can change you and your perspective on a positive light. It made me realize how character is above performance.

Honestly, character is above anything. You can uphold yourself in this industry as long as you keep going and know what to do.

Can you apply your Psychology degree to your job?

Honestly, I can. I’ve learned to understand and interact with groups, their structures, people and, above all, the workplace itself. A lot of Industrial Psychology goes into play here, to be specific. Without taking that course, I would never have adjusted the way I did in this industry. Honestly.     

Tatum Zablan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from La Salle College Antipolo last 2015. An alumni scholar from the said school, he is now currently enjoying a position in Teleperformance Philippines.

Read part 1 here.

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