In our second #WinWithWomen feature, we sat with Alexandria Gentry who was featured as Philippines’ top female founder in 2020 by Business Financing Co and is the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer from Sprout Solutions, Philippines’ leading technology platform that is revolutionizing human resources in the country. In the interview, she shared her thoughts on what it means to build something bigger than yourself and to make an impact on others.
Hi Alex, you have an extensive career that started in the media industry. Could you share with us your career journey and how it led you to build Sprout Solutions?
I started my now-17-year career in the media industry by joining a small, independent magazine publishing company as an editorial assistant even before I graduated from university. I quickly took on bigger responsibilities and was then tasked to form the marketing arm of the company. I became the go-to for any new efforts the company wanted to start, and ended up building many new business units, from custom publishing to business development. Our startup was then acquired by one of the biggest newspaper publishing companies in the Philippines, and after 7 years in the industry, I became one of the youngest group publishers in the country.
When I decided that I wanted to move on from media, I knew that I wanted to transition to software. I was the first hire of Saperium, a custom software development company founded by an ex-Microsoft senior executive. This was where I first fell in love with software, and where I realised that I could help make significant change in the Philippines.
When my husband, Patrick Gentry, and I started Sprout Solutions, we knew that we were solving a problem for local companies in managing their timekeeping, human resource, and payroll activities. As we dug deeper into the problem, we realised that Sprout could impact the life of every Filipino by improving businesses in the country. That is our North Star.
Media and technology are very different industries. You mentioned falling in love with software when you joined Saperium, could you tell us a bit more on why you decided to pursue technology?
When I decided that I wanted to move on from media, I knew that I wanted to transition to software because even as a high school student, I knew that technology was the industry that could have the most significant impact on humanity. I wanted to be part of something big, something revolutionary, so I made a concerted effort to break into that space.
What is it about software that you love?
I love that in software, there are a hundred ways to design something, and another hundred to code it. I love that in any problem, the answer is focused on the user. I love that the concepts around UX and product design are applicable to almost everything in life. I love that I am able to work with great teams, great leaders, all moving together towards one goal.
What inspires you and how do you manage to continue to be inspired every day?
I have always said that, more than anything, I love creating. This is the source of my passions and my frustrations. I like turning concepts into something someone can experience, may it be an editorial commentary, a full-on magazine, a feature for a mobile app, or a full-fledged B2B platform. The process of building inspires me — building something bigger than myself to in turn inspire others.
In the process of building Sprout Solutions, how have you approached the topic of gender balance and representation at your company?
At Sprout, we consciously maintain a healthy gender balance not only in our overall employee population, but also in our teams, including our executive committee. We are always challenging the stereotype, most especially in computer science, by actively sourcing female engineering, QA, and data science talent. We have coaching and mentoring programs to ensure that we build confidence in junior employees. We are big, big advocates of work-life integration, encouraging everyone to bring their whole selves to work.
Moreover, Sprout allows other companies to make informed hiring and promoting decisions by giving them insights around gender balance within their respective organizations.
What do you think can be done to encourage greater gender balance in technology companies?
Gender equality should be a business imperative and not just a program or initiative that involves a few individuals. Challenging stereotypes, transparency, radical candour, humility and continuous learning should all be ingrained into a company’s culture. Major emphasis on work-life integration is crucial, especially as companies shift to mostly remote work.
Do you have any advice for women who want to become female entrepreneurs on where they can start?
Focus on starting, creating, learning, and pushing forward. What I’ve finally understood is the concept of target fixation — you hit what you’re looking at. I have learned to live my days looking for things to be grateful for, and I find them everywhere, all the time. Living my life from a position of gratitude has made all the difference.
Any final words?
Do it afraid. Ride the discomfort — if you keep at it, soon the uncomfortable becomes your new comfort zone.
Fail forward — get better not in spite of failures, but because of them. Embrace failure as part of your company culture. Fail fast, fail often, fail forward.
Insist on equality not just in the workplace but most especially at home. The responsibility of homemaking should be shared between husband and wife.