2020 MARCH, MANILA – They are often seen inside meeting rooms in discussion with their respective teams or sometimes in their offices going through piles of contracts, budgets and financial reports. They walk with a ready smile or a greeting for everyone they meet along the halls and corridors of SMX Convention Center. Meet the alpha females of SMX Convention Center who play crucial roles as VP-General Manager, VP-Finance, AVP-Operations and AVP-Sales. They lead with authority yet they remain grounded and continue to exude grace and empathy despite their big responsibilities as department heads in one of the largest meetings and conventions facilities in the country.

Agnes Pacis is a seasoned hotelier with over 31 years of Sales & Marketing background in various international hotel chains in Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Fiji Islands and Australia for hotel brands like Shangri-La, Sheraton and Hyatt.  She was a former Director of Sales & Marketing in the countries she has lived in and currently the VP-General Manager of SMX Convention Center which includes the properties in Pasay (SMX Manila), Taguig (SMX Aura) and Mandaluyong (Megatrade Hall).  “Ms. A”, as she is fondly called by most, believes in leading with integrity and heart. “Real integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking”, she shares.  She also lives by the Dalai Lama’s quote, “Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality”. This is what motivates her to train and teach because she finds enjoyment in sharing from her own experiences. As a strategist, she believes that being visible and accessible through Social Media will further strengthen the brand. Thus, SMX Convention Center adopted a more relevant Social Media strategy by launching one Facebook page for each property and signing on to Tripadvisor  business listing to better address inquiries from local clients, connect suppliers to the market and getting immediate customer feedback. Tripadvisor, an online travel company that works on a global platform with user-generated content, price comparison tools, and online reservations for transportation, lodging, travel experiences, and restaurants helped boost SMX Convention Center’s rebranding according to its geographical locations and strengthen its presence as a premier events venue in key cities across the country.  With regards to her customer service philosophy, aside from the company’s “We Go Beyond” culture, Ms. A believes strongly that “it’s the little things that mean a lot” to both internal and external customers. “Open and transparent dialogues with them is one key to understanding their needs. Once expectations are aligned and managed, potential conflicts are mitigated and one gains loyal and happy (internal and external) customers”.

Keeping track of all data on expenses, income and other activities that affect the finances of SMX Convention Center is no easy task but Mia Joaquin, VP-Finance makes it all look easy.  With over 22 years of experience in Finance gained from the hospitality industry, 3 years in SyCip Gorres Velayo & Company and the last 8 years working for the SM Group. Ms. Mia demonstrates dedication and persistence in her role as Head of Finance. Long working hours and late nights at the office were testaments to the heavy demands of her job. Ms. Mia believes leadership is when one’s actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more.  Her team, composed of 30 direct and indirect reports describe her as a strict enforcer with a big heart. “Ms. Mia is a very supportive and understanding leader! She is more than a boss. She is also our mentor. Working for her is one of the best perks of the job”, says Kim Fernandez Senior Finance Manager who has been working in SMX since 2010.

Barely a year in her new post as AVP-Operations, Brenda Cabuyao took the big step from her Senior Events Manager position in Taal Vista Hotel (TVH) where she worked for almost 8 years and later as Operations Manager in a hotel and events place in Tagaytay before accepting the job in SMX Convention Center to head its Operations department. Ms. Brenda oversees the daily procedure and activities within and outside of the building. She has direct reports from Housekeeping, Engineering and Concierge departments who ensure that all facilities run like clockwork from the time of ingress until egress of each event.  When asked if there is a big difference between managing small to big scale events and running a whole building with a team, she explains,” As to my role here in SMX, it is far different because I am more focused and responsible internally in the operations aspect (manpower, equipment, etc) which is not the same as my previous role back in TVH as an Events person. In Events, there is direct contact with clients and organizers which however gives you a different level of challenge and excitement”.

As a woman, she believes that women should not only find their voices but also learn how to use them. When asked what her definition of Leadership is, she answers, “exercising leadership is not easy for women as they need to be competitive doing multiple roles and responsibilities. A woman’s leadership is more on the holistic type of leadership because she can excel in both personal and professional aspects. They are good listeners and show empathy towards people. They also have good intuition. When faced with difficult situation, they too, are resilient enough to find a solution and turn around any situation with grace. I also believe that women have the perfect balance of being affectionate and tough when the situation calls for it”, says Ms. Brenda, a strong-willed single mom to her daughter.

Mina Kahn, a M.I.C.E veteran of more than 10 years in SMX Convention Center, believes in setting SMART goals and being more of a coach to her Event Sales team. She was a former Chef before she assumed various roles over the years in SMX initially as Director of Events and Banquet Services and currently as the AVP-Sales. She gets motivation from Og Mandino’s quote, “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough”. Indeed, she has braved through the highs and lows of her career just like any other career woman had but Ms. Mina still managed to enjoy the journey. She believes that it is important to have a great support system as this is truly valuable to any leader. “Work hard, work smart, being persistent in achieving your end goal. Keep moving forward, even when the going gets tough because as Og Mandino would say – you will harvest it later” she says.