The technology industry in Cebu is growing rapidly and Cebu has become a prime spot for tech companies that are taking the world by storm.
One such company sitting in the heart of Cebu City is Sansan Global Development, a Japan-based firm that has rooted itself at the 1Nito Tower along Archbishop Reyes Avenue. Sansan specializes in business solutions through cloud-based technology fostering digital transformation.
Leading Sansan in the Philippines is its country manager, Jay Pegarido, a Dipolog-hailing software engineer with over 20 years of experience working for Japanese tech firms.
Pegarido said Cebu has abundant IT (information technology) talent and has grown to be a prime spot for tech startups and international companies.
Thus, the competition for talent in the Philippines has exponentially grown larger in the past decade with Cebu as one of the main center points in the country due to its relatively affordable lifestyle.
The thirst for tech talents
In the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) September 2023 report, software engineers came second only to pilots, beating out statisticians and accountants among the highest-paid workers in the country.
The International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research firm, already said companies in the region are finding it difficult to scout new tech talent, with respondents stating the lack of software developers and similar roles.
This has forced companies and firms to look closely into AI to augment functions traditionally delivered by human software engineers.
Despite the rise of AI, the demand for talent remains exceptionally high in the Philippines and the nearby regions.
“There are a lot of talents, but there is a gap for senior roles. It’s harder to find talent to fit those specialized roles. We in Sansan address that by providing our engineers with the kind of support that keeps them going such as a good office environment, and benefits, and programs for upskilling,” he said.
Developing soft skills
Yet besides hard skills, Pegarido emphasized that tech professionals must also develop soft skills such as etiquette and communication.
Even though tech is perceived to be a less social profession, it still involves dealing with people with different backgrounds and cultures, whether internally in the company or externally with clients and stakeholders.
Soft skills and the ability to adapt to any social scenario are as essential for succeeding in the tech industry as mastering codes.
Pegarido said it may be time for the educational system to really look into the industry demands and focus on the education of the new generation of IT graduates to fit the needs of the time.
Currently, there is a rising demand for full-stack engineers who can handle both front-end and back-end aspects of web application development such as Kotlin and Ktor framework.
“It is really important that the industry tie up with the educational institutions to bridge that demand for talents with particular skills. I really believe it is important that we continually communicate so that our schools can also update their curriculum to fit the needs of the industry,” said Pegarido.
Sansan has been exploring this, as Pegarido, himself, is an alumnus of the University of San Carlos. He has been linking with his alma mater and other colleges in Cebu to scout new talents for tech.
Similarly, Pegarido believes the tech industry in Cebu would grow even stronger with private and public partnerships.
He acknowledges the support of the government with the tech industry from the creation of districts like the IT Park and Cebu Business Park in Cebu City to the continuous support from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Yet these partnerships, especially with the private sector, can always grow, not only in aspects of awareness but also in growing the business.
Support from both the public and private sectors will go both ways in addressing the growth of the tech industry from real estate for office spaces, improved transportation for workers, improved connectivity for business and all the pillars that the tech industry needs to thrive.
Humans over AI
Pegarido said it is undeniable that AI is now an essential tool that tech companies use to maximize efficiency. Yet he said that no AI can beat the ingenuity of human talent.
“We use AI to reduce the repetitive tasks for our engineers and free them up for more value-adding tasks. AI greatly helps as a tool, but it is not the end-all solution. Our software engineers are still our greatest assets in Sansan,” he said in Cebuano.
Sansan employs 50 Filipino IT talents and hopes to grow to 100 and more in the coming years.
The challenge in hiring and keeping the home-grown IT talent is to truly support them as employees and ensure that they thrive and feel fulfilled in the company, Pegarido says.
Cebu has one of the best rosters for tech professionals, and Pegarido is confident that the tech industry will continue to grow in the coming years alongside empowered software engineers.