Before the clock strikes 7:30 PM Philippine time (6:30 AM CT), Ruth prepares her working table in her mini home-office. She turns on her computer and checks the doctor’s calendar and emails. Then she proceeds to check on the clinic’s staff both in the US and the Philippines, keeping track of absentees and those availing their leave credits. After consolidating morning reports, Ruth emails them to the doctor and gives her a call.
Ruth is the personal assistant of Dr. Adriana Guerra, founder of Inspire Family Health located in Austin, Texas. It was Ruth’s resourcefulness and initiative that earned her the doctor’s trust and became the clinic’s human resource manager.
Since then, Ruth closely communicates with US staff and drafts letters and contracts. Her recruitment duties include posting jobs, screening applicants, scheduling interviews, and doing reference and background checks. These tasks make Ruth an essential part of the clinic’s operations.
Some might assume that Ruth is gifted to be on top of things, but it isn’t always easy for her. One instance during an end-of-the-day review, she spotted an error on a payroll she furnished. To avoid serious problems, she immediately informed the doctor about the mishap. “It was a serious mistake,” said Ruth, “the doctor called the moment she got my message and I immediately apologized.” Ruth braced herself for the ramifications but to her surprise, Dr. Guerra appreciated her honesty and quick action and took responsibility for the mistake.
“I sensed her confidence in me rise that day,” Ruth recalled. Most importantly, that incident compelled her to be extra cautious, to eagerly learn and ask for help, and to take full responsibility for a mistake.
Months passed and she’s now in charge of more critical transactions like invoices, bills payment, and purchases. There’s more pressure in having exclusive access to credit cards and bank accounts. So to remove any hint of doubt, Ruth sends the doctor proof that all traces of her account details have been removed. The doctor doesn’t require her to but it’s something Ruth wishes to uphold.
There are also times when tasks aren’t in line with her expertise — something to expect if you ask Ruth. She remembered the day her client called in panicking after their website went down. The clinic relies on the site for insurance claims, so Ruth immediately sprung into action. Besides contacting their website’s support team, she closely monitored the progress they were making until the site went back up. Minor tech dilemmas like iOS upgrades and settings are also encountered on certain days. “I’m not a techie,” Ruth admitted, “Google was and is still my best friend,” and a hearty laugh followed.
On a lighter note, Ruth casually does tasks for her client’s family and advocacy. The doctor liked Ruth’s flair for art in making greeting cards for family occasions and placards for her pro-immigration advocacies. At times, Ruth also relays messages to US politicians on the doctor’s behalf. “It definitely daunted me at first,” Ruth admitted, “but I’ve worked as a customer service representative — I’ve experienced far worse.”
Virtual assistants continue to augment the workforce while revolutionizing the traditional workplace. Despite this, the fear of being replaced by artificial intelligence one day persists. When asked how they can surpass technology, Ruth thought deep and replied, “technology made this job possible, but it’s the fostered relationship between client and VA that made this successful.”
As days draw to a close, Ruth attends to their end-of-the-day updates and remaining low-priority tasks. If she still has time to spare, Ruth augments in her team’s fax management, assists in US staff’s pending tasks, or carry out last-minute instructions. “Focus is translated into productivity,” Ruth began, “that way we end the day ready for the next.” Ruth’s obligations don’t end after work because she immediately takes on another: being a mom and head of the household.