He looked around the College of Engineering Faculty Lounge, trying to recall what the room had been before. And while he could not immediately remember, Ferdinand Jesus “Boyet” Aquino Pecson knew he was home.
The new UP Vice President for Development earned his BS Mechanical Engineering and PhD in Energy Engineering degrees from UP Diliman, where he taught for 11 years. The Faculty Lounge was at that time the Department of Metallurgical and Mining Engineering, informally called “Met and Mining”. His eyes lit up in instant recognition when he was told that.
Three decades is a long time to be away, and now that he is back in the University, Pecson has imposed upon himself the duty to contribute to the growth of UP.
“I owe a lot of where I am today to UP.”
How his UP journey began
“At 16, you had no idea. Engineering was popular,” he said on picking a college program while still a senior at San Beda College High School. A close friend encouraged him to take Mechanical Engineering. Pecson chose UP.
First girlfriend, first failed exam, first honorific achievement. These were some of the more memorable experiences he had at UP. Back then, he didn’t really think about balancing school and social life. He had a girlfriend, his barkada, Beta Epsilon Fraternity, and he finished within the required five years.
After graduating in 1981, he joined the faculty. “In the beginning, I made a lot of mistakes,” Pecson admitted. “We had no formal training on how to teach, so all we had were experiences from our former professors.” He picked what were worth emulating and avoided what he didn’t want his students to go through. He wanted to ensure that his students’ stay in UP would be worthwhile. “My teaching philosophy was ‘adapt to the needs of students.’” Pecson said that learning about his former students’ achievements made him “proud to have somehow been part of their growth.”
He worked on his PhD while teaching and got a USAID grant to do his dissertation at the University of Wisconsin. This would be his first chance to travel abroad. He was expected to present his research output at an international conference and did so at the Argonne National Laboratory at the 1988 symposium of The Combustion Institute. He then got his PhD from UP and taught until 1992.
“I owe a lot of where I am today to UP. This time, I can contribute to my alma mater.” – Pecson
A career outside
Pecson expanded his horizons and built a solid professional career in the private sector for the next 24 years. He worked at Philippine Investment Management Consultants, Inc. and Solid Cement Corporation before going to the US to take Northwestern University’s MMM Program. It was a two-year dual-degree offering that allowed him to earn a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management and a Master of Engineering Management from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2000. He stayed in the US for two more years.
Then he was with Holcim Philippines for almost seven years as VP (Alternative Fuels and Raw Materials) and later as VP for Operations. After that, he joined FLSmidth & Co. A/S., first, as operations and maintenance (O&M) consultant, where he worked in various countries, then as Egypt country manager, and finally, as performance director at its headquarters in Denmark
In 2016, he went back to government service. Pecson was appointed Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center. He believed his O&M experience fit the life cycle approach of PPP. He also credited his social network—people who knew him would vouch for and recommend him—for getting the job.
After six years, his term ended. For someone who led an active lifestyle (he was a finisher at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 competition in Subic Bay) and who married the equally active Marietta who ran marathons, Pecson didn’t want to look at retirement, especially when he and his wife have been empty-nesters for years. He became a PPP consultant, created a PPP blog, and traveled to Bhutan.
Back in UP as VP
“Again, it was my social network,” he revealed, recalling how he was considered for the position. When he was approached, he first asked what the job entailed because he would only accept it if he had the skills to deliver. “I needed to be able to give my 100%.”
His management style is collegial and open. He listens before giving his views. Heavy on root cause analysis, Pecson is bound to probe and ask many questions. He said he is fortunate to have “a very committed and strongly motivated” team at the Office of the VPD (OVPD).
His office is in charge of infrastructure development, both physical and technological. The first is guided by the land use plans of the constituent universities (CUs) and includes UP campuses that are yet to rise. The second will be enhanced by UP President Angelo Jimenez’s digital transformation initiative, and Pecson said, “We should expect changes.”
A few months in, Pecson noticed that UP needed to be more efficient. “We need to complete projects with good quality, on time, and on budget.” He also said that OVPD should establish stronger relations within the System and outside. “We have to be good at reaching out to our partners and getting things done with them.”
“We need to complete projects with good quality, on time, and on budget.” – Pecson
Pecson happily reported on some major projects that had been in the pipeline. The Cancer Care Center in UP Manila was already in the procurement stage. PGH Diliman has been given conditional approval; and the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority asked UP to restructure the project from 700 beds to 400 beds and include everything affected by the change. “Just like everyone else, I’m very excited to see this project come to fruition.” As for other projects, he said, “We are collating all the priority projects [of the CUs] to determine where OVPD can assist.”
It is easy to see Pecson’s enthusiasm for his new role as VPD. Perhaps because he was indeed home. Surely because he now had six years’ worth of opportunities to give back to the University that helped make him the person he is today.