|By Roger Strukhoff||
|November 29, 2011 09:58 PM EST||
I found myself sitting at a table with Renato "Rene" Quizon (pictured below), Executive Director of Business Development at Pointwest, during a recent business summit in Manila that featured a guest appearance by Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. The President was there to congratulate the growing IT services community and announce an educational fund to help develop the business further.
After we exchanged some local political gossip (which will remain strictly confidential), Rene invited me over to the company's office the following week.
Strolling in Makati
Soon enough, I was traipsing down Makati's Paseo de Roxas one early afternoon to visit Pointwest's headquarters.
I either stroll, traipse, or sometimes amble throughout Southeast Asia, having learned long ago not to move too fast in the tropical heat. But this area, part of the country's primary central business district, crackles with energy during the day, as a small army of a youngish workforce strives to lift this developing nation.
Pointwest has more than 700 employees - most of them located in Makati, Metro Manila, with two satellite offices in the US - and provides sophisticated IT services to clients in the airline, financial services, healthcare, utilities and retail industries. It has partnerships with IBM and Microsoft - as well as several international chambers of commerce - and delivers specific technology practices for Microsoft, Java, mainframe/ legacy, and enterprise IT testing.
Pointwest has grown to its present level from 60 employees in 2003. Today, it uses what it calls a matrix-driven model to deliver a variety of services domain specializations. The firm also gets a quarter of its business from Pharmacy Health Information Management services as part of the Philippines' world-leading $11 billion in BPO revenue.
Locally Owned and Managed
Pointwest is "a 100% Filipino global IT service company providing world-class IT and BPO services," as Rene proudly states, and recently won an ICT Philippines award as best mid-sized local BPO company.
Together with Ma. Cristina "Beng" Coronel, president, Josefina "Jowee" Reyes, Executive Director for Administration and Finance, and US-based VPs Lucila "Lucy" Flores and Corazon "Cora" Agbayani, he leads fellow IT professionals who share the same passion and belief in creating a unique Filipino brand name for the IT outsourcing industry.
During our conversation, he explained to me that although the company hires entry-level programmers, QA engineers, and testers, to be sure, it focuses on developing them into systems engineers, designers, developers, and architects. "We are a place where you can build a career," he said.
The company's roster of skills includes all the languages, frameworks, and environments one can name. Rene gave me a detailed, two-page list of them to prove the point. Looking for JBoss? Ibatis? Glassfish? Netweaver? Maximo? You'll find them, along with at least 100 other common and less-common skills.
"We also hire young COBOL programmers," Rene said with a smile - yes, as everyone in the IT business knows, this is still a valued skill in many instances.
New employees attend a rigorous, weeks-long bootcamp to get up to speed on the company's processes, client requirements, and whatever skill sets they may need.
At the higher level, Pointwest throws out terms such as "above- and below-the-wing services," a reference to its airline business. "When you check into a flight on one of the top three US airlines," Rene said, "our work is embedded in everything from your frequent traveler number to security to delivering your bags."
The company also provides services to one of the Philippines' "Big Three" banks, specifically in the form of a marvelous kiosk-based customer-service system at all the branches that I've found provides a lot of convenience and saves a lot of time in a country where manual, paper-based procedures are still common.
Fairly recently, the IT firm delivered an online event booking system in the form of an ASP service in the cloud, enabling small to mid-size non-profits, their Australian client's target market, an easier and cheaper alternative.
Metro Manila has the second-highest city GDP in Southeast Asia region, trailing only Singapore. Makati's Starbucks-to-person ratio is the equal of San Francisco or New York. Big, global brands such as Accenture, KPMG, and Convergys have located tens of thousands of employees here.
Yet the future of the country depends in large measure on homegrown companies such as Pointwest that leverage the energy of this populous nation of 90 million people (and counting). Rene doesn't like to speculate publicly on specific company targets, but said "we've come a long way, and we intend to continue to grow and develop along with the IT services economy in the Philippines."
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