Meet 10 Filipinas With Great Careers Abroad

Pinay power!

Name: Belle Baldoza

Age: 33 

Occupation: Consumer PR Manager (Asia Pacific), Netflix

Current place of residence: Singapore

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I’m a Consumer PR Manager at Netflix, looking after South East Asia. My mission is to make fans across the region love Netflix through relevant stories that tap into pop culture and everyday moments. The opportunity to create joy through entertainment is the reason why I get up in the morning.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I started my PR career at the Araneta Group, promoting their various lifestyle, food, and entertainment brands. I was writer, events manager, publicist, host, and occasional yaya all in one. But eventually, I suffered a case of the 3 Bs—breakup, boredom, and burnout—which led me to my overseas adventure.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

From Manila, I moved to Bangkok, where I was a marketer, an English teacher, then a sub-editor and broadcast talent. I was also a freelance writer for a dating site at one point! In Singapore, I was first a Culture Vulture (yes, it’s a real job as a trends expert), then worked at Ogilvy PR. I then moved on to become Head of PR at Spotify before Netflix approached me to join their growing team in Asia.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

Six years ago, my husband (then-BF) and I landed in Singapore with nothing but our luggage and dreams. We had only a month to find a job but we drew our strength from each other, believing that this was the right move—and it indeed was. It was pretty much a rollercoaster ride to get to where we are today, but what matters is we held hands all the way.

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How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Growing up in a Third World country has taught me so much about the value of hard work, resilience, grit, and most importantly, keeping a smile on my face even on the darkest of days, because that’s how we Pinoys get by!

Name: Bianca Consunji

Age: 32

Occupation: Director of Video, Bustle

Current place of residence: New York City, USA

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I’m currently Director of Video at Bustle. My team and I create videos for the female gaze; we do a wide variety of work, ranging from thought-provoking documentaries to explainers on the science of love and relationships to short beauty videos.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I was a magazine editor and newspaper reporter for years—strictly print. I took a couple of short courses on multimedia reporting in Germany, and my instructors told me I would benefit from graduate school abroad. I was feeling restless in Manila and wanted to see what else was out there.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I studied at the Columbia Journalism School in New York and learned how to produce videos, and scored an internship at Mashable right after. I worked at Mashable as a producer for several years and joined Bustle as Director of Video in 2015.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

I used to be a senior editor in Manila; I was a 27-year-old intern in New York when I started a career in video. It was humbling, but it taught me how to hustle, work long hours, and be willing to go the extra step so I could stand out in whatever way I could because very few US employers are willing to sponsor visas.

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How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Diversity is valued in New York media, and being able to present a different perspective from everyone else has helped me create unique stories together with my team. In a time when identity politics can be controversial, being a foreigner helps you get a better grasp of cultural nuances.

Name: Hyku Desesto 

Age: 28 

Occupation: Owner, Managing Director, and Head Photographer and Videographer at Hyku D Photography & Videography 

Current place of residence: Dubai, UAE 

Describe the work you do in your current job.

My team does photography and videography for both local and international brands. Recently, we were the official photographer for Tommy Hilfiger during Gigi Hadid’s Tommy X Gigi tour in Dubai. Our work has been published in magazines such as Grazia, Stylist Arabia, Hello!, Tabloid! By Gulf News, Time Out Dubai, and Harper’s Bazaar Bride. 

Personally, I hold brand ambassadorships for Timberland, Huawei Arabia, and Puma Lifestyle. I have also been listed among Illustrado Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

My family owned a small boutique and bar in Davao City. I also worked at a call center. I knew what we were making wasn’t enough and I had dreams I wanted to achieve not only for myself but also for my son Vitto. My father, who was already working in Dubai then, invited me to visit and see what my chances here were.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

My salary from my first photography job was only enough to pay the rent and send money back home. After a year and a half, my father and I were able to bring my mother and my son to Dubai. A year and a half later still, I started working as a freelance photographer, armed with only one camera, one flash, and two basic lenses.

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What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

I had to make sure that in every aspect of the business, be it the creative side or the numbers, I knew what I was getting myself into. It was years of sleepless nights and countless times of breaking down. Once, while suffering from fatigue, I fell in the middle of a shoot, had to have seven stitches in my head, and was back on site for shooting again four hours later.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

A Filipino is a go-getter, a hard worker, and not a quitter. That’s what I’m trying to live up to.

Name: Yana Gilbuena 

Age: 33 

Occupation: Nomadic chef, The Salo Series 

Current place of residence: San Francisco, USA 

Describe the work you do in your current job. 

I am a traveling chef. I have done 50 Filipino kamayan pop-up dinners in 50 states in the US, eight provinces in Canada, four cities in Mexico, three cities in Colombia, and five cities in the Philippines. I am an unsanctioned ambassador for Filipino cuisine and heritage through my work.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I had just graduated from UP Diliman then, so technically I didn’t even have a job there when I left. I didn’t choose to work abroad, but my mom petitioned me so I had to go.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I started out as a behavior therapist for autistic children, worked as a barista for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and several other coffee shops, weighed gold, was a jewelry courier, a kitchen and bath designer, a furniture designer, an antique hardware specialist, a social media manager, a PR director, a creative director, a blogger, an events manager, and now, a nomadic chef. Yep, I had so many jobs—odd and honorable and crazy.

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What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

There’s an unsaid discrimination and pigeonholing: “You’re Filipino, why aren’t you a nurse?” But I’ve always stood my ground that Filipinos can be whoever and whatever they want to be.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Being Filipino is a huge part of my success. I’m glad I grew up there and knew the culture, history, heritage, and language. All of those combined with the Western savvy of thinking outside the box helped me to get where I am now.

Name: Camille Laurente

Age: 32

Occupation: Chief Client Officer, Odessa PR; CEO and Co-Founder, Hueman 

Current place of residence: New York City, USA 

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I handle media relations and strategic communications for startups and tech founders in New York City and Silicon Valley. I’m also part of the awesome team at Hueman, a mobile social media app set to launch in February this year.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I was a corporate lawyer before I left Manila. After a couple of years in practice, I realized that I lacked the passion to pursue it long-term. I’ve always been very drawn to New York City and wanted to know what opportunities it could offer me once I moved.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

Before I joined my current firm, I took a master’s program at Columbia University. I worked as a teacher’s assistant in school and also worked on communications projects at the UN before I graduated. This city is known for getting you broke so I did a mix of odd jobs to survive—bartending, waitressing, babysitting, and even cutting pattern paper in an obscure factory in the garment district! It was exhausting, fun, and overall a good learning experience.

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What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

I’d say living independently in a foreign city for the first time was a real challenge. I felt homesick the first few months, but I had to focus on the goals I had set for myself. I also had to narrow down possible career paths, send out dozens of applications, and talk to as many people as I could for advice.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Filipinos are known for being hardworking and persistent. I think those traits carried me through, and lots of prayers of course!

Name: Erika Fille Legara, PhD

Age: 32 

Occupation: Scientist, Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)

Current place of residence: Singapore

Describe the work you do in your current job. Please mention relevant accomplishments.

It’s geeky. I build mathematical models and simulations that reconstruct hidden patterns found in data. I am a scientist. Most of the research I do have direct real-world applications; my colleagues and I work closely with government agencies and other industries, helping them study and improve their systems.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I was an assistant professor at the National Institute of Physics, UP Diliman. I also had just completed a PhD in Physics from UP Diliman. Typically, fresh PhD graduates are encouraged to go abroad to expand their knowledge, know-how, and professional network.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I have been working with the IHPC since I moved to Singapore. Initially, my responsibilities were limited to doing research, attending meetings, and giving presentations. Recently, I have been entrusted with bigger responsibilities—as co-principal investigator and principal investigator in various research and development projects.

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What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

As a scientist who obtained her academic degrees in the Philippines, personally, it was more a question of “quality.” For one, there aren’t that many Filipino scientists in Singapore, and most of the scientists in our team come from the world’s top universities! I neutralized this diffidence by working hard and publishing more articles in peer-reviewed journals (which was a personal barometer).

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Growing up in a society that promotes gender equality has helped a lot in my career; in the Philippines, we women are never discriminated nor discouraged to speak our minds, to communicate ideas—which is important to a scientific career. In addition, we Filipinos are trained to be resourceful and hardworking—to make do with the often limited resources we have.

Name: Anne Michelle Marquez-Mendoza

Age: 32 

Occupation: Programmer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Current place of residence: Maryland, USA

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I’m a programmer for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Heliophysics Division, Community Coordinated Modeling Center. We provide to the international research community access to modern space science simulations and support the transition of space weather operations to modern space research models. I manage the execution, publication, and maintenance of the space weather model system and provide the connection between researchers, scientists, and model developers.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I recently graduated from college when I left the Philippines. I was 20 at the time and I had the opportunity to immigrate with my family to the US in pursuit of better job opportunities.

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Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I started my programming career as a lotus notes developer intern for IBM Philippines. After settling in the US, my dependent visa expired and I had the humbling experience to work as a salesclerk—which I did even on weekends—while applying for a work visa sponsorship.

My career path took off when I worked as an IT-helpdesk for various construction companies. I later became a web developer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal scientific agency within the US Dept. of Commerce. I applied to NASA when an opening became available. It has always been a dream of mine to work for NASA, so after overcoming a strenuous application, I was overjoyed to be offered the position.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

The US is a melting pot of diverse cultural values encompassing different sets of customs and ways of life. I found this to be a challenging aspect of my workplace. However, I have overcome this by quickly adapting to my environment and increasing my self-confidence while remaining humble.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Being a Filipino has taught me to be hardworking, patient, and perseverant. This positive mental attitude allows me to go the extra mile to reach any goals I desire.

Name: Nikita Pia McElroy 

Age: 22 

Occupation: Commercial and print model, MSA Models; Retail Supervisor, Montage Beverly Hills Hotel

Current place of residence: Los Angeles, USA

Describe the work you do in your current job.

As a model here, I’ve done ads for clients such as Levi’s, Old Navy, the Lancome X Sephora collaboration, and Paul Mitchell Hair Care Products, and have appeared in Ellements Magazine and designer Veejay Floresca’s lookbook.

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I’m also retail supervisor at Montage Beverly Hills Hotel. I handle special orders and the buying for the gift shop and the spa. I started there as a part-time retail sales associate, got promoted to full-time after six months, then got promoted to retail supervisor after two months working full-time.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I was already modeling in the Philippines and was the reigning Miss Resorts World Manila before I left. When I left in December 2014, it was just purely for fun. But when I got here, I said to myself, “No more turning back!” And I’ve always wanted to be known internationally so I just went for it even without a master plan.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

When I moved to LA, I applied for every job on Craigslist that I thought I could do: dishwasher, server, even housekeeper. I landed my job at the hotel after six interviews with the company. On how I found my agency, I was a little bit hopeless when all of the agencies that I submitted to didn’t even call me back. It was Francis Arden, MSA Models’ agency director who is half-Filipino like me, who gave me a chance and helped me build my career until now.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

It was hard to find a modeling agency that would sign me. Even finding a day job to help me pay my bills was hard. I was depressed and lonely—no job, no friends, no money. But when I landed a job at the hotel, things got better for me and of course I had my dad encouraging me to not give up and keep chasing my dreams.

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How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Being passionate and persistent are Filipino attributes I have. We Filipinos work so hard and pour our hearts into whatever we are doing.

Name: Michelle Pabalan

Age: 34 

Occupation: Online Communications Officer, World Bank

Current place of residence: Washington DC, USA

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I support the World Bank’s work on multimedia and interactive online communications and engagement, including management of the World Bank YouTube channel. I also host PabsyLive, a web video series aiming to encourage interest and action among young people about the World Bank’s mission to end extreme poverty.

I had the privilege of speaking with world leaders, experts, and influencers such as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, father of microfinance Muhammad Yunus, world-renowned statistician Hans Rosling, and tennis star Novak Djokovic.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I was the Communications Manager for Hapinoy, a social enterprise empowering women micro-entrepreneurs. Prior to that, I was a video producer for GMA New Media. I was also a mission volunteer for Gawad Kalinga.

I actually had no plans to leave the Philippines. But the job opportunity came at a time when I needed a fresh start. I also thought that working for the World Bank might help me gain knowledge to further support the groups and people I cared about.


Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I started as a Communications Consultant for infoDev, a trust fund within the World Bank. I moved to my current unit, External Corporate Communications, as a multimedia producer. I then applied for Online Communications Officer, my current position.

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What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

One of the early challenges I faced was overcoming separation from my family and the life I left behind. I surrounded myself with good people, and those meaningful friendships made D.C. a second home.

At work, the thought that I was working with the best people in development intimidated me. I changed my mindset and viewed it as an opportunity to not only learn from my peers, but also put my own expertise on the table.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

Being a Filipino staff member reinforces the value of diversity and inclusion in the World Bank.

The Filipino attitudes that helped me in my career are: work with excellence, always count my blessings, be kind, and laugh and laugh some more.

Name: Katwo Puertollano

Age: 33 

Occupation: Owner and Design Director, Flux Design Labs (Makati, Philippines); Owner and Commercial Director, Native to Noise (New York City, USA)

Current place of residence: New York City, USA 

Describe the work you do in your current job.

I am a graphic designer who directs commercials in NYC through my company Native to Noise. I also own and manage a multi-awarded production company, Flux Design Labs, that specializes in motion graphics and design in the Philippines.

What were you doing before you left the Philippines? What convinced you to pursue a career abroad?

I never left or stopped doing my job in the Philippines; I only transitioned into a new country and city, but I still have the same job. I just left the day-to-day managing to other people in our team.

There are more opportunities in New York City, and it’s always been my dream to live and work here. I got lucky that I was granted a green card at the right time to make the transition possible.

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Describe your career path since moving to your current place of residence.

I tried a part-time creative director position at a health startup company when I first moved for about six months. Other than that, I’ve always stayed on the same creative path running things independently.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to establish your career abroad, and how did you overcome them?

There’s the language adjustment—the first thing that I had to rethink was my sense of humor—and getting used to a less hierarchical work culture. My constant challenge is to maintain a high quality of creative work that competes with the best talent in NYC. I have learned that kindness to myself helps keep the anxiety at bay.

How does being a Filipina help you in your career?

I have this beautifully Filipino compulsion to connect with people through meals, and sharing it with others. It’s made it easier for me to make friends with colleagues and clients—a real career booster.

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