Filipino IT luminary
BUSINESS and LEISURE - Ray Butch Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2018 - 12:00am

I came across another very interesting, highly accomplished gentleman whom we featured in one of the segments of Business & Leisure, the TV show.  The segment, Business Mover, seeks out the best among the pillars of industry in the country and their story always makes for interesting reading as they inspire and, hopefully, bring out the better person in us.

Rey Untal’s family originally hailed from a small town in Antique, a two-hour ride from the island of Boracay.  His parents were humble, simple people. His father was a government employee and his mother was a public school teacher for two decades. 

When Rey, the youngest among the children was around seven years old, the entire family moved to Manila because his older siblings found work in the city. His elementary years were spent at the Dominican School and then he moved to Ateneo de Manila. He was into the arts, but his Dad convinced him to study Computer Engineering. For some reason, they were required to take up a second degree, which Rey did.  It took him five years to complete his double degrees in Computer and Physics. This he did while also deeply involved in basketball, competing for the Blue Eagles in the UAAP.

After school, he got an internship at IBM and this, he thinks, was the start of his IT career. He subsequently found employment at Nestlé, which at that time and even now, was a most sought after multinational company for those seeking employment.  The company hired a small group of five to augment their IT department and Rey started as a programmer, working his way up to the position of systems analyst which gave him the opportunity to tour the country to visit various Nestle sites to implement their software systems which Rey and his group developed.

Shortly after, Rey moved to another multinational company where he got his first taste of creating global networks. He soon moved to another large company, ICTSI, a local conglomerate that has gone global and in which he ran the company’s IT department. Slowly, he was rising to meet new challenges and got exposed to more global play before he moved to Andersen Consulting, one of the leading consulting firms in the world. This was in 1998 and Andersen Consulting became Accenture. In the next 10 years, he rose to become partner/managing director of Accenture and worked there for around 20 years until his retirement barely 18 months ago.

While with Accenture, Rey got posted in foreign countries as an expat, staying longest in Australia to learn the ropes of how to run a business process organization. He was then assigned to Singapore for three years to apply what he learned in Australia and put it to practice. That, Rey felt, accelerated his career movement and when he returned to the Philippines, he was named managing director and partner in the company.

He remembers that when he joined Accenture, the company had 400 employees before he got posted to another foreign country. Three years later, he returned to find that the company already had 4,000 employees, proof that the outsourcing industry had really taken off and Accenture was a big name in the industry. The company then was involved purely in IT outsourcing, but in the ensuing years, Accenture added more portfolios and even more global clients.

“I’ve seen the company grow from 4,000 employees locally to over 40,000 here in the Philippines,” Rey Untal said. 

Rey Untal has retired from Accenture.  Upon his retirement, he made simple plans after decades of mind-boggling, bone-weary work. He simply wanted to improve his golf game, perhaps earn his Master’s degree or enter the academe so he can “pay it forward” to the industry that has done so much for him.

Unfortunately, even well-laid plans go awry, and while he played golf as often as he could, his game did not improve.  In fact, Rey admits, “it even got worse.” His campus tour in the US to find the right school did not produce good results as well.  He found that earning your two-year Master’s degree there was far too expensive, leaving him with the last option which was to join the academe.

A colleague of his talked him into joining IBPAP, the umbrella organization of IT stakeholders in the Philippines that includes the Animation Council of the Philippines, the Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Software Industry Association, among others. Now he is chief executive officer of the umbrella organization. He commutes 2-1/2 hours daily to and from work, but doesn’t mind it, proof that he enjoys not only his work, but also what it does for many Filipinos. Being a steward for an industry that can improve lives by enhancing and creating a large middle class is what motivates him to brave the daily commute.

His passion is to make this industry grow sustainably in order to make a more dynamic impact on the lives of more Filipinos through IBPAP, which is a non-stock, non-profit organization that serves as the advocate for the IT/BPO industry as it works side by side with sub-sectors and partners with the academe and other organizations of similar advocacies.

However, Rey stressed there is a need for us to support talent development in the Philippines.  We need this to support the growth that the industry is anticipating so IBPAP is partnering with the government and the academe to make sure that the talents we produce have the right skills. There is a need to generate more demand, and this can be made possible by more inbound and outbound trade missions. To make it work, Rey said we need to have a sound business environment that will attract more foreign investors. We need to make this industry interesting enough for the young people to invest in it as a long-time career choice. The digital world is changing fast, and we need to adjust just as quickly.

That about sums up the goals of IBPAP.  On the home front, Rey continues to hope to improve his golf with his weekend games, hoping that his wife will also pick up the sport. He makes it a point to have regular family vacations with his wife and two kids who are in Ateneo, and perhaps soon he can return to his hometown for a grand reunion with his siblings in Antique.

Mabuhay!!!  Be proud to be a Filipino.

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