My ‘Why’: Why I started InfoTeam International, by Joan Monina Tolentino
Ready to host our first event in Norway in February 2020
Sometimes in life you have a moment, or a period of time, that helps you realise you’re either heading down the wrong path or wasting an opportunity to do something better.
Personally, I had two of these moments, both of which steered me away from a manically busy corporate life towards the decision to found my own company, doing what I want to do and when I want to do it.
The first was my father, such an inspiration to me, passing away. So much of my inner drive and passion for business comes from my parents. They ran a college in the Philippines allowing students to have the chance to succeed by studying Information Technology and I learned so much from them about the value of money, running a business and so much more – our dinner-times were always full of business talk!
The second was a time in my recent career where I was working tirelessly, spending late nights at event after event, traveling all over the world. One day I had a rare opportunity to pick up my two-year-old son from his daycare nursery. When I arrived I was asked to step outside for a few moments because the nursery staff didn’t recognise me and they wanted to verify that I was actually his Mum.
It was so upsetting, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. I’d already started to re-evaluate my life after my Father passed away and I knew there and then that something had to change.
Both of these events combined to stir something inside me. A desire to keep family time precious and to be around for them more often, but also with the need to continue to help provide. It’s a delicate balance at times, but my family is the most important thing in the world to me.
However, I’m also passionate about learning, growing and feeling fulfilled. Setting up InfoTeam has had its challenges and will continue to do so – I’ll still be away quite a lot for instance – but I can do it on my terms, and decide how and when I want to do it.
Many people ask me “why InfoTeam?”. What is it that drove you in this direction?
Well, you can trace it back to my first job, which was to work at the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines more than a decade ago. This exposed me to Business to Business marketing as I was handling European exhibitions and marketed Asian exporters in different regions throughout Europe and Asia.
I was promoted quickly and became the youngest member in the organisation to manage several exhibitions in Switzerland, Japan, Germany, and all over the world. These events can be so vibrant, so positive that my passion for helping other businesses within the B2B environment grew within me.
Gaining recognition in my early career
In 2013 I moved to Wales to be with my husband, Ardie. I was appointed to a similar role where I was exposed to many different corporate events. I clearly made a good impression as I got promoted on a number of occasions and started organising high-end C-Suite Executive events for different companies. I also trained many people and developed new services and processes within IT, IT Security, Marketing and HR.
Whilst organising and attending various events, I realised that there was something missing. I felt that a genuine feeling of community is rarely present when hundreds of delegates turn up from dozens of companies and operate largely independently. Events are also often largely generic in terms of format and timetable.
Therefore, I decided to found InfoTeam with the vision to become the world’s leading provider of custom IT and IT Security events, whilst building a collaborative working community at executive levels within those industries.
We want to get people in our community to explore how they can become better leaders and more experienced to help make the IT and Cyber Security world a better place. We also understand that a lot of our delegates do not want to be pitched to and bombarded by salespeople as is typical at many conferences, so we organise a tailor-fitted, bespoke event, with carefully targeted individuals invited.
As a result, at each of our events we create a vibrant community feel where the content delivered is based on what delegates have asked for, making it highly relevant and rewarding. We aim to bring out organic content via a neutral platform, and through the peer-to-peer discussions and the private nature of the conference, delegates can identify the best solutions for their specific needs.
Most conferences you attend have a feedback from which you fill in, sometimes on auto-pilot, wondering if anything you say will actually be looked at. Well, at InfoTeam you can be assured that we do, and we have already changed our agendas and schedules to better suit the delegates. Ensuring they feel valued and listened to is our mantra and is critical to our success.
2020 is an exciting year for us! We only started working full-time alongside the fantastic community at Welsh ICE last autumn, and organised our first event in Sweden – a region previously largely ignored by the larger conference organisers but perfect for our fledgling and intimate events – before Christmas. This year we’ve got a number of events lined up in many different countries, including Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Ireland, France and the UK.
Our flagship and biggest annual event is called SMART CIO and SMART CISO Conference, and we will be launching that in London later this year as well which is hugely exciting for us all!
We’re looking to grow quickly. We have hired in marketing expertise covering a number of elements, a video production company will be filming our events and we even employed a Swedish speaker to help us break down any possible language barriers in that region.
To help me out initially and keep me running along the right path I work closely with a mentor, something that is vitally important and an asset I believe is often under-valued by business owners new and old. Steve Clarke, who’s also from Wales, acts as a co-director, giving me support on key business decisions. He’s a successful entrepreneur in his own right and he has helped me from the outset, from getting the foundations secured and fundamentals in place, to supporting me with ongoing business principles to ensure we maximise the success of InfoTeam.
As well as InfoTeam I am a member of a number of different ‘Women in Leadership’ and ‘Women in IT’ groups, and they have inspired me to forge this new path with so many fantastic female entrepreneurs and inspirational figureheads. I also act and support the marketing efforts as a non-executive Director of a Blockchain Security company. My passion for IT Security and Blockchain holds no limits. I aim to continue learning and following these paths whilst running InfoTeam and developing both my skills and experiences through the multiple channels.
I believe that InfoTeam has a unique opportunity because we value all the relationships with our clients so highly. The personal touch is something I hold as a core belief and insist upon for each of our clients. If we work to pursue our passion and stick to our purpose, we strongly believe the people will come.
This time last year, I was contemplating what I should do with my professional life. Now I am very clear of what I can achieve as a woman and have 5-year plans in place. Now the work starts to help everything align!