PODCAST | Ex-Sun Microsystems PH chief Cynthia Mamon recalls ‘unorthodox’ start of IT career

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For the ninth episode of the podcast series IN BETWEEN, co-presented by Newsbytes.PH and Tech Sabado, Dr. Cynthia Mamon shared her journey from her unexpected foray to the information technology sector to becoming one of the most important tech executives in the country during her stint as president and managing director of Sun Microsystems Philippines.

In between podcast

“I started as a student assistant with PCARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development) under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Working as a student assistant in a very new council then under the department, we really had to do almost everything,” Mamon recalled.

From preparing a cup of coffee for her superiors and photocopying a variety of documents, Mamon quickly rose to being in charge of preparing the budget for all the agencies that were seeking funding through the DOST.

“As soon as I graduated, they made me research assistant. You’ll be surprised that my bachelor’s degree was Home Technology, majoring in Food and Nutrition. I never studied computers. I never had any course involving computers in college,” she shared.

She finished her degree program at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos where she also competed in university-wide swimming competitions and was part of the UPLB Filipiniana Cultural Dance Troupe. Despite all these extra-curricular activities, Mamon was still able to do part-time work as a student teacher at the school’s Department of Physical Education.

When the department’s first director-general, Joseph Madamba, asked who was willing to lead the organization’s computerization initiative at the time, she was quick to raise her hand and even quicker in creating the management information services (MIS) unit. The unit eventually became a division and she was named its director.  

“That was the start of computerization in PCAARD. I was one of the first ‘Unix’ users in the government. We used Xenix, a derivative of Unix, and we developed the National Agricultural Research and Resources database,” she explained.

Her foray into the IT field started during the 1980s when Philippine Systems Products Inc. (PSPI)  was formed to serve as a local distributor for Sun Microsystems. The company was put up by Mario Mamon, Cynthia’s husband. But unlike other subsidiaries in other countries which were fully owned by Sun, PSPI held the majority ownership in the joint venture setup.

“Sun Microsystem Philippines started as Philippine Sun Systems Products, then it became PSPI, and then it became Sun Philippines. Simply because Sun US thought that we were a very loyal partner as a reseller, so instead of putting a subsidiary office, they placed money into PSPI,” she said.

All throughout the company’s history, Mamon was the only one who held the top post as managing director until Sun was acquired by Oracle. And while other Sun subsidiaries across the globe struggled, Mamon was able to make Sun Microsystems Philippines stay afloat with big-ticket government and telco contracts in the country.

“There were few vendors who believed that government projects will succeed. But I came from the government and I had successful IT projects. So, I pursued government projects to prove that when properly done, it can be successfully implemented,” she said.

To date, Mamon has been the chief operating officer for amusement park Enchanted Kingdom for 12 years running. By the end of the interview, she also mentioned that on April 25, Enchanted Kingdom will be unveiling a new German-made spinning coaster ride to mark the theme park’s 25th anniversary.

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