Women in IT and the arts
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Jennifer Ann Munar belongs to the contemporary breed of Filipino women – fearless but tactful, daring yet calculating, graceful but won’t buckle down even under the most intense pressure, and more importantly, someone who has come to realize that she has the right to pursue a career just like a man. She is recognized for her conquering what used to be restricted as a man’s world. 

While Jen avers her ventures in business are mostly providential, it is quite amazing how she was able to adjust in the shortest time possible in each of her endeavors, surpassing everyone’s expectations.  

A classic case is her IT firm, Genisystems Solutions Inc.

With virtually no background in information technology except for putting up a cybercafé many years back, Jen was forcibly cast into the IT industry after a crisis developed in a project where she was only a minor player.

Using the management skills she had honed up through the years, she went directly to the people involved in the project, determined the problem and came up with the solutions. And that’s how Genisystems Solutions Inc., an IT company which is engaged in the development of software and hardware infrastructure, was born.

The company has spawned related businesses. KBTSI or Knowledge Base Technology Solutions Inc. consists of a hospital management information system which integrates information about doctors, staff, hospital administrative details, and an electronic patient’s record system into software. 

Among its projects are building mobile payment systems, ATM cards and identification cards. It even created biometric ID cards for war veterans who simply put their thumbs on the fingerprint scanner in the bank and get their pensions. 

Jen also formed Digitext Asia, a company that bundles complex data and network into hardware.

As if those engagements were not enough Jen entered into a joint venture with Malaysia-based Frantelcom to gear for a bigger share of the market in the IT industry.

Her journey to the corporate world, much more in the male-dominated IT industry, was not a simple walk in the park.

After graduating with a management degree at the Far Eastern University, Jen started as an operations manager at the now defunct Cindy’s Hamburger nationwide chain. 

Gaining experience in management and the corporate world, Jen decided to put up a cyber café in front of the University of Sto. Tomas in 1998. And while the rest of the country was still stuck in the dial-up network system, Jen acquired a dedicated lease line from an internet service provider resulting in fast and reliable internet services for her clients. Although the computer rental was P100 an hour, which is steep even by today’s standard, many students patronized the place for its speedy internet service.

It was around that time that she met a Korean who introduced her to the technology for filtering water for drinking. With her savings and additional capital from her family, she started a second business, Water to Go. 

Then a friend tipped her regarding Forest Grill, a restaurant in Quezon City which was then up for sale. Jen lost no time in acquiring it, even taking up culinary arts as she managed the restaurant hands-on. The restaurant operated successfully for ten years after Jen was forced to shut it down when new opportunities knocked on her door – the birth of Genisystems.

After a friend convinced her to take part in a project for a government agency’s security system, Jen found herself all alone after her partners left when the project hit a dead wall.

Not wanting to botch the job, Jen met with the subcontractor’s employees and hatched their game plan. The project was executed to a T, meeting the deadline. 

And to absorb the employees, Jen, under the able coaching of her father, an engineer, started Genisystems. 

One of its early projects was developing software that was cheaper but reliable as the imported ones. Their products were initially a tough sell since customers preferred branded software or familiar names instead of trying the new local versions. 

But Jen ably persuaded the clients to try her software. Pleased with Genisystems’ products, the local market started picking up. 

“Data is power, but it can get lost or stolen. IT creates order in a chaotic environment,” says Jen Munar. 

Then Jen ventured into Green Entry to supplement the power shortage and challenges by investing in prepaid metering.

“When we see our bills, we tend to pay for losses and electricity usage that was poached by other consumers. Prepaid metering tracks your consumption by the kilowatt. You pay only what you consume,” she maintains. 

Green Energy is now in the process of building a hydroelectric plant in Surigao del Sur. 

Not all however, is business for Jen. She organizes livelihood projects to make women self-reliant. One project taught women in Montalban to raise tomatoes, okra, eggplant and kangkong, and make their own compost from spoiled food. 

“Business is not all about money,” says Jen, who looks younger than her 50 years. “You only need to have a good idea and the right people with deep pockets who can produce that idea. It takes determination and focus. Don’t be afraid to take risks.”

* * *

Art Ventures and Advocacy Network (ART VAN), Art Education Area of UP College of Education (ArtEd Area), and UP Art Educators Society (UPARTES) celebrate Women’s Month with the exhibit, Saunlad: Si Dayang sa Makabagong Panahon (SAUNLAD).

The lead proponent ARTVAN aims to promote the arts as a vehicle for holistic development, advocacy, and healing. It also seeks to connect arts as a powerful conduit for social change and link with other organizations in advancing Philippine art and artists.

The SAUNLAD collaborative exhibition is a collection of works of art from various upcoming and established Filipino artists and poets. The visual artists give their own interpretation of women in modern Filipino society, and their role in bringing forth positive social and cultural transformation. The work of art is accompanied by a poem, strengthening the meaning of each image through written interpretations by contemporary Filipino poets.

“Saunlad” is co-presented by the Philippine Social Science Center, Philippine Art Educators Association (PAEA), Philippine Pastel Artists (PPA), and Metrobank Foundation. The event was sponsored by Soroptimist International Quezon City (SIQC), Systems Plus Computer College, and College of Mary Immaculate.

The exhibit was first held at PSSC from March 4 to 16, and moved to Gateway Gallery on March 18 where it is open up to April 1.

* * *

ARTVAN also collaborates with Miriam College’s Gallery of Women’s Art (GAWA) MC Museum and PAEA in another celebration marking International Women’s Month through an exhibit called Tatsulok. In this exhibit of works, which opened on March 3, the woman is seen through the lens of the ancient symbol, the triskele, and is depicted in three phases: the maiden, the mother and the sage. The maiden represents hope, the mother characterizes love, and sage embodies wisdom.

Tatsulok runs until March 23 at MC Museum, Miriam College, with the support of MC Likhang Sining and MCHS Batch ’94.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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