Former national athlete now college president

Vanessa Tanco’s charming smile and fit physique make her stand out from a crowd.  Beyond the pleasant personality, the daughter of billionaire parents has made her own mark as a national athlete and now as president of one of the most modern colleges in Asia.

Vanessa Tanco
She looks younger than her age of 35 years, but she possesses the kind of intelligence and conviction needed to expand a state-of-the-art school located in the Makati central business district.

“It is gonna be one of the top schools in Asia,” she says, referring to Information and Communications Technology Academy, or iAcademy, which is located along Ayala Ave.

Aside from being the president and chief executive of iAcademy, Vanessa also serves as chief operating officer of Philippine Women’s University and holds board directorships at family-controlled businesses such as STI Holdings Inc., PhilCare Inc., PhilPlans Inc. and West Negros University.

Her father, Eusebio Tanco, is one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, who runs STI Holdings, a publicly listed company which manages the largest network of schools in the country; Asian Terminal Inc., one of the biggest port operators; and Philippines First Insurance Company Inc., one of the largest insurance companies.  He is also involved in the stock market, financial services, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, energy, property development and human resource management.

Vanessa admires her father for his passion.  “If you see someone who is so passionate about what he does, my dad is that passionate.  He breathes, eats, sleeps and constantly thinks about it.  He teaches my brother and me a lot of things that you cannot learn from school.  Just watching him, the way he runs his businesses, the way his mind works, it is really amazing,” she says.

She also considers her mother as someone who molds her character.  “She keeps us all grounded,” she says.

Vanessa graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Management in 2000.  She was so good at playing badminton she represented Ateneo as a varsity player.

She also represented the Philippines in various international events such as the Southeast Asian Games in 2005. She was also a doubles’ champion of the Yonex National Open.

Vanessa founded RCT Badminton Academy, the first organized badminton academy in the Philippines which had over 700 students in the first year of operations in 2006, but she had to close the facility to concentrate on managing iAcademy.

“When I started working for iAcademy.  It is something I had to devote most of my time to.  I don’t want to be like juggling two different things at the same time,” she says.

Vanessa studied at the University of Southern California based in Los Angeles City in the US where she obtained her Masters degree in Business Administration in 2004.

She held various positions at STI Colleges from 1996 to 2002.  After returning from her studies overseas, she became the chief operating officer of Universal Worker Inc. in 2004.

At the STI Group, she was promoted as vice president for corporate planning, which led to decisions such as the purchase of Philippine Women’s University and focusing on College-level programs while dissolving our non-core basic education schools.

She managed the corporate budget of STI headquarters as well as the 85 different colleges and education centers throughout the Philippines.

Vanessa joined iAcademy in 2007, serving first as head of marketing and admissions.  She was tasked to increase the student population of then five-year-old institution, focusing on computing and business programs.

She conducted career orientation seminars and career fairs in over 500 private high schools in the Philippines which resulted in the doubling of the college’s student population.

She was promoted as chief operating officer of iAcademy in 2008 and led the college to its first year of net profit.  In October 2011, she was named the president and chief executive of iAcademy, leading the school to expand 40 percent in terms of student population, revenues and profit.

The school attained a College-high student retention rate of 97 percent per term through programs such as academic coaching and enhancing and mentorship.

Vanessa also currently serves as chief operating officer of the 94-year-old Philippine Women’s University, where she aims to reverse the trend of declining student population.

Asked why she decided to be involved in iAcademy of all the family-owned businesses, she says she believes in education.

“When I was picking the company, it had to be something that I really believe in, and education is something I really believe in.  Education is the foundation of everything,” she says.

“It is our stepping stone to doing good things in the future.  I really wanted education and I really wanted a focus-type of education which can really make people better after graduation.  At iAcademy, we know where to send them, we know there are jobs waiting for them, we know that there is a need for this type of education in the market,” she says.

Vanessa says her experience as a badminton player has taught her the discipline of the sport to achieve her goals.

She says on weekends, she tries to be involved in sports again.  “I started to pick up badminton again.  I stopped for a while but I started to play badminton again and also trying out golf.  So we’ll see where that takes me,” she says.

She is most proud of the new approach to education offered by iAcademy.  “We are committed to arm our students with the kind of education they need for their future. However, we intend to sustain this practice by transforming our learners’ interests into actual professions,” she says.

She says iAcademy offers actual trainings that seamlessly synergize technology and creativity. She says tuition at iAcademy is comparable to other top schools such as the De La Salle University.

Her goal is to produce graduates that meet the requirements of the industry.  “We might be known for producing globally competitive leaders and professionals but the influx of people from other countries, who are ready for action, who are ready to take the world, will simply be overwhelming,” Vanessa says, referring to the developments in the global economy, such as the Asean economic integration.

She says iAcademy now has a 98-percent job placement success rate, which is unparalleled in the education market.  “We now have about 800 students.  Majority of them are in design and business.  We expect 1,000 students enrolled next school year,” she says.

iAcademy began offering courses such as BSBA e-Management, BSCS Software Engineering, BSCS Network Engineering, and BSIT Digital Arts.       It also provides continuing education courses that take in design, computing, and business programs, specifically geared towards proficiency and work excellence.

Students can now take Bachelor of Science in Animation, which is comprehensively designed to engage film making for traditional and digital animation. Others can pursue a degree on Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Major in Software Engineering. Applying engineering concepts in developing programs and design will be a huge part of the curriculum.

Vanessa says in 2010, iAcademy was appointed as the first IBM software center of excellence in the Asean region and the first Lotus Academic Institute, proving how compelling their programs are for future IBM professionals.

“The way our educational system works counteracts with what our industries need. Job opportunities change and it would be difficult to remain traditional in a work force that requires modern and applied creativity,” says Tanco.

“But then again, the kind of learning that will always be available should be at par or beyond world-class standards. Hence, for iAcademy it is vital to bring together these facets to hone industry leaders that take action to what our transforming society needs at present,” she says.

“That’s the way I see it, I really believe in what we are doing.  And if we can continue on this path, I don’t think it will stop us from becoming one of the top schools in Asia,” Vanessa says. RTD

Topics: iAcademy , Tanco , CEO
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