Cathy Yang: From television to telecommunications

Ching M. Alano - The Philippine Star
Cathy Yang: From television to telecommunications
Cathy Yang, former ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) anchor/ managing editor, is now first vice president and group head of PLDT’s corporate communications team.
STAR / File

The morning after Super Typhoon Ulysses unleashed its deadly wrath on Luzon, we hear the comforting, familiar voice of Cathy Yang drifting through the airwaves, reassuring us that the telecom company PLDT is doing everything in its power to restore mobile and Internet services in the heavily affected areas. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Why is Cathy Yang on the other side of the camera, being interviewed instead of doing the interview? It’s not your TV set, folks, please stand by!

The breaking news is that the lovely and much-loved news anchor of ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), you used to see her giving the latest business buzz around Asia on Market Edge, is now the first vice president and group head of PLDT’s corporate communications team.

Described by Manny V. Pangilinan, PLDT chairman, president and CEO, as an “excellent communicator and journalist of unquestioned integrity,” Cathy leaves behind 28 colorful years in the broadcast industry where she became the first Filipina to be named Best News or Current Affairs Presenter at the Asian Academy Creative Awards held in Singapore in 2019.

“I have always been fascinated by the corporate world and how leaders in positions of responsibility can influence and steer decision-making that seeks to propagate the greater good,” affirms Cathy who may be fading out of the public eye but not of public service. “Speaking with some of the world’s most influential and successful corporate leaders in my 15 years as a financial journalist overseas, I had always been the privileged messenger of their good advice, passing on gems of wisdom to those who wanted to be like these leaders.”

But of course, Cathy got her husband’s loving nod of approval on her career shift. “To paraphrase an oft-repeated saying, in my case it’s more like, ‘Behind every successful woman is a good, supportive man.’ Dr. Gilbert C. Yang (a dermatologist) has unconditionally enabled my growth as a person, parent, professional.”

Fact is, it was a seamless shift from TV newscasting to corporate communications for Cathy. “Media and telco complement each other, they make a perfect pair,” she compares. “Overlay tech on both and you get the broader expanse of the tech-media-telco ecosystem. The convergence of these three had always been a compelling proposition for me. Twenty years ago, it was just an idea that early believers said would be the thing of the future. When I took my Reuters Foundation scholarship at the University of Oxford in England, I submitted a 300-page thesis on the merger of traditional media and Internet companies, for which I received ‘with citation’.”

So, how did her first seven months (she assumed her PLDT post on July 31, 2020) at her new corporate desk go?

Team Cathy: Cathy goes to office five times a week. ‘Media and telco complement each other, they make a perfect pair. Ironically, I find myself in front of the camera more these days than ever before.

Cathy shares, “Through virtual leadership, I took on a reorganization that involved putting together teammates from PLDT and Smart and unifying them under Group Corporate Communications. I attended to their needs first, improving their digital connectivities, replacing old laptops with new ones. These first steps enabled them to get the collective job done of propagating our group’s role in this pandemic: providing customers the digital connectivity they need to keep them safe while carrying on with their lives in the new normal.”

Ever the workaholic, Cathy didn’t let the “new normal” disrupt her normal daily schedule. She goes to the office five times a week as she did in her previous job where, at the start of the enhanced community quarantine, she was doing live broadcasts from the newsroom.              Before COVID-19, she carried on with her anchoring duties for Bloomberg TV Asia-Pacific while based in Hong Kong at the height of the SARS epidemic.

No worries. This former track & field varsity player of De La Salle University Taft is more than fit for the job. “I did the 1,500-meter run and shot put,” she recounts. “I’m not in the habit of counting steps, but I do enjoy working the stairs instead of taking the lift.”

Her rigorous news training (imagine being on the anchoring chair before 9 a.m., 3 p.m., 8 p.m., five times a week) has certainly come in handy, keeping her agile and “camera-ready” for all her virtual or face-to-face meetings (with masks on, of course).

Aside from learning how to take care of herself more, Cathy has learned many valuable lessons on the job. “I’ve learned that whatever setting (be it local or global) and whatever circumstance (pandemic or not) you find yourself in, it is one’s work ethic that bridges the gap, one’s authentic display of malasakit that gets everyone on board, one’s personal energy that gets everyone wired in, and one’s relentless focus that gets everyone scaling a common goal.”

Helping others, says Cathy, is no different from the discipline of delivering fair and balanced news. And it heartens her when she receives “thank-yous” from people she doesn’t even know.

Cathy is surprised to find herself in front of the camera more today than ever before. She is often invited to host and moderate events, and to speak, either as a woman in telco or a corporate citizen, bouncing off ideas with thought leaders like Mitch Lowe of Netflix and Redbox and Hollywood actress-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow.

Though Cathy is pretty much “connected,” she makes sure she devotes some quiet time away from her gadgets, because, “It’s good for the mind and body, and it’s good for the soul.”

And yes, gadgets are simply a no-no for the Yang family when they’re dining together at home. Cathy asserts, “I have made it clear to my daughters way before it could have possibly been more difficult to provide guidance: Let’s enjoy each other’s company and we do. So, it’s become a self-reinforcing activity.”

While the pandemic has changed our lives, one thing has remained constant for Cathy: “My family. The lockdown has given me the opportunity to stay home with them more even as Gilbert and I continue to work while our eldest daughter Angel has transitioned to working from home and our youngest daughter Christine carries on with online learning.”

She adds, “This is an opportune time for us to turn to self, to assess and reassess, to accept what is and can no longer be, to be grateful for what one still has, and to be open to change.”

Cathy certainly empathizes with distressed mothers who are homeschooling their kids and stressing over Internet problems. “For mothers, it’s really more stressful to work from home,” she confesses, “because now, the lines are blurred between our mommy-selves and our work-selves. It’s given equal opportunity for women and men sheltering at home to help each other survive, even thrive, in a pandemic.”

Cathy believes that a woman’s most important role in this Information Age is her voice — online. “Never have women been more empowered than in this digital era. In this pandemic, we have been given a chance to address long-standing inequalities, rebuilding a resilient world, with women at the heart of the recovery. My career journey has taken me to the male-dominated world of technology, media, and telecom at a time of unprecedented demand for digital connectivity. I am most pleased to see that the first leaders who welcomed me at PLDT to the ranks of senior management are mostly women.”

Having traveled the world, Cathy is happy to share her simple pleasures: “I enjoy sunsets. I’ve witnessed them in different latitudes and ours has got to be the most dramatic, most expressive, and most memorable of all. I’d whip out my mobile phone with a great camera lens or a DSLR to capture The Moment, when a myriad of colors splashes across the sky in the final minutes before the curtain call into the night.”

Cathy hopes to see the day when the sun will shine on every Filipino home, one that’s smart, intelligent, and connected. “We’ve heard of 5G-powered robots helping China fight COVID-19 in airports and shopping malls, and intelligent disinfection robots in some hospitals. Drones, real-time dashboards, and digital twins are among emerging new use cases driving digital transformation across the globe.”

Fast-forward to five years from now, Cathy shares this scenario, “We’d probably be leaving home in a hurry, grabbing our smartphones instead of our wallets. Unlimited connectivity will probably be a given in developed markets and we’d soon be clamoring for the same.”

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