MANILA - In the dead of night, Richard Ancheta answers phone calls from across the Pacific, leading a team of millennials, while most people his age are sleeping off arthritic pains.
"Daddy Richard," as the 61-year-old father of two is called by his peers, has worked in call centers for a decade, proving it is never too late to pursue a lucrative career, even at retirement age.
The former software engineer at a local bank said he found it hard to find a job after a failed attempt to start a business.
He recalled being turned away at the door because of his age. Software companies were not interested in someone who thrived during the heyday of MS DOS, Pacman, and WordStar.
It was in the country's thriving business process outsourcing industry that Ancheta found his second wind. He has been with his current company, Alorica, for two years after a stint with Convergys.
“Sabi ko sa misis ko, subukan ko ito. Pumasok ako, first time. Gabi, may trabaho na ako. Naisip ko, ‘This is great’ I went through the whole process, but when you get there, what you will realize is that hindi por que may edad ka na, o mayroon kang kapansanan ay tatratuhin ka na nila differently,” he said.
(I told my wife, I will try this. I got in, it was a night shift job. I thought: This is great I went through the whole process, but when you get there, what you will realize is that you don't have to be treated differently because of age or disability.)
STARTING FRESH AT 50
Ancheta said it was not easy retooling his body for the night shift at 50, but he eased into his new routine by exercising regularly and quitting drinking.
"I had to adjust my sleeping habits…Nahirapan din ako mag-adjust nun. Hindi diridiretso ang tulog mo, putol-putol, especially kapag summer. You get used to it eventually,” he said.
(I had a hard time adjusting. I did not sleep straight, especially during the summer.)
The soft-spoken Ancheta barely looks 61 with just a few strands of white hair.
Seniors are welcome in the BPO industry, as companies need to fill thousands of job openings, said Jay Santisteban, operations director of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, says that .
“It's a question of competency, rather than of age. Age brings wisdom…Dahil sila ay mas mature, sila rin ay mas pasensyoso, ‘di lang sa customer, pero pati sa pakikitungo sa team. Mas mature, mas masigasig, mas pasensyoso…They bring in additional leadership qualities into the mix,” said Santisteban.
(Because they are more mature, they are more patient, not just with customers but with their team. They are more mature, more industrious.)
It is a pity, he said, that few people seem to know that senior citizens looking for work could also go to call centers, instead of driving taxis and taking jobs as cleaners or caretakers.
“Actually ang turing sa kanila kaparehas lang ng isang ordinaryong taong nag-aaply…mayroon pa ring stigma na ‘Dahil ako ay may edad na, ‘di ako pupuwede [magtrabaho]. Hindi dahil ikaw ay may edad na, ‘di ka pupuwede. Mayroong trabahong naghihintay sa iyo,” he said.
(They are treated like ordinary applicants. There's still a stigma because of age. Not because you're old, you can't find work. There's a job waiting for you.)
Ancheta said he would work in call centers for another decade, when he would be in the 70s. Aside from financial security, he said his work allows him to regularly interact with people.
At 65, he said he would be exempted from paying taxes and would be allowed to receive pension "all at the same time."
"Tapos wala na akong pinapaaral, eh di ok na ako, di ba? That's what I want to achieve, what I want to see," he said.
(I'm no longer sending kids to school. That's okay, right? That's what I want to achieve, what I want to see.)
Working allows Ancheta and his 59-year-old wife, Nina, to enjoy benefits.
He also has high hopes for their children—the eldest, Anjelica, is a government scholar and is finishing her master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of the Philippines; while their son Michael will soon finish studying computer science at the Far Eastern University.
In the meantime, he will remain a call center father figure—guiding recruits through the maze of customer service, for clients a continent away.