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Women Working Overseas: Meet Macon Macalintal

In response to PwC’s findings that women have a lack of role models in the global mobility sector, we’re showcasing positive stories of women who’ve lived and worked internationally. While each experience is unique, every story maintains a common thread of deep personal growth, which has had a lasting impact throughout the lives of each of the women profiled.

How one international job opportunity launched a global career

For the Philippines born Macon Macalintal, an international career was never part of her life plan.

Macon at the Singapore Airport

“My first time on a flight I was 20 years old,” says Macon, one of ShieldGEO’s implementation team members.

“I never imagined I’d be working abroad.”

But a vacation to Singapore with friends opened her eyes to the wider world and planted a seed for what would later become a five-year stint in the neighbouring country.

“I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been bitten by the travel bug who wouldn’t want to travel again.

“So, after my Singapore vacation, I thought –‘I wonder if I could work there’”

Macon’s Story

Despite these daydreams, when Macon was offered a job in Singapore, she was initially unsure. The new position was a consulting role, which was a level below her current managing responsibilities in the Philippines.

“I was thinking, ‘do I really want to take it?’”

After some deliberation, Macon deemed the promise of international experience a more significant asset to her career than remaining in a management position.

Macon says moving to Singapore was responsible for expanding her world view and helped to showcase what was possible.

“I believe I have gained an international standard and global mindset,” she says.

This time in Singapore helped refine her next career moves and was a big factor in choosing to study her Masters in Strategic Project Management abroad.

“Singapore is more active in promoting different opportunities,” she says. “It definitely helped me a lot.”

It was at an expat event where she first found out about the Erasmus Mundas international study program which she completed from 2015 to 2017.

Macon studied for 6 months in Scotland, 6 months in Italy and finally 6 months in Sweden through the program.

“It was another game changer for me,” she says. 

International Experience

Macon cites her two international experiences as “game changers” for both her career progression and personal goals.

“Being able to live abroad definitely gives [you] an advantage. You’re exposed to different ways of living which helps you understand other cultures, and you also get to meet and become friends with people from across the globe.” Macon says.

“You don’t only expand your professional network, you also make new friends. It helps you become more open-minded and gives you a different perspective.”

The international environment of the Singapore expat circles and her international study program gave Macon access to new ways of thinking and problem-solving.

It also helped develop the communication skills that Macon uses to this day.

“You need to be able to communicate and make sure that the person on the other side understands what you meant,” she says.

Now, Macon has different strategies for her different international clients depending on how they respond best.

“I think knowing the client’s values and work style which is influenced by their cultural background can help you strategise and plan your workday – who needs more time to respond or who prefers a call over an email,” she says.

Macon is able to team this ‘real-life experience’ with the management tools and techniques she learned through her Masters study.

Prioritising international work

Because of the success of her experiences, Macon now prioritises roles with international opportunities.

After her study abroad, Macon pitched a global deployment to her employer so she could go back to Italy.

“But they didn’t agree to it – they [didn’t] know about the technicalities,” she said.

They didn’t have an entity in Italy and weren’t willing to look into a way to make it work.

“At the time, I didn’t know this was possible to work with a third party.”

Ultimately, this led Macon to resign and look into other companies with more flexible work conditions.

This is in keeping with findings from a PwC which states ,“64% per cent of women [count] opportunities to undertake international assignments [as] critical in attracting them to, and keeping them with an employer.”

More and more, women will move on from positions that do not have competitive international opportunities, not for personal gain but because these experiences are fundamental in preparing women for leadership roles.

This is echoed in further findings from the PwC report which state “60% of global mobility leaders agreed they move employees to develop their succession pipeline of future leaders (69% in organisations with 10,000-plus employees). And 77% agreed that global acumen – achieved through an international assignment or other international experience and exposure – is a critical skill required for advancement into leadership within their organisations.”

Who should be eligible for international assignments

When asked whether gender should be a factor in deciding on international assignment candidates, Macon was quick to respond with a resounding ‘no.’

“I think anyone can. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman,” she says.

“As long as they have the necessary skill set for the role and are prepared emotionally and mentally for the assignment as well as the new country and environment,” she says.

For Macon, a successful candidate is someone who adapts well to change and remains open minded.

“It’s very fast paced and being exposed to a global market you need to be able to adapt, you need to have an open mind.”

There’s no reason these traits can’t be found in women.

“Society has certain expectations that you’re going to have a family that you’ll stay at home and you need to look after your kids,” she says.

But as a working mother, Macon finds these associations limiting.

“Of course, once you have a child, they’re going to be your priority,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t complete your [work] responsibilities and pursue career goals.”

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to reframe femininity as an asset and not something to change, restructure or push out. Being a mother, or even being a woman, shouldn’t have to mean missing out on career opportunities. By addressing our over-associations, internal-prejudices and policies that enforce a ‘the way it’s always been done’ outlook our work environments will become safer, more supportive places for both men and women.

Photographs courtesy of Macon Macalintal
Article by Bree Caggiati

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