IBM Philippines president James Velasquez The Thomasian mind behind the IT giant

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By Rieze Rose T. Calbay

James Velasquez credits his success to the value he places on education. Although his parents had wanted to send him abroad to work for their family business at a young age, Velasquez asked them to let him finish college first.
By prioritizing studies, Velasquez was able to secure his ambitions well.

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Now, he is the president and country general manager of the esteemed International Business Machine (IBM) Philippines. Velasquez also serves as director of the Asia Pacific College, a non-profit joint-venture school of IBM Philippines and SM Foundation.
“I am glad my parents listened to me,” the 1988 graduate of UST Electronics and Communications Engineering said. “If I did not pursue my studies, I would not have come to where I am.”

Whiz kid
Velasquez admitted that he was into electronics as a very young boy. During his teenage years, he modified even automotive functions of machines using tools from his father’s toolbox.
In 1984, Velasquez exposed himself to board mapping and soldering after taking up Engineering in UST. For him, studying in UST taught him not only the nitty-gritty of electrical engineering, but of making friends as well.
He was proud to belong to a good batch of classmates and professors whom he remains in contact with.
“We had so much fun in college during my time,” he said. “Learning did not only come from our professors, but from our classmates too.”
Right after college, Velasquez worked as a trainee engineer for a local company.
But in less than a year, he tried out for IBM Philippines, which offered a six-month training for engineers.
He applied and was chosen to be one of the trainees.
“My life changed after that call,” Velasquez recalled.
After the course, Velasquez was cited “best engineer” and became a regular employee.
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Velasquez’s skill in improving software quality and producing documentations was notable. He climbed up the corporate ladder in IBM, starting as a customer service engineer then on to being quality and re-engineering manager.
Velasquez was also given the opportunity to work abroad as regional services manager for IBM in Indochina, as well as chief representative for IBM in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Two years later, he was sent to Singapore to become manager for operations of product support services.
In 2006, he returned to the country and became president of IBM.
“It was really a big feat for me,” he said. “The long line of honorable presidents of IBM makes me really proud of it.”
From project proposals to company tie-ups, Velasquez has managed to maintain IBM’s legendary name in information technology.
Under his leadership, IBM Philippines received the Merit in Communication Management (Strategic Management Processes) for Innovation Jam award last March 20, and Excellence in Communication Management in the Gold Quill Awards last March 16.
The Asian Corporate Social Responsibility Awards, which recognizes and honors outstanding companies in Asia, gave IBM Philippines the “Best Workplace Practices Merit Award” last September.
Now that the company is celebrating its 70th anniversary, Velasquez said he is expanding IT sales and the outsourcing business.
IBM Philippines is one of the country’s largest technology services firms, catering to the outsourcing needs of Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble.
“We have to keep IBM Philippines’ good position in IT,” he said. “That’s why we are trying to expand our services yearly, especially on our 70th anniversary.”
Despite his busy schedule, Velasquez never runs out of time for his family. Unlike others whose noses are always buried in work, Velasquez always finds time to enjoy the simple things in life.
He said he often dines out with his wife and kids. He also plays golf and basketball to keep a healthy lifestyle.
Yet his family’s priority will always be education. “If one is determined to learn, never at any moment would one get lost,” he said.