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.”