Globe Telecom’s Pebbles Sy-Manalang on what it’s like being a woman in tech

Rappler.com
Globe Telecom’s Pebbles Sy-Manalang on what it’s like being a woman in tech
And why the IT industry is the best place to be these days

MANILA, Philippines – As Globe Telecom’s Chief Information Officer, Pebbles Sy-Manalang is one of the leading figures in the local tech industry. But back when she was a computer science fresh grad, she was hesitant to pursue a career in tech. 

“To be honest when I graduated, I was worried kasi iniisip ko noon ayoko maging (because I was thinking I didn’t want to become a) developer. I did not want that to be my career. 20 plus years ago when I graduated, support lang yung IT (IT was just support),” she revealed in an interview during Globe’s Innovation Forum last July 25.

Thanks to a mentor, she changed her mind sometime during her 17 years with the company, switching from product to IT. “Nag-shift yung industry. (The industry shifted.) Technology became really pervasive. Now I think that’s the best place to be, it’s the best role really. You’d be hard pressed to find a company like Globe, where our people are exposed to the latest and greatest technology.” 

It’s an ever-evolving industry, but it’s also notorious for its backwardness in terms of inclusivity. We’ve got female executives aplenty – the Philippines has consistently performed well in the Global Gender Gap Report – although Pebbles still believes we need more women in the industry.

“I don’t think people are surprised that there are women in executive positions, it’s more women in tech specifically. That’s where we all need to work harder. I’m trying to get more involved in other organisations and really encourage more women in technology,” she adds.

STEM has always been labeled as a traditionally male-dominated industry, but another factor may be that men tend to apply for jobs even when they don’t fully meet the requirements. Women are hesitant to do so because they’re more afraid to fail – their failures are remembered longer than men’s.

For all this, however, Pebbles doesn’t believe in giving women roles just to improve the ratio. After all, a job should be merit-based. But she does believe in women helping women. 

“I wouldn’t differentiate how I would advise a female or a male student in terms of how they plan their career, but I will encourage other women to mentor other women. There’s a lot of education that needs to happen in making sure that women understand that they have the same rights, that they have the same opportunities,” she says.

And what better way to do that but to start them young? Globe has a couple of small initiatives lined up with a few schools. Plans include embedding coding classes in public schools and enhancing university courses so graduates are better prepared to join the workforce. During the two-day Innovation Forum, Globe also hosted Coding for Kids, a programming boot camp for children of Globe employees. 

With the boom of digital transformation, a lot of opportunities await everyone, not just kids. Reaching a certain age doesn’t mean losing the ability to pivot. It’s all about spreading awareness about those opportunities and enabling people to take them. Pebbles advocates for continuous learning, particularly now that information is readily available. 

From cloud migration and 5G to going paperless, Globe is at the forefront of the local digital transformation. “The reason why I’ve been championing the forum for many years is I want to continue to drive the culture of innovation in Globe, which is really what made us and took us to where we are today,” says Pebbles. – Rappler.com

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