Featuring Mr. Roberto V. Bontia
Welcome to Northlink’s first Take It Lightly article, where we hold interview sessions with our dear officers to give us a sneak peek of their vision, ideas, and professional and personal lives.
Our Take It Lightly article interviewee is the current Technology and Operations Group Head, Mr. Roberto V. Bontia!
Q: Where did you attend high school?
RVB: Paco Catholic School
Q: Where did you graduate and what was your course?
RVB: I graduated as an Industrial Engineer (IE) from the University of the Philippines.
Q: How old are you sir?
RVB: I’d turn 50 this year. I’m one of the youngest members of the ManCom, save for Chris Lizo who is 40-something.
Q: How long have you been with the company?
RVB: I started in October 2005, 8 months after our company took over NLEX operations. Assignments during that time weren’t really defined yet, I was working as an assistant vice president but was reporting directly to the president. At that time, I was handling special projects while awaiting then TMC’s reorganization.
Tony Mabasa’s vision that time was an operations guy is needed for the reorganization. He saw that TMC is not just a big operations and asset division, but its main line of work were toll and traffic, hence, a person for toll operations is needed. Come January 2006, I was designated as head of toll operations.
Q: What did you do then as head of Toll Operations?
RVB: I was initially in charge of managing our toll collection and toll engineering, and optimizing the cost of service and facilities. That’s how I started. When Metro Pacific came three (3) years later, the set-up was not changed save for Mr. Ramoncito Fernandez replacing Mr. Mabasa, and the addition of a Corporate Communications group.
Eventually, the Corporate Communications group was also assigned under my office. Come 2015, when Mr. Fernandez was assigned to Maynilad, I was made President of TMC.
Q: Before NLEX, where did you work?
RVB: I started at SGV Consulting, and also worked for three years with Andersen Consulting. Then I worked for Nestle as an Industrial Engineer at one of its Cabuyao factories, which was making Nido and Maggi that time.
Q: What do you want to be famous for?
RVB: That I was able to be there to facilitate my people’s projects, but in the end, my people will recognize that they did that project and that they owned the work that they’ve done. If people will actually own the work, then I would have been successful.
Q: What are the three things that you look forward to everyday with work?
RVB: My discipline is, it’s always being thankful for the day that has passed, the blessings you received, and the day that has been given to you. So that’s number 1. Second is, I think, as I really do not have a formula, ask myself what have I done yesterday that I can actually do better today. It might be a product of the long drives I take going to work (laughs)
Q: Yes, the long drives! What happens during your long drives?
RVB: Some of the ideas that I get to implement come from thoughts during long drives. Sometimes my people will receive texts or email(s) of my ideas while I am driving. Ella will be saying that time, “ay, may naiisip na naman sya during traffic”. Usually those ideas come late in the evening.
Q: How do you think your fellow ManCom members describe you?
RVB: I think this better applies to then TMC ManCom. I probably have been tagged as open minded but at the same time questioning. And that I always ask what would people think, how would our employees handle this kind of concern. I bring that dimension to the team. I also always bring up how we project ourselves as a management team to our employees since they look up to us. That for policies, we always need to consider what’s will be their implication on the people.
Q: How are your dynamics with the NLEX Corp Mancom?
RVB: I think what I bring to the NLEX mancom now is still in the operations perspective. I bring the day to day realities of operations, and the dynamics needed for a unified concession and operations company.
Now, you have to recognize that you need to manage your resources depending on how traffic behaves. So you have to be concious on that, as slowdowns on traffic need resource management. Now operations need to incorporate how traffic behaves, at same time, now you really strive to be operationally efficient. You’re doing sacrifice, you’re doing service level to customers.
Q: When you think of the best employees who have worked for you, what makes them stand out?
RVB: I think those who are creative stand out. Because of the nature of the work, we need creativity to make something out of the ordinary. Also, concern for the employees. The people perspective. At the same time, those driven to be innovative in light of the limitation on resources. Also, people who deliver.
Q: What are your pet peeves?
RVB: I’m not quickly angered, and I do not yell, even if you ask my people. But repetitive mistakes do irritate me. I am also irritated to those who are negative, who always critic but do not contribute to teams.
People who worked for me know my tone and my wordings in emails when I am irritated or angry. Also, people know from my facial expressions when I am angry. But when I am not angry, I usually smile.
Q: Sir, you’re always at the gym. What’s your motivation?
RVB: When I was with Nestle, I was fat. But when my wife got sick (my wife is a cancer survivor), there was really a conscious effort to be healthy. I need to be healthy for all of us. When I say for all of us, not just for my immediate family but for the people who are relying on me. Well, secondary, it’s for my self. But it’s really for my family and for the people that are relying on me.
Q: Do you run or lift weights?
RVB: I and Raul mix what we do. We play basketball, and previously golf. If available, I swim. I make it a point that I work out 3 to 4 times a week.
Q: Do you dance?
RVB: I was into dancesport! I competed in the MVPO, one with Ms. Marlyn and another with Ms. Mona. Ms. Marlyn did not know how to dance, but we won! I won bronze with Ms. Marlyn, and I won silver with Ms. Mona. I know how to dance. But I don’t dance just for the sake of dancing.
Q: What’s your most favorite book ever?
RVB: I repeatedly read Og Mandino, Sales. That was where my principle of being thankful and broad minded came from.
Q: What are you passionate about?
RVB: I’m passionate about learning. I’m not conscious about ranks, but I’m conscious by what I do or what I can contribute, for as long as I can learn something on the work that I do and I can contribute something of added value, it drives me. I didn’t plot my career and I did not target positions by what age. It’s really wanting to learn something new, and adding value to what I do.
Q: A quick question and answer portion, to finish the interview sir!
If you step outside the office and you found a million dollars? What would you do?
RVB: Half I will give to charity, at the Diocese of Paloso, Fr. Efren’s foundation for the poor. It caters to refugees, to the poor. Then half I will spend for a blowout to NLEX employees.
If you would be an addition to a crayon box? what color would you be?
RVB: Lately I’m fascinated with the color blue despite my favorite color being green. Lately I am into blue. It has a ray that is somewhat shiny and alive. It has a shade of brightness that energizes me.
Sir, if you would be an animal, what would you be?
RVB: Dog. I have a beagle in my house. Dogs are loyal companions.
Last question. Who do you think would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?
RVB: Spiderman. Batman relies on gadgets.