International Women’s Day: Saluting Tourism’s Leading Ladies – Michelle de Ocampo-Ballesteros, CEO and founder, Ex-Link Events, Philippines

The fight for gender equality is for everyone, and necessary for economies and communities to thrive. With this in mind, International Women’s Day 2020 galvanises all women to work towards an equal world. In support of this campaign, TTG Asia and TTGmice are featuring women leaders in the travel, tourism and business events industry this week. Today, we speak to Michelle de Ocampo-Ballesteros, the female honcho behind Ex-Link Events (Ex-Link Management and Marketing Services), on training up the younger generation and the greatest hurdle she faces in her line of work.

How is it like running Ex-Link Events with your husband as business partner and what have you achieved?
I first established the business 20 years ago, in the latter part of 2001; and my husband Orly joined me after six months. Working with one’s spouse is both challenging and rewarding. Together, we face each day with the challenge of raising a bigger family and making the business move with the times.

Work-wise, we are doing what we both love, while at the same time making a livelihood out of it. It’s rewarding as we contribute to giving jobs and taking part in nation-building. Seeing those young people join the company, believe in its aspirations, and share our passion for events management is the greatest fulfillment for me.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
Since both (my husband and I are) in the business, we’ve agreed at the onset to strike a balance between family and work by devoting quality time with the family despite or, because of, the demands of work. It takes a lot of maturity and acceptance of realities but they add up to both the sweetness and spices of our continuing journey.

How are you using your position to improve the lives of those around you?
Education is important. I’m a lecturer and resource speaker on events management in universities. I have my share of training and mentoring the younger generation to develop them into productive and responsible business events associates – not just in my company, but in others too.

We cultivate a pay-it-forward culture (by lending a helping hand to) the needy and the less fortunate – our beneficiaries are the Children’s Joy Foundation and God’s Special Children for children with autism and Down’s Syndrome. Yearly, we give school supplies and donations to the Dumagat indigenous children in Antipolo. As I am the current president of Rotary Club of Mutya ng Pasig and the Inner Wheel Club of Antipolo Central, Ex-Link partners with them in projects connected to our advocacy.

How do you think the industry can be a more welcoming place for women? How can you encourage gender equality in your workplace?
The Philippines’ events management industry is providing equal opportunities regardless of gender, if my 20-year career is anything to go by. We hire people based on their skills and attitude, not by gender, and that will continue.

What is the biggest challenge for your generation of women leaders?
These days, people management, especially when it comes to the next generation, is the greatest challenge faced by all leaders, not just women. Making the millennials and Gen Z productive, interested and passionate in their work has proved very challenging.

Going back to basics helps me cope with the challenges of being a female leader these days: The heart of a mother and acumen of a business leader fused to produce a team of passionate and involved individuals. Making the workplace a productive version of home and extending compassion to employees will produce a more involved team.

Still, the keys to sustainability is harnessing working teams that are concerned with the people, the product, profitability and the planet.

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