‘Apprentice’ Candidate Jessica Ramella: ‘They Call Me Lady MacGyver’
Jessica Ramella is living proof that determination and tenacity are two of the most important assets to achieve success.
Like a river that cuts through rock, Ramella’s persistence has carved a path through uncompromising ground and led her to “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition,” which will premiere on 18 March.
Find out all about the Venezuelan globetrotter before she competes for a one-year, US$250,000 contract to work directly under ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
Early Life In Venezuela
Ramella was born and raised in Venezuela, though her family ancestry meant that she also had dual citizenship in Italy. Her father was a doctor, while her mother gave up dentistry to focus on raising their only child.
“My grandparents emigrated to Venezuela where my parents met, and I was born in Caracas, which is the capital city. I wouldn’t say we were rich, but we were comfortable,” she offers.
Academically, the youngster struggled in her early years, but when the family moved to Margarita Island, the change of scenery helped her to flourish.
“Originally, I was in a pretty strict all-girls school that was run by nuns. I wasn’t doing very well, and I was a bit rebellious,” Ramella continues.
“When we moved to Margarita, I just had to step up. I became a great student, and by the time I graduated, I had probably the second-best grades in my class. It was very drastic.
“I think it was partly the school system. The new school wasn’t super strict. It was a mixed school, and I had a bit of freedom in terms of classes. I was more entertained, plus I did not carry the old reputation with me.”
The newly-focused Ramella showed that in the right setting, she could thrive – but she also had other motivations.
Breaking Free Of The Shackles
“I think my entire life growing up, I always aspired to go and see the world. I always thought there had to be more to life than this,” she says.
The political and cultural environment in Venezuela pushed the teenager to want to leave her home, and she moved to the U.S. to continue her education as soon as she could.
“I didn’t think the opportunities were there anymore. I wanted to be an artist or something, which wasn’t exactly normal. I was pigeonholed by what Venezuelan society expected of me, so I knew I had to leave,” Ramella adds.
A month after her eighteenth birthday, she moved to San Diego, California, where she started at a community college. It wasn’t prestigious, but it was the best her family could afford — and it was progress.
After passing her college exams, the costly university fees effectively derailed her chances in the United States. Her Italian passport gave her another opportunity, however.
Ramella’s European Union citizenship meant that she could attend university in Europe at a much lower cost. Being fluent in Spanish and English, she opted for the bustle of London, England, at the age of 20.
Still, more roadblocks appeared. Because she had never lived in Europe or paid taxes there, she had to work for three years to be eligible to study at EU citizen rates. Finally, she decided to walk her own path instead of the one she felt obliged to take.
“I worked for years, trying to pay my way and applying to university all the time. I felt like it was a huge mountain to climb and no matter what I did there was obstacle after obstacle. Then there was always pressure from my dad,” Ramella says.
“My relationship with my dad had started to deteriorate when I was in my teens, and we slowly got to the point where we haven’t talked in six or seven years. I always felt like I was a disappointment to him. I couldn’t live with his expectations and the pressure on me to be a certain way.
“There were a lot of things that I wanted to do, and once I didn’t have the fear of disappointing him to deal with anymore, I threw myself into the deep end, and that helped me flourish in many other ways.”
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After six years of barely making ends meet in London, Ramella had grown tired of the city. Her new freedom allowed her to explore another avenue, and she went all-in.
“I wanted to discover Asia, but I realized it would take me 10 years to see what I wanted to see just going every summer, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I just move and see if I can find an opportunity?’” she recalls.
She handed her notice in at her workplace, but by some stroke of luck, they explained that they were looking to set up shop in Asia and she could be a part of it.
Ramella made the move with a job in hand. Her willingness to do it alone had prompted her company to accelerate their plans. Once she was there, she stayed with her company for 10 months before she sought out other projects.
The globetrotting South American did everything from working in an ice cream store to being a sales executive and eventually worked her way up to being a sales director for a software firm.
Her dogged determination got her there, not her qualifications on paper. And then the suggestion of a friend pushed her toward her next potentially life-changing opportunity – “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition.”
Big Risk, Big Reward
The chance to feature on the show came with its own risks, but that didn’t faze the Venezuelan one bit. More than anything, she felt an immediate connection with Sityodtong’s story, and he obviously recognized parts of himself in her, too.
“A friend of mine saw the advert and sent me a screenshot. I just laughed and didn’t take it seriously. But when I got home, I followed the link and saw Chatri’s story,” Ramella says.
“I saw so many similarities, so many parallels in our lives, from leaving our [home] country to family crisis, being from a place of money to having nothing.
“I saw how he talked of hopes and dreams and taking the road less traveled. I got chills, so I decided to apply. I knew my livelihood was on the line as I would have to quit a great job, but I didn’t want fear to control my decisions.
“I had the interview, and then a few weeks later, Chatri called me to say I had a spot. It felt very serendipitous, but also so right.”
Now, her main aim is to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime chance. With a never-say-die attitude and an eye for problem-solving that cannot be taught, the Caracas native has all the attributes needed to make a dent on the show.
“I think I’ve made my own luck by taking the opportunities that present themselves or taking chances when others wouldn’t,” Ramella says.
“I think in my business life, I conduct myself to a really high standard, so I can come across intense or tightly wound. But I’m always switched on and I’m always thinking of the good, the bad, and the ugly in every situation.
“They call me a ‘Lady MacGyver’ because I will always find a way to fix things. If you have a problem, I will pause my problem to help you. I like helping people and my number one priority in life is to always be kind and positive.”