When women innovate, create and lead, things get done and everyone benefits. The statement rings true more so today than ever before. Women are making a significant impact in the tech scene and forging paths for others to participate and get involved in the industry.
In celebration of Women’s Month, here are four inspiring women driving this change in the Philippines and using their skills and platforms to build a more inclusive future for young women and starting entrepreneurs. In this time of notable change and looming uncertainty, they, as well as all the women leaders in the country, have stepped up into the challenge to innovate and reshape the society that is still coping with the new normal.
Alwyn Joy Rosel
Head of Startup Development Program, QBO Innovation Hub
“As long as the goal is to create something that would make things better, easier, more convenient, and for the good of everyone, I think it will always be worth it.”
Alwyn Rosel began her startup journey at the University of the Philippines almost a decade ago. She worked at the DOST – PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development) as a consultant. At the Asian Institute of Management’s Dado Banatao Incubator, she also worked as a community manager. She’s now with QBO Innovation Hub, still engaging, still helping startups on their journey. Her team works with those who already have their prototypes or minimum viable products, provides support through training, services, or funding as they go through each phase.
While the role made her schedule more jam-packed, Alwyn finds it very fulfilling. She said, “I think this is where the quote ‘para sa bayan’ applies because knowing that you’re doing this for your country makes it very fulfilling despite the challenges.”
When asked what advice she can give young women aspiring to become entrepreneurs, she pointed out that “Purpose is a powerful motivator.” “The journey is challenging and tricky, but as you go along the journey and you feel that ‘this is not just for me, I’m creating this tech, I’m creating this product or service, not for me but really to make an impact on people and the society,’ that makes it more meaningful.” she said.
Philippines Lead, Microsoft Philanthropies
“There’s no harm in trying. There’s no harm in asking for collaboration. My background is really in storytelling, and it’s really about understanding that story, understanding what it is you are doing. If you can tell your story well, you will find that there are synergies and connections you can build upon.”
Building upon her previous role as Brand Communications Head at PLDT Enterprise, Georgia Martelino understands the importance of communicating what exactly a product or a service is for and how it can help people and organizations. Communication is vital in this hyperconnected world, and Georgia is in the middle of it all, aware that people expect companies to care about communities and contribute a positive impact on society. “Understanding a corporation’s strengths and sophisticated capabilities must be broken down to make it relatable to your particular stakeholder,” she explained.
As the main driver of Microsoft Philippines’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, Georgia’s team works with startups through projects that are in collaboration with NGOs and social enterprises to make a difference to society.
While working with multiple startups and NGOs, Georgia sees philanthropy as looking at projects and collaborations from a different perspective. Startups and NGOs help identify varied priorities so problems are better understood and solutions are contextualized locally. Collaboration is vital. Otherwise, nothing will be built, let alone finished.
“Looking at things from the lens of a bigger enterprise, you can see how impactful a project can actually be because you see the whole ecosystem, you see how it works from the public sector, private sector, and you see the different initiatives that could complement it,” she said.
Lead, Microsoft for Startups Philippines
“At the end of the day, we all work in conjunction with each other.”
From her vast experience, Yvana Wong had the opportunity to work with different stakeholders and partners. At a fintech startup, she worked through multiple special projects where she learned the value of validating assumptions, validating products, experimenting, and learning from failure. This, she said, would propel one for faster growth in the future.
Something that Yvana has been doing for the last few years in her personal capacity is helping social enterprises like Bayan Academy as a way to expand her reach and work at the intersection of people, planet, and profit. When asked why she chooses to channel her energy into this space, Yvana says that, “a social enterprise is sustainable, it helps with our GDP and churns the economy around, and at the same time helps communities and the environment.”
Yvana said that her long-term motivation is to work with startups, incubators, and accelerators. She also sees fintech as the “enabler” of all the other industries’ growth. It’s a critical way to give a leg up to the country’s financial sector, that can serve as the springboard for more innovative solutions. There is a need to guarantee that our banking and payments infrastructure that facilitates commerce is there. “I wanted to be part of the team that enabled SMEs to grow. They have so much potential to grow and expand,” Yvana pointed out.
Katrina Rausa Chan
Executive Director, QBO Innovation Hub
“We ended up calling ourselves QBO (after the ‘bahay kubo’) because there’s a kubo everywhere. It’s a big part of our mission to be able to engage more people of diverse backgrounds to participate and to make the notion of building your own startup become attainable and inclusive.”
Katrina Rausan Chan could have chosen to stay and find work in the United States after graduating there. She chose to return home instead, and now works as QBO’s Executive Director. Her main role is to mentor and provide training to startups and startup founders, connect them with investors, resources, and build networks among founders and community, with the end goal of making sure the Philippine startup ecosystem grows and scales.
Kat also leads Startup Pinay, an initiative to provide additional, focused support to female tech founders in the country. For Kat, the community has to play a significant role in ensuring a healthy and safe environment. She expressed, “There seems to be an unspoken rule that women are suited for certain functions– maybe the head of marketing or HR, so we’re also really encouraging more women to break those stereotypes. Women can and should be just as likely to be CEOs, CTOs, playing those kinds of leadership roles.”
And her advice to those who want to but still hesitant to begin their startup journey? Just try it out. “It’s a huge privilege to be young because this is your time to experiment, to fail, and try again. Therefore, my advice is to just go for it now. Have a bias for action and try, especially if this is something you are interested in,” Kat said this as the only way to find out if you have the calling for a startup or not.
Read More: Katrina Rausa Chan on having a bias for action.
This article is published on BitPinas: Celebrating Four Women Who Innovate, Create, and Lead