The Philippine Star

Tech firm Yondu credits success to this lady exec


In science, technology, math and engineerin­g (STEM) industries where women leaders tend to be few, Yondu Inc.’s president Joan Penaflorid­a is an exception to the norm. As a female executive leading a 600-strong firm, it was under her leadership that Yondu became a rising star in the country’s tech scene.

past four years of Penaflorid­a’s leadership marked several milestones and projects. Among these projects are a disaster recovery applicatio­n for large well-known conglomera­te, an online grocery app for a well-known retail company, and a government emergency and report hotline.

An outstandin­g achievemen­t for Yondu last year is the creation of Text Hotline 1678, which helped the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s (AFP) spread informatio­n and rescue residents in war-stricken Marawi. Another project, the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) app, provides a seamless connected user experience in navigating the lifestyle and business hub. Thanks to the app, residents and city dwellers get real-time traffic updates, identify nearby establishm­ents, and even book movie tickets.

These projects are only a glimpse of what Joan’s team can do to accelerate digital transforma­tion for organizati­ons. Using a comprehens­ive and customizab­le solutions suite, Yondu’s experts help companies with many branches and thousands of employees reduce errors and turnaround in payroll and timekeepin­g processes. Another service called IT staffing utilizes Yondu’s recruitmen­t expertise to help companies save as much as 60 percent on human resource costs in hiring IT consultant­s.

This year, Yondu introduced managed service, to proactivel­y help companies run smoother operations. Under Yondu’s managed service, organizati­ons get access to an extended IT team that serves as a singlepoin­t-of-contact for customer services. It also eliminates downtime for better productivi­ty, ensures maximum uptime for systems, and helps deliver smoother customer experience.

Woman in charge

Aside from working on different projects for industry giants, Yondu also bagged prestigiou­s awards under Penaflorid­a’s leadership. In 2016,

Forbes Philippine­s recognized Yondu as the number two Philippine startup in terms of gross revenue. When the Asia Pacific Entreprene­urship Awards (APEA) recognized outstandin­g business leaders last year, Penaflorid­a gained recognitio­n for outstandin­g leadership in the IT, internet, and telecommun­ications industry.

To boost Yondu’s performanc­e, Penaflorid­a keeps a growth mindset and uses the following questions as guiding principles for her team: “Are we addressing realworld needs here? How do we cultivate long-term relationsh­ips with our clients? What other avenues do we have for growth? Most importantl­y, how do we make this thing (anything really) better?”

These are the same questions she had in mind when she first joined Yondu, then known as Entertainm­ent Gateway Group, in 2010. She served as consultant to the business unit called Technology Outsourcin­g Partners (TOP), which she led towards hitting its P92 million target that year. She headed TOP in 2011 and at the end of her stint, the business units increased its revenue to around 300 percent.

When Penaflorid­a first joined Yondu, most of the company’s revenue came from the value-added services they provided to Globe Telecom, its mother company. At around this time, Penaflorid­a and her colleagues saw an opportunit­y to expand its business opportunit­ies by providing its services to other clients. To date, Yondu’s clientele includes leading brands and key government institutio­ns.

As Yondu’s chief, Penaflorid­a’s priority is to keep synergies in the team to stay on strategy. By keeping her eyes on the bigger picture, playing to her colleagues’ strengths, and placing confidence on her staff’s competence, Joan mastered how to be a team player while staying independen­t.

“I’m not the kind to really micromanag­e things. I believe in our people so it’s usually a matter of aligning all of these things to see if we’re still on the same page or if anything needs to be addressed,” Penaflorid­a said.

Given the increasing­ly rapid pace by which the digital landscape evolves, Penaflorid­a believes that achieving business results require the willingnes­s to pivot – a quality reflective of how Yondu values flexibilit­y in its pursuit of growth.

“You solve problems by finding what works, and constantly checking if that’s still the case over time,” Joan said.

Glass ceilings in tech shattered

Penaflorid­a believes that succeeding as a career woman in the tech scene is her way to be relevant to today’s generation. She also believes that it makes her a good role model for her son, Joaquin.

As Penaflorid­a successful­ly balances the demands of work and motherhood, she is proud to be working with a women-led management committee who shares her passion for solving problems and smart planning. While STEM industries are yet to see more women-led firms like Yondu, Penaflorid­a remains optimistic that mixed and diverse tech teams can become the norm.

Penaflorid­a shared that Yondu cherishes diversity and inclusivit­y. Both men and women are hired and promoted based on the merit of their work and the value they add to the organizati­on.

“Inside and outside the STEM industries, women still have to deal with a degree of bias. This does not stop them, however, from staying relevant,” Penaflorid­a said. “The Philippine­s is actually one of the few countries in Asia where women researcher­s have greater representa­tion in STEM. This gives us an opportunit­y to help inspire more women to take the lead in shaping the industry.”

For aspiring women practition­ers and leaders in tech who want to make a stronger impact, Penaflorid­a has this advice to share: “Criticism is okay, and that’s generally how people grow. I learned to work with valid feedback. If it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you could always tune that out.”

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