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'I had a target on my back': One Championship's Apprentice winner Jessica Ramella on her lowest point in the competition

'I had a target on my back': One Championship's Apprentice winner Jessica Ramella on her lowest point in the competition
PHOTO: Instagram/Jessica Ramella

Even if you haven't caught The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, you probably know of it-the series was trending on Netflix for a couple of weeks and its print ads are all around the island.

Currently streaming in over 150 countries, the reality TV programme features 16 candidates competing for a US$250,000 job (S$340,000) and the opportunity to work directly under ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong for a year.

Thirty-one-year-old Jessica Ramella emerged as the winner at the end of 13 episodes and the Venezuelan has been working as Chatri's Chief of Staff since May last year. She tells us what first brought her to Singapore, her lowest point during filming, and her advice for those looking to take part in the second season.

She moved to Singapore for its "really good standard of living"


"I've been living here for about seven years. I used to date a half-Filipino guy who had brought me to the Philippines and I fell in love with itit's beautiful and there is so much to do and to see.

"At that time, I had already lived in South America, North America, and Europe, so I thought it would be kind of cool to live in Asia as well and it could also be one of my unique selling points professionally if I have the experience of working in all these continents.

"After doing some research, I found Singapore to be the best place to live. It's safe, English speaking, and with a really good standard of living.

"I told my then-manager I was going to move to Singapore and try to find a job there, but a few months before my moving date, the CEO of my then-company heard of my plans and offered me the opportunity to open the Singapore office. I have been here since.

"My entire experience in Singapore has been transformational and so much has happened in my personal and professional life.

"I keep moving forward and feel that if I were to leave, I would be stifling that growth. Furthermore, I've created a life here for myself the country literally has everything that I could ask for. I'm happy here, and as long as this feels like home, I will stay."

She built her career in sales


"Prior to my win, I was Head of Sales for an international software company and managed teams across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Although all the roles in my career are quite varied, they have always been in sales.

"I've sold everything from FMCG to advertising in magazines and events to software. I've even sold ice cream. And with the exception of that, it's always been B2B sales."

She took part in the show because she felt that the universe was sending her 'a message'


"After my friend told me about the audition for the show, I did some research on ONE Championship and Chatri and realised that we have had very similar life experiences: We both left our countries at a time of crisis, moved to the US with the dream of a better life, and our fathers had left the family nucleus when we were like 18 or 20.

"We had both felt the pressure and responsibility of taking care of our mothers. It was just too coincidental. Furthermore, he talks a lot about dreams, unleashing your greatness, having a purpose in life, and always pushing others to better themselves, which I found very inspiring.

"Seeing all these just made me feel like the universe was sending me a message and a mentor so I decided to sign up! If I'm going to have a mentor, why not it be someone that understands my journey and what I've been through? After all, what's the worst that could happen? Fast forward a year later, here I am."

She had to overcome a lot of self-doubt to soldier on


"You have to make a lot of decisions during the show and those decisions are always going to come back to you. As such, you have to be incredibly decisive and confident in what you're saying and what you're doing.

"A lot of self-doubt can set in as there are incredibly talented people competing against you-people who have differing opinions to yours and disagree with you – and you will begin to question and doubt yourself. And the thing about self-doubt is if you listen to it too much, it can really hurt you.

"Another challenge was trying not to be affected by the negativity and politicking. I refused to let myself be affected or distracted from the competition just because people didn't like me.

"I overcame it by telling myself every morning, 'Let them watch you and you watch the finish line. Let them focus on me so that I will focus on winning.' It was really important for me to remember why I was there."

Her lowest point during filming was when her team tried to take her out


"It was when I realised that a few members of my team had gotten together to discuss getting me eliminated. I had just joined the team and their plan was to appoint me as project manager and then set me up to fail. It made me feel incredibly sad and unwelcome, like I had a target on my back.

"Niraj eventually came clean and told me the night before the elimination – he saw me sitting on the floor at 4am, working, and decided to tell me because he could see how unfair it was.

"I just broke down in tears but felt a sense of relief that I wasn't gaslighting myself or being paranoid about the whole situation. Deep down inside, I knew something wasn't right.

"I wasn't even sure if I could trust him 100 per cent until he brought it up in the boardroom. I felt very alone. That's the level of stress that I was under. Two hours later, I had to put on makeup and do a presentation to save my team – the team that was trying to get me eliminated. It really was a lot."

She and Nazee aren't friends but there is "love and respect"


"Nazee and I were never friends on the show and we're not friends now. I have love and respect for her and everyone on the show though.

"I'm actually very grateful that she was part of my experience because she kept me sharp and alert. She also gave me an opportunity to showcase my principles, strength, and true colours. I wish her nothing but success!

"I don't refrain from working with anyone. I think that every time you interact with someone, you learn something, even if it's just about how you don't want to be like in the workplace or how to develop patience or resilience.

"Every experience teaches you something and if you're constantly working with people that you're comfortable with, you don't grow and don't change."

Her closet ally from the show is Kexin


"I have become friends with most of the members of the show. I think we're all pretty close, like a big family. I would say though my closest friend from the show is Kexin-she and I were paired together on the very first day and then journeyed along together from team to team.

"We developed a really beautiful sisterly relationship where we really trusted each other and could be very honest with each other even in the competition setting.

"For example, when I was project manager and had to choose someone to bring into the boardroom with me if I lost, I said it'd be here. She completely understood the rationale behind my thought process and was emotionally mature and professional enough to not let it affect our relationship."

Her stint at ONE Championship has taught her a lot about the growth mindset


"As Chief of Staff, I help Chatri with anything that he needs.

"My role is to give him the leverage to focus on the things that matter for him to grow the company. I also run the entire athleisure department and anything that is related to the e-commerce side of the business on ONE.SHOP.

"I've learnt so much. I've been learning a lot about how to run a company of this size, how to make important decisions on the fly, and how to rank my priorities. Chatri is incredibly good at making sure that while there are a lot of ideas and things we need to do, we should concentrate on those that will serve our goals.

"I've also learnt a lot about having a growth mindset, learning what your shortcomings are, acknowledging them and pushing forward. Everything I have learnt so far with regards to e-commerce, martial arts and ONE Championship as a whole, has been really exciting and challenging."

Want to take part in the second season? Make sure you're prepared


"Do your homework: Watch The Apprentice, not only the ONE Championship Edition but also those filmed in the US and UK. Study the teams and the type of mistakes that they make, and prepare your body and your mind for the toughest thing that you'll ever do.

"Stretch your comfort level as much as you can and get yourself into top physical fitness. Catch up on your sleep and make sure that you are prepare – you cannot come into this competition and just blag your way through it. It won't happen.

"And finally, have fun. This is an opportunity of a lifetime so focus on the positive, not the negative. Enjoy it because there's not gonna be anything like it ever again."

READ ALSO: Angela Lee's got game, whether it's with double-leg takedowns or diapers

This article was first published in Her World Online.

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