Few people - trapeze artists possibly excluded - spend as much time thinking about the concept of balance as Carlos Santos, Group CIO of JG Summit Holdings. During the four years since he joined one of the Philippines’ largest and most influential enterprises, Santos has, he reflects, learned something new about balancing every day. “We have investments across the banking, real estate, airline, food and petrochemical manufacturing, retail, and digital media sectors. We touch the lives of almost every Filipino,” he says.
In his role, Santos handles all the scaled solutions for the group, including the ERP, digital workplace, service infrastructure operations, corporate security, and our internal data analytics capabilities. “I also handle governance for the group, overseeing all the CIOs who are accountable to me,” he adds. “I work across multiple business units in lots of different verticals. There are a lot of differences between the IT services at an airline compared to a retail organisation or a bank, so it's very exciting but it's very complex as well; there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It's a very delicate balance.”
Finding the right line to walk between scale, cost and complexity isn’t the only balancing act Santos regularly performs, however. As a husband and father of three, as well as a passionate educator with a background in teaching who still volunteers his time on weekends, finding the right balance between work, family and other passions is also a full time occupation.
One of the things outside of his role at JG Summit that brings him not only peace of mind but perspective on his professional life, is the small fruit farm he owns just outside of the city. “I grow pretty much every kind of fruit that's native to the Philippines: limes, bananas - I have a hundred mango trees, and so on. I'm not growing it to sell; it's really been my place of refuge for the past 20 years. If I could get out there every weekend, I would. It's where I go to get, not just some fresh air, but also peace and quiet,” he says, reflecting that “The farm, it's like the exact opposite of tech. The tech world is fast-paced, you can control everything, and the farm is the exact opposite of that. You can't really control anything; every single seed could grow really quickly or it could just die and you'd have no idea why. You're basically helpless.” This very zenlike approach has, he adds, definitely struck a chord with the rest of the people he works with. “I think I've actually inspired some of the other IT guys here to buy their own farms,” he laughs.
When he isn’t farming, spending time with his family, volunteering as a teacher, or running one of the largest and most complex IT operations in Southeast Asia, Santos does his best to carve out time for his other passion. “I'm definitely a Lego fanatic,” he admits. “It's something that, growing up not in a rich family, I couldn't afford. Now, I can do as many expert-level builds as I can fit in my home without my wife complaining. I actually had to give away a few sets last week because my Lego room is full.”
Prior to joining JG Summit, Santos spent 18 years at Procter & Gamble, working in a range of roles - starting out as a project manager and moving up to do internal auditing, and then a range of global roles like ASEAN CIO and shared services leader. Before that, he was a teacher. “I spent four years teaching at De La Salle University in the Philippines, and I still teach part time outside of my current role, doing review classes for auditing,” he recalls. “From a personal point of view, teaching and education have always been my passion.”
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