CEO Corner: Bridging the gap between academe and industry

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Vanessa Tanco, president and CEO of iAcademy. PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

Vanessa Tanco, president
and CEO of iAcademy.
PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

On meeting her for the first time, one would think she was one of the students of the progressive learning institution in Makati called iAcademy. But her young, charming looks and her demure yet confident demeanor would tell you that this lady wears a much larger hat than most. Vanessa Tanco is the president and chief executive of iAcademy. She is also the chief operating officer of another, much larger and longer established educational institution– the Philippine Women’s University.

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Tanco says her main focus is really iAcademy. Having just transferred to their new building campus also in Makati, she says she is gearing up for the much larger operations that would come with this recent acquisition. The school, she says, is the result of a vision of some of the country’s business leaders who thought of bridging the gap between academe and industry.

At that time, this group already saw the widening gap between what was being taught in schools and the advances in modern technology that were being applied in businesses. The group — which included Vanessa’s father, Eusebio Tanco — decided to proactively address the situation and in 2002, established iAcademy (Information and Communications Technology Academy) right in the heart of the Central Business District in Makati.

The IT school offered specialized degree programs in BS Computer Science major in Software Engineering and BS Information Technology major in Web Development, among others. Tanco says they have since expanded to offering more courses, not only in IT but in business and design as well. “We’re very focused on technology courses, design and business courses, and all these, they rapidly change. By the time it becomes printed in the textbooks, there are times they are already outdated.”

Today, iAcademy also offers courses in BA Multimedia Arts and Design, BA Fashion Design and Technology, and is one of the first college institutions in the country to offer BS Animation and BS Game Development and Design. They also offer similar short courses aimed at working professionals through their School of Continuing Education. Their four-year programs culminate in a six-month 960-hour internship program that students have to go through before graduating. This is also one of the reasons for their success. “The proof that our system works is our very high employment rate after graduation, which is 98 percent.”

When Tanco came onto the scene in 2007, she said one of the first expansions she made was to offer courses in design programs which included animation, game development and fashion. She says they even had pioneering partnerships with fashion and design shows like Project Runway Philippines. In May 2010, iAcademy also partnered with TV5 during the first automated elections in the country, together with other media organizations and civic groups, to bring up-to-date election coverage.

The young chief executive says 2014 is turning out to be a banner year for them as their calendar of activities has become more hectic than usual. Early this year saw them moving to a new Makati address to house an ever-growing student population. The school also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Aboitiz Weather Philippines to develop a website and application for faster and more user-friendly weather reports. At the same time, iAcademy also forged a study tour partnership with Polimoda, Italy’s leading school of fashion and marketing, as well as a transfer program with De Paul University, based in Chicago. They are also preparing to host “Animahenasyon,” the biggest animation festival in the Philippines, in partnership with the Animation Council of the Philippines.

Looking back, Tanco says she never planned on becoming an educator. When she came back to the Philippines after earning her master’s degree at the University of Southern California, she initially worked for one of their family-owned companies. In 2005, she joined the Philippine team for badminton and played for a year, until the end of the Southeast Asian Games. After her stint, she opened up her own badminton school, teaching and mentoring young kids in the sports she has gotten to love. It was all good, she says, until one time her father told her to stop playing around. It was then that she joined iAcademy through the marketing department, and she hasn’t looked back since.

When asked if she misses playing badminton, Tanco says she still manages to play whenever her time permits. But she doesn’t really miss it that much, she says, as she had taken an interest in a different sport since December 2013. “I’m interested in honing my skills in golf now,” she says, although not to the point of making it her primary passion.

She admits she didn’t realize it back then, but she is quite thankful that her father led her in this direction. She laughs at being called an “accidental educator,” but declares she currently has “the best job in the world, because it doesn’t even feel like a job. Going to work every day and seeing students happy in what they’re doing makes everything worthwhile.”

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