THE FINISH LINE

From The Apprentice to One Championship's Chief of Staff

Globetrotting Venezuelan Jessica Ramella is relishing the 'toughest job of her life', and she's enjoying every step of the journey

Lee U-Wen
Published Sat, Jul 3, 2021 · 05:50 AM

IT'S been a whirlwind last few months for Jessica Ramella, the 31-year-old Venezuelan who in June was crowned the winner of the inaugural season of The Apprentice: One Championship Edition.

Outlasting 15 other contestants on the popular reality TV show saw her rewarded with a one-year, US$250,000 contract to be the new Chief of Staff to One Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

Ms Ramella - whom some call a "Lady MacGyver" for her ability to solve problems - is clearly enjoying her time at the Singapore-based mixed martial arts organisation. BT Weekend met her recently at her office at Duo Tower where she talked about the challenges of the new role, her fitness journey, and how her travels around the world finally led her to Asia and Singapore.

Tell me more about life growing up in Venezuela.

I had a nice childhood. I was a happy child and I didn't have any siblings. I grew up in the capital Caracas, and I was a very creative kid, doing a lot of drawing and things like that. On weekends or the holidays, I would go outdoors and head to the beach, or be at my grandparents' house and climb mango trees.

I think growing up in Venezuela taught me how to be hungry, sharp, street-smart and to be very aware of my surroundings. I built up a set of important life skills, and these have helped shape who I am today.

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You're quite the globetrotter too, from what I read.

I lived in Venezuela until I was 18, when I moved to San Diego in California. I studied there for three years and then moved to London to work for six years. Now, I've lived in Singapore for the last six years, and I love being here. I'm a local ang moh (Hokkien term for Caucasian).

What made you decide to move to Singapore?

I had lived in South America, North America and Europe, so the only other place to go next was Africa or Asia. I knew Asia was booming with a lot of new companies and that plenty of job opportunities were available. So I thought to myself, if I could move to Asia that would be another market under my belt and that could be my USP (unique selling point).

I told my boss in London that I was going to quit and move to Singapore in six months' time. I would just go and try and find work there. But two months before my departure, he suggested to me to go to Singapore and open the company's new office there. So by luck or chance, and the aligning of the stars, I managed to go to Singapore with a job.

How has your eight-week stint on The Apprentice helped prepare you for life at One Championship?

I'm blessed in the sense that Chatri (the host of The Apprentice) really knows all about me now - the good, the bad and the ugly. The relationship he has with me from day one is very different to the relationship he has with, say, someone else whom he only interviewed once before.

That allows me to have a much more frank conversation with him. I already know his expectations and his level of excellence. I also know that, for instance, he has a zero tolerance for typos. So even on my first day of work, I know the standard of the type of documents that I must prepare before I send them to him. Being on The Apprentice set me up on the right course to take on the toughest job of my life.

Besides the business challenges on the show, there were many physical tasks to complete too. What's your approach to fitness?

I've had an interesting fitness journey. I have lost 20kg in the past two years. I went through a big transformation due to a complete change in my lifestyle. Growing up, I did a lot of sports and gymnastics, and then in my teenage years everything just went downhill. It got to a point where I was just tired of how I looked and I did not feel confident about my body. I wanted to be in better shape, and not be out of breath whenever I climbed the stairs.

These days, I work out constantly, around four to five times a week, mostly weightlifting exercises. Three months before The Apprentice, I was working out six days a week and I entered the show in the best shape of my life.

What do you hope to achieve at One Championship?

I want to bring value to the organisation. I want to help Chatri achieve his goal of turning a US$1 billion sports media property into a US$10 billion property. Whether it's attending meetings on his behalf, or working on ad hoc projects that give him enough time and space to focus on other things, that's what I want to do during this first year.

Being the newest kid on the block, and entering this high-profile job in a very public way via a reality TV show, is there extra pressure to prove yourself?

Yes. In terms of credentials, for example, I didn't come from another sports media company. I feel I need to show what makes me valuable beyond what's on my CV - whether it's displaying critical thinking or being extra-prepared for meetings. Whatever I'm lacking in one area, I want to make it up in a hundred other ways. It's important to earn people's trust. To do that, you need to show you are putting in the maximum effort all the time.

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