How a Call Center Agent’s Dream Job Was Realized
Our featured guest on this episode is Maria Cristina Castro, also known as Strawberry Castro. We began our conversation with the back story on her nickname, Strawberry. We learned that her given name is widespread in the Philippines, and when her sister gave her the nickname Strawberry in their childhood, it stuck. Strawberry has a remarkable career journey in just five years at iQor, which began as a call center agent.
She joined iQor in 2016 with two friends from another BPO. Her previous BPO employer was downsizing an account, which motivated her and her friends to look for new opportunities. She heard from other friends that iQor was recruiting in her area in the Philippines, offering attractive packages for experienced agents. She researched the company, and all three of them applied for jobs. All three got hired as call center agents and are still with iQor five years later.
Strawberry excelled in her first role at iQor as a call center agent delivering customer care. She was in this role only for nine months. She admits that it was a different experience than what she was used to. The account she supported had an extroverted personality. She had fun learning and adapting to the client while absorbing the culture of iQor. She quickly points out that both the account and iQor had a lot of energy and passion, which appealed to her very much.
After nine months in the call center agent role, and with a lot of mentoring and coaching from supervisors and peers, Strawberry was promoted to Subject Matter Expert (SME). A SME is a “walking Google” (her words) that helps agents handle calls. Strawberry had mastered the personality of the client’s brand and the customer service issues, enabling her to be an effective SME. Her managers started developing her for the next role. With mentoring, she was promoted again, this time to supervisor apprentice.
Now, Strawberry managed her own teams, monitored performance, and served as a mentor to agents. By this time, she was very motivated to continue her career journey at iQor in leadership roles.
She entered the sQholar program, which is part of iQor University. Its purpose is to develop call center employees into leadership potential. The sQholar program is comprised of online courses and live classes designed to help agents become leaders. She says it was a fantastic experience. The program requires employees to complete the training in a six-month timeframe plus an entire week of leadership training. This experience was very instrumental in preparing her for a leadership role.
However, she didn’t complete the sQholar program within six months, which was a temporary setback for Strawberry. She was removed from the apprentice program, and she returned to the SME role.
While Strawberry was disappointed in herself for not completing the program in time, she reflected on what she had learned and regrouped with her mentors and coaches. Her support system was solid. They encouraged her to assert herself, and she planned her next career step at iQor.
Strawberry volunteered to host a year-end party to showcase her skills and to get exposure. It paid off. Hosting the event gave her visibility with other departments, displayed her skills, and quickly gave back her confidence.
She returned to the sQholar program and completed it on time, graduating with honors! Then the door opened for an opportunity to become a trainer. She spoke with her mentors, got their advice, and applied for a trainer role. And she got the job! She was ecstatic to join the training team, where she went through the trainer certification program. She became certified in level one and has also completed level two. She is currently in level three of the train-the-trainer program. Not surprisingly, Strawberry has stepped up and proved to be an effective trainer.
At the time of this podcast publishing, she is a training manager handling frontline leadership development at her site in Talisay, Philippines.
Strawberry’s story is inspiring because she didn’t allow a setback to derail her career journey at iQor. Instead, she double-downed on her strengths and, with guidance from her mentors, put an action plan in place for her next career step at iQor.
Her advice to anyone considering joining iQor is to be open to learning. Learning is what she attributes her success to, along with having access to mentors. She encourages others to leverage their previous experience. And never stop learning for fun. Strawberry enjoys spending time with her two sisters and her teenage son going shopping, relaxing at the beach, and taking food trips. She and her son share a love for rock music and fantasy adventure too.
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