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Meet the PhilDev Team

EMIL TAPNIO

PhilDev’s core is all about helping the Philippines eradicate poverty through the education of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. This mission would be impossible to carry out if not for the many brilliant and noble people lending their time and talents to run PhilDev at peak performance.

To get to know more about the humans behind the mission, we talked to various members of the organization and asked about themselves and their experiences working at PhilDev.

Today, meet Emil Tapnio, one of PhilDev’s Program Directors and one of the organization’s longest serving members. As Program Director, he is tasked with managing PhilDev’s ongoing programs—such as the entrepreneurship workshops and the Visiting Professors Program, among others—from planning to organizing to execution, all while handling the different personalities that help him actualize PhilDev’s goals.

When taking off his Program Director shoes, Emil likes to connect with the soul of Manila by taking photographs of the city and its people for his Instagram account. He also has a penchant for science fiction, sharing that he recently enjoyed watching Sense8, a TV show from the same people behind The Matrix. “It's amazing to watch the mental and emotional links among these 8 individuals,” he says, still somewhat thinking with the mindset of a Program Director. “I just find the interconnection and virtual interaction of 8 people from different parts of the world fascinating. It strengthens my belief that indeed there are parallel universes. Blame my mom for having this odd belief which I still carry up to this day! Haha!”

When did you start working at PhilDev?

At present, I'm one of the two most senior staff members at PhilDev, having been on board since November 2013 when PhilDev was still holding office at a one-room office with no windows. Haha! I was with PhilDev ever since we were literally a startup NGO.

What is it about PhilDev that makes you love it?

PhilDev is more like a family than an office. The PhilDev staff is a group of diverse and highly motivated people. Dado and Maria Banatao (PhilDev Chairman and Trustee, respectively) are super parents who oversee the welfare of the organization and the staff alike. They're my inspiration and #RelationshipGoals. Jones Castro (Executive Vice Chairman) is like a dad that drives excellence. Ronna Reyes-Sieh and Paco Sandejas (Trustees) are like elder siblings that you emulate because they're cool and do amazing things. The rest of the Trustees are equally passionate.

I learned and continuously learn a lot from them—foremost is compassion and excellence in work.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

My day starts with a cup of brewed coffee. I can't function without it. While having coffee, I check my potted plants while I let my work emails load on my mobile phone—I skim everything first before answering them.

While on the road going to the office, my teammates will receive calls for instructions and clarifications. I've mastered shooting emails in the moving car such that it’s become an alarm to them that I'm already on the road to the office. Haha!

Depending on the schedule, I either head to meetings with our government and university partners or I head to the office. I like our new office now because of the open layout and my post directly opens to a huge window with trees outside. Lunch is filled with endless banter with the rest of the PhilDev staff; those who are still living with their folks usually bring lunch for everyone. Music coming from my laptop powers everyone the whole afternoon, punctuated with regular phone calls from partners. My day ends with the golden sunlight streaming by the office window—I always feel melancholic during this time of the day but I know another great one will start tomorrow.

Who inspires you to do what you do and why?

I get inspired by regular people I meet on the streets. On the side, I take photos, talk to random people, and post them on my personal Instagram account with the hashtags #HumansOfMetroManila, #Taumbayan and #TaoSaKanto.

As a development worker, my lens is through the eyes of the people and not what the government or the elite prescribes them to do. The regular Filipino has colorful aspirations and dreams, devoid of complications, unlike those who are in power. That fuels me for what I do at work and my regular dealings because ultimately, the beneficiary of any development program are and always will be the Filipino people.

The PhilDev Berkeley Study Visit

PhilDev Berkeley Study Visit: Updates From Alumni, Matthew Escobido

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There's nothing quite like the innovation culture of Silicon Valley, birthplace of Google, Apple, HP, Intel and Facebook, among hundreds of tech powerhouses and innovations that have transformed the world. The numbers are staggering, with the startup community ceaselessly growing by the day, and it makes one wonder: what is it about Silicon Valley culture that gives it the ability to constantly produce revolutionary services and products--a culture that many attempt to replicate?

Last year, PhilDev, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET), sent AIM Professor Matthew Escobido to Berkeley, California to participate in the SCET Faculty Bootcamp along with four other professors from esteemed Filipino institutes. There, he was trained under the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship with the hopes of cascading and institutionalizing their Technopreneurship practices to many engineering disciplines around the Philippines.

A member of the AIM faculty since 2009, and has since been a core member of the Institute's Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, Matthew Escobido specializes in technology and innovation strategies, operations management, managerial analytics, and product design and development. Prior to joining AIM, Prof. Escobido's experiences include completing a master's degree in engineering and management from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, as well as working for Intel Solution Services in Australia as a consultant and project manager.

Getting the Silicon Valley experience

Talking about his time at Berkeley, Escobido is quick to share his admiration of its ecosystem. “That was very inspiring, when they showed that Berkeley alone is producing hundreds of startups,” he says, comparing it to the Philippines’ own startup statistics. “If you take a look at our startup history...probably work backwards five years ago and a decade, we only have about 300. That's the whole Philippines, while they have one university that can produce it in a year.”

“Even though [many of] those companies may not be successful in the long term,” he says honestly, “just going through the process of identifying what the problems are and finding solutions to those problems, presenting those solutions to people...now, the market may not agree with them, but going through the process, they have a better understanding of what the problem is and what it would take to solve the problem.”

“The most memorable thing for me [being part of the program] is that somehow, for the longest time I've been working on this area, I now have a little model I can sort of play with.” Despite having years of experience behind him, being a part of the SCET program was refreshing.

With the exposure he got to the ecosystem that many people only dream about experiencing, Matthew Escobido quickly got to work as soon as he stepped  foot back in his motherland. “As a Filipino, I really wanted to do something that can help the Philippines--something that we can add value to for the development of the Philippines. And when you have these people [in Berkeley] who have been there and done that, I now want to share how they were able to do it, share their ecosystem.”

From Berkeley to AIM

With his life experience combined with his learned Silicon Valley methodology, he was able to help establish a brand new program for AIM’s academic offerings: the Master of Science in Innovation and Business (MIB).

“Basically, it's for those aspiring to be technology entrepreneurs. We have two tracks: set up your own technology startup or be a technology product manager in your organization,” he shares as he points out that a number of AIM’s students are sponsored by companies seeking to have innovative additions to their product and service lines.

“They have basically 10 months to make their idea a reality. The funny thing is that many of them, in terms of background, are STEM graduates. From their backgrounds, they don't talk about their customers. [They're more focused on] the specifications needed for building, but now [they have to think] from where does specification come from? What's going to happen if we make some changes, and from these there's going to be a conflict? One wants it fast but also cost effective. Which one are you going to prioritize? And the answer might not come from you but from your customer,” he says, echoing Dado Banatao’s belief in the importance of market analysis and validation, one of PhilDev’s Five Success Factors for startups.

“They have to learn about marketing. They have to learn about finance and operations,” Escobido says of success in innovative technology, which is where the MIB critically steps in as many people from STEM backgrounds lack the entrepreneurial skills to truly make their ideas advance in the competitive industry. He acknowledges that the path to success in tech innovation will never be the path of least resistance. “There's so many things about [innovation] that you don't have control of. With the policies, and from where you are trying to be of value, to be a productive citizen...you can feel lost.”

“It's not just building something and everything is going to follow,” he says succinctly. But with the creation of MIB with its principles rooted in Silicon Valley practices, the country’s innovative tech and startup future looks brighter than ever.

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To know more about the SCET Program and how to join, email emil@phildev.org.