Alumni profile: Herminio ‘Sonny’ B. Coloma Jr.

June 2014

Although it was a brief stint, my work at PwC as a Consultant sometime in the early nineties was a meaningful experience in what was then a nascent career in the academe. I had just left government after serving in various capacities during the administration of President Cory Aquino, the latest of which was being Head of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) and Cabinet Secretary, concurrently with being Deputy Executive Secretary --- all in the Office of the President.

I joined the Management Consulting Services (MCS) group, then headed by Joe Lavares (who later became the firm’s COO),and became involved in some key studies and engagements, two of which I still distinctly remember: a study on the proposed privatization of government hospitals such as the Lung Center, the Kidney Center, the Heart Center, and the Children’s Medical Center; the institutional strengthening of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which was part of the reform of the government’s corporate sector.

But what I recall most vividly were the numerous team building engagements that I had with the firm, then still known as Joaquin Cunanan and Co. (JC & Co.) I facilitated various team building workshops at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) in Tagaytay, at the Caliraya Re-creation Center, and in the White Beach resort in Zambales, as well as one with the tax group right in the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) campus in Makati.

I had the unique opportunity of working with JC & Co.’s A-Team, then headed by Chaiman and Senior Partner Cora de la Paz and her partners, among them: Fortune Cruz, Chito Sioson (who became Rotary Club of Pasay President during my term as District Governor), Jerry Isla, Tammy Lipana, Art San Gabriel, Rene Bañez, Lito Tayag, Ador Mejia, and Willie Madarang.

Fast forward to a later era: I facilitated a workshop among only the partners and senior managers that was held at Holiday Inn in Clark Field at the time that Cora de la Paz was about to relinquish the Senior Partner position as she was about to assume the presidency of the Social Security System. Years later (I think it was in December 2009), I was again privileged to have been invited to a similar gathering of partners and senior managers at Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite when Judith Lopez had just become partner.

What did I learn from my PwC experience?

I learned to think more analytically and to write more clearly. This was important in being able to deliver value-adding consulting services to clients. To be truly responsive, project reports must not just draw roadmaps but also provide understandable directions for reaching desired destinations.

I became more thoughtful and compassionate toward others. In the teambuilding workshops that I conducted, I endeavored to enable the participants to know and understand themselves better, expand their comfort zones so they can be more tolerant and understanding, and affirm their individuality and personal integrity.

I cannot forget one particularly poignant experience during one of the many teambuilding workshops that I facilitated. One activity involved one-on-one, face-to-face sharing of experiences done sequentially in quick, one- to two-minute intervals. I instructed the participants to share with each other: “your whole life story”; “how you were in grade school”; “your high school days”; “your life in college”; “the happiest moment in your life”; and “the saddest moment in your life.”

This went on merrily and well, until the last exchange on “the saddest moment in your life.” It turned out that one of the participants had just gone through a particularly painful experience: the loss of a sibling who committed suicide. He broke down while beginning to talk about it, and because the activity was done in close quarters ─ some twenty-plus pairs of sharers huddled face-to-face with their seats only inches apart ─ many others were affected. As it was already getting late, I decided to adjourn the session.

Next morning, when we resumed, we “processed” the experience. The group rallied behind their co-worker and the incident became a powerful bonding element.

The foregoing experiences and learnings also made me a better teacher and a learner, too. After all, the consulting stint was part of the “real-world learning” component of my being a professor at AIM.

I am grateful for this opportunity to be reunited with my PwC friends. I hope they, too, will share their recollection of what we learned when we were all younger as these are all part of what we have become today. Indeed, revisiting the past is a fine way of valuing the present and embracing the future with hope and optimism.

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