Woman at the helm: Taking on new territory, challenges

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Agnes Gervacio, the chief executive officer of NEC Philippines. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

Agnes Gervacio, the chief executive officer of NEC Philippines. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

“I think I must’ve been a soldier in my past life.” With a hearty laugh, this was how Agnes Gervacio answered when asked to describe herself and her style. This same style guided her career path well enough through the years to become the head of one of Japan’s biggest companies, and certainly one of the world’s most recognizable brand in the field of telecommunications and Information Communication Technology (ICT). Gervacio is not only the first woman to head NEC Philippines, but also the first non-Japanese to hold this position as well.

She admits that she has quite big shoes to fill, but confidently states that she has taken on the challenge wholeheartedly and is enjoying every minute of it. “NEC in the Philippines has been here since the ’60s, and we have a very rich history of supplying into the Philippine market both for the carrier market as well as the enterprise markets,” Gervacio said.

She said that NEC started out doing the Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) systems and transmission lines for telephone carriers. The company also introduced some of the first mobile CDMA phones that came out in the country, as well as supplying Globe Telecoms their first “handyphones.”

Today, NEC Philippines is into the sales, marketing and services of information technology (IT), and provides telecommunication platforms such as the PABX and Key Telephone System (KTS), Internet Protocol, ICT and Network Carrier Solutions. According to the company’s official corporate data, it managed to corner a big chunk in the hospitality and real estate industries in the Philippines. The company has also enhanced its coverage by providing IT solutions and services to industries such as retail, networks, solution-business operations, and even public safety solutions that serves cross-industry, industry-specific needs for government, retail, banking and finance, as well as contact centers.


Gervacio said that NEC Philippines continues to expand to new product lines like the ERP solutions that caters to cross industries as well. The company’s reach can be seen through the NEC Group Stations it established in the country, the largest of which is the Japan Aviation Electronics Philippines, which has 4,400 employees. When added with the other group stations, NEC Philippines would have a total of about 7,500 employees nationwide, including one in Cebu. The lady chief executive officer explains that most of the time Filipinos might not be aware of it, but “every time we use the mobile phone and the Internet, we are utilizing part of the NEC technology. Even when we travel, or secure a government ID, we are using the same solutions provided by the company, whether in the Philippine airports or in the government agencies that handle biometrics ID.”

She said that part of her challenge comes when most of the time she encounters people outside of IT who would not fully understand the work that her company does. She said with a chuckle that the easiest way to describe NEC’s scope is to tell them, “when you look up in the sky, from outer space to the bottom of the ocean, NEC’s there. From the cable lying in the depths of the ocean, to the satellite and Cloud solutions, even microwave antennas, these are all NEC.”

Exciting times for nec
These are very exciting times for companies such as NEC, she said. The rapid advances in technology gives rise to the many visions of how people’s way of living and working are being transformed. She cites as an example the facial recognition software being used in their Tokyo Shinagawa Showroom where the system can profile even the age of the person among, other things. Gervacio said that the applications for this type are varied. She cites as an example a department store that uses its facial recognition software, where it profiles the customers wants and preferences, while a restaurant might use the application to profile the customer’s food preferences and offer the same to them.

Since being appointed to her post, Gervacio said that she introduced some changes into the management styles. She said that she has a tendency to be a “drill sergeant” at times, but said that more than anything else, she tries to empower her staff more and reaches out to everyone whenever she finds the opportunity. Gervacio proudly stated that this has worked more effectively, because the company has more than reached its targets and is now setting its aim even higher.

Being a woman has never been an obstacle in doing what she does, Gervacio said simply because women are natural multi-taskers too. That is why, she is still able to balance and perform her many hats as a company president, a mentor, a wife, a mother and a friend. Right now, she hopes to be able to give back some of the many blessings that she has by giving opportunities to others too. She becomes almost teary-eyed when talking about this subject as she feels that this is one of her missions at this point in her life. She remembers with fondness how her mentors had helped her too and shaped her into becoming who she is now, and hopes that someday, she’ll be able to touch the lives of others by helping them until they would reach their maximum potential. This way, the positive cycle would continue, and she would be content knowing she had a hand in helping fulfill their own dreams too.

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