Filipina makes history in global cement industry

(By Carol Espiritu)

(Click image to enlarge)

Filipino Lizza Vicaldo, 39, is the first Asian female cement plant manager in the Lafarge global family. As part of the Lafarge cement team, it becomes even more remarkable that Lizza also happens to be the group’s first female cement plant manager who is not an engineer.

How Lizza, plant manager of the Lafarge associated plant, Republic Cement in Norzagaray, Bulacan, became head honcho of the male-dominated cement manufacturing world and now doing very well, is a success story fit for Ripley’s.

Lizza graduated with a CPA certification, worked first as an auditor for leading audit firm SGV, then became accounting manager for a start-up firm. She subsequently joined a cement company as financial analyst and later on promoted to head of corporate planning and accounting.

Her move to that company coincided with the time when the dollar crunch struck and foreign investors brought in much needed resources to help strengthen the industry.

Turning point

The entry of foreign investors and the subsequent introduction of international best practices proved to be the turning point for Lizza. She eventually found herself working in Lafarge-associated companies, as planning and operations strategist, providing the empirically-based framework with which to steer the group towards the direction that will ensure fulfillment of its mission, vision and goals.

A good number of trainings and interactions with peers in the global Lafarge family imbued more confidence and broadened Lizza’s perspectives.

Two years ago, impressed with Lizza’s leadership, energy and adaptability, Lafarge asked Lizza if she would consider being plant manager.

FILIPINA ACHIEVER IN A MAN'S WORLD. Lizza Vicaldo, the first Asian female cement plant manager and the first one in the Lafarge group who is not an engineer has achieved breakthroughs in fuel conservation, safety record and laboratory quality standard. (click the image to enlarge)

“This was definitely nowhere near what I was doing before so I had to psyche myself and find out first if I wanted to do this,” she said. This meant intensive hands-on and classroom training in all operations of local plants as well as Lafarge operations in Malaysia and South Korea.

She eventually agreed to take the challenge. Asked about how her first day at work as plant manager of the Norzagaray plant went, Lizza said: “I cried!” She explains that when she was first introduced in the plant’s general assembly, she was overcome with deep emotion. “I cried because it dawned on me that I am given an opportunity to do something great. I was overcome with gratitude and emotion that I am being used as an instrument of Lafarge’s vision to be the undisputed leader ,” Lizza said.

Lizza is a ubiquitous figure roaming the Norzagaray plant, which produces a significant amount of Metro Manila’s requirements. She leads 130 men against a staff of only 10 women in support functions.

Challenging period

Lizza’s first six months was stressful and physically taxing but she hurdled every obstacle that came her way with a bull-headed determination, strength of vision and consistency. It helped that she tempered her no-nonsense toughness with a nurturing and listening nature that can come only from a woman.

As a result, the Lafarge associated cement plant in Norzagaray has recorded a breakthrough in safety performance that exceeded other cement plants in the country. It was adjudged as one of the best laboratories in the entire Lafarge unit, with a world-class rating in Laboratory Accuracy Index of 100%. Amidst the continuous rise in energy prices, the plant’s energy cost was the lowest in 2007 due to performance breakthrough in power consumption.

But the quest towards undisputed leadership does not end with beating records. The intention is to keep excelling until one reaches world-class status. And this makes Lizza all the more excited about 2008.

(Click image to enlarge)

Unlike her usual jobs which had completion dates, a plant manager’s work is never done. She realized she had to be tough but caring: “Although not easy, tough decisions like suspensions and dismissals are part of the territory; but what excites me most are strategic people decisions like promotions. I hope employees see that a greater number of people have been promoted in recognition of their performance. Lafarge espouses performance culture as key to delivering results. That is why it is important that people realize that actions have consequences.”

Aside from having a materially rewarding job (she has just bought a house in Paranaque), Lizza finds special significance in Lafarge’s way of caring for its people: “You should never put limits on what you can do. They saw something in me and because of this, I saw something in myself that I thought wasn’t a possibility. Lafarge has a certain model for what plant managers ought to be; but they did not confine themselves in this box. I am glad to be part of a group that sees potential in people and acts on it. This experience has taught me that anything can indeed be accomplished, and it helps when you have an employer who believes in you and proves that by waking the talk”.

“Lafarge aims to be the best in its field, as a value provider, partner to local communities, in environmental protection, and sustainable development. This means we have to recruit, retain and develop the best people. We are extremely glad to have Lizza with the Norzagaray plant, as she embodies all those qualities that Lafarge looks for” said Michael Watson, Lafarge Cement Services’ Senior Vice-President for Industrial.

Thus, Lizza continues on her upward journey in Lafarge, a success story to be emulated by all those who are talented and ambitious.

Print Friendly

Comments are closed.

News Archive