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How This Dedicated Filipina Worked Hard to Become the First Filipino Chairwoman of a Financial Enterprise

Created by Capital One Philippines

Date published: May 12, 2023


When Michelle Ramos was named Chairwoman, she broke the glass ceiling and created historic firsts for Capital One Philippines as the first Filipino and woman at the helm.

While the moment was indeed one for the books, Michelle never thought much about her current role—even describing her appointment as somewhat “surprising.”

“Have I always dreamed of becoming a leader? My answer is no. I would always prefer to be the silent worker who likes being in the background. If people recognize what I do, I'm happy with that,” she said.

On her journey and struggles as a leader

Throughout her career, Michelle simply focused on keeping her head down and focusing her energies on the task at hand. “I'm a very quiet person. (Even when) I was a kid, it (would be) very difficult for me to raise my hand and speak up.”

Michelle describes this as part of her struggles when she was just starting her career. “It was a bit of a struggle for me, because some of the companies (I previously worked with) would always expect people to talk, and I am not like that. I will talk if there’s something for me to say, but not for the sake of just talking. In meetings, one is required to be able to talk once or ask a question. So, there was really pressure on me to be more vocal.”

Michelle was able to capitalize on her newfound voice and realized that, along with hard work, she needed to engage with her business partners in her own way to understand their challenges and be able to support them. “(In the past), one of my greatest challenges as a leader was during the “race” stage of my career. It was difficult to find the right company that had the same values as mine.”

Because she was a breadwinner, her sole motivation was to provide for her family. “At 24, I am already a mom, and I needed to provide for them. I went to companies that can give me better pay or better benefits, but there was a point that I realized I was looking for more; a workplace that had the same values. There were moments where I found that I was forcing myself to work.”

“Nag-shift yung realization (Eventually, I shifted when I realized) that I will not be happy even if I'm earning and providing for my family. My values are very important to me. Doon nag-start (that’s when I started to make sure that) when I got interviewed, I asked about the company’s culture, how they value people and their leadership style.”

Finding her home in Capital One Philippines

Michelle found a home that aligned with her values and goals at Capital One Philippines. An Accounting graduate and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), she shared that integrity is really important especially when managing the finance and audit aspects of the business. “(What I value) is yung high sense of integrity. I like being hard working. I value honesty a lot, and being true to oneself, yun yung values that I really stick to, ever since I started working.”

She remains grateful for having been entrusted with the opportunity to lead the organization and to find a mentor and ally in Capital One Philippines President, Oz Parvaiz, who valued Michelle’s results and actions more than the number of times she spoke. “Two or three years into my role as Director of Finance, I started asking (myself) if I had the ability to do more and go beyond finance. When Oz started talking about me being a Chairwoman and what that role entails, I was surprised. I never thought of having an expanded role and eventually having HR, Legal, and Procurement under my purview.”

As a Chairwoman, being in the limelight remains to be a whole new arena for her, but she sees this as an opportunity to continue her growth both in her career and personal life. “I was really grateful for the trust and the recognition that was given to me, and I’m really, really happy to get the role without sacrificing who I am.”

Her humble beginnings helped mold her into the leader she is today. “My parents are not college graduates–my dad did not finish his course because he needs to support his younger siblings, and my mom worked in a salon after high school. We had a decent home and a simple life, but we were happy.”

Michelle’s parents continue to be her inspiration. “My mom’s journey in the salon, she started by sweeping the floor, then learned how to shampoo hair until eventually she became a self-taught massage therapist of a prominent family. I was able to finish college because her employer took a chance on me. They trusted my mom, and they loved her work ethic. They just wanted me to finish my schooling and have a better life, so that my parents will, in turn, have a better life when they grow old.”

Michelle plans to pay it forward by elevating her teams and helping create more jobs for Filipinos through Capital One Philippines. While she remains a realist in her personal goals, Michelle has a bold and ambitious vision for the organization.

“We hope to continue to grow with the rest of Capital One, build a stronger team over the years while adding value to the network—not only by securing credit card lines of businesses but also by becoming an enterprise service provider and shared services,” she said.

“That's my dream: to have finance, HR, and tech as part of the (Philippines’) shared services.”

Her career advice? “Work hard and always respect others. Be genuinely nice to people. Learn how to listen and do not compromise your values because you will not be happy if you compromise your values.”

“If you have a dream and you have a purpose, you'll get there without changing who you are.”