“Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
— Niccolo Machiavelli
Walking through the corporate doors of IBM Philippines, one is immediately greeted by the sight of a warm smile and a firm handshake by the big boss himself.
No, it is not the usual style of Luisito “Luis” Pineda to wait by the reception for guests, though it is not beyond him to do so. It must be serendipity, someone quips in the background, as he just happened to be there at the right place and time, even as he was passing by to check on something on the other side of the hallway before this interview.
The atmosphere going to his office was equally lively and almost jovial, as the vibe of youthful energy encompasses the floor. This is the exactly the IBM Philippines they had envisioned, Pineda explains, and one that carried over this illustrious IT conglomerate through more than a hundred years of doing business around the world.
Pineda is the president and chairman of IBM Philippines, Inc., one of the oldest global companies that entered the country almost 80 years ago. He says, “IBM has been here in the Philippines for 79 years, and is 105 years as a company itself. We’re one of the oldest IBM institutions outside of North America.”
Although Pineda emphasizes that they are not allowed to state exact figures, he also proudly states that their Philippine operations now “comprise half of Asean as a whole, and if you tally up the headcount for IBM Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and all other Asean countries, we are half the population here in the Philippines.”
IBM Philippines is part of the huge American multinational technology and consulting corporation International Business Machines Corporation, which is commonly referred to as IBM, and has corporate headquarters in Armonk, New York. The company manufactures and markets computer hardware, middleware and software. It also offers infrastructure, as well as hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.
The company was founded in 1911 and was formerly known as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). It was later renamed International Business Machines in 1924 by Thomas Watson, who led IBM from 1914 to 1956. The company originally manufactured machinery for sale and lease, ranging from commercial scales and industrial time recorders, to meat and cheese slicers.
Today, according to figures from its website, the company posted revenues ending 2012 with about $104.5 billion, with total assets of $119,2 billion, while its number of employees worldwide stood at more than 434, 246.
In the Philippines, IBM formally established itself in 1937. Since then, it has also evolved to become one of the leaders in information technology, providing both its local and global customers everything from hardware, software, to IT-enabled services. Currently, IBM Philippines has over 5,000 clients and at least 130 authorized service centers nationwide. “Our clients come from all industries, from retail to manufacturing, to banking and finance,” Pineda states.
As IBM continues to evolve as a business, Pineda says today they are again redefining the industry through what they all as the “cognitive era.” He describes these as computing systems that actually learn. He explains that while the technology doesn’t replace humans, it makes humans more productive, and enables them to do more high value work. He gave as an example one of their popular offerings in the field of medicine called “Watson for Oncology.”
Pineda describes the work that they do in IBM like a child who is inside his favorite playground. The enthusiasm obviously stems from the fact that this CEO is passionate about what he does and is one of the reasons why he still remains to be an “IBMer” to this day. He started his IBM career in the US where he grew up, after his family migrated from Davao. He adds that he never imagined that he would someday come back to the Philippines to head the company he worked for all these years. And this is where he says the added enthusiasm comes from—going back to his roots and getting the chance to help make a difference in the lives of his fellow Filipinos through IBM.
Since taking the top post in IBM Philippines in September 2014, Pineda admits it has not always been a walk in the park. But challenges are always part and parcel of doing business anywhere he says, and is thankful that the company grew at a pace he is comfortable with.
In particular, he is also quite happy implementing one of his advocacies, which is helping “grow and deepen the skills here in the Philippines.” One of the things he is proud of he says, is that he was able to move a large part of IBM’s technical support for North America to the Philippines, even before he came here.
These days, Pineda says his main priority outside of work is being a father to three young kids. “It’s important to have a work-life balance for me and our employees. So what I try to do is try not to impose work on weekends, although there are exceptions. At IBM, we all work hard but if you work too much, it will affect your life, which in turn will affect the quality of your work. That’s why I always stress that weekends must be spent with family.”
Pineda also reveals that before he got married, he was into a whole lot of things too. Some of his passions he says, include being a master sailor and a pilot. He is also into golf, skiing and is a triathlete. He lets out a laugh as he recalled how these activities fill up his schedule when he is not at work.
“Let’s just say, I work hard, and I play hard,” he says with a chuckle. But what is important is remembering what your goals in life are and how to pursue them, even if it means evolving to suit today’s situation—very much like his company’s motto of thinking and evolving, to remain relevant and successful.