2019 Best EMBAs: Jennylle Sorongon Tupaz, University of Chicago (Booth)

Jennylle Sorongon Tupaz

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Bold and adventurous, yet purposeful and not reckless. Finds fulfillment in helping others succeed.”

Age: 46

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Family Members:

– Husband JOVI FRANCIS (licensed real estate consultant and lecturer)

– Daughter JYLLEAN MARYE, 18 yrs. old (a Civil Engineering freshman at the University of the Philippines (UP) and a drummer with the UP PEP Squad)

– Daughter FRANCES MARYE, 14 yrs. old (incoming Grade 10 at Miriam College High School and a violinist)

– 2 Shih Tzus (Ace and Sky), and their big sister, a Labrador-German Shepherd cross-breed Royce

Fun fact about yourself: Apart from my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, I also wanted to be a race car driver. I never dreamed of holding a corporate job!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Statistics, University of the Philippines

Where are you currently working? I work for AyalaLand, Inc. (ALI) with the rank of Vice President. I have been working for ALI for 22 years now (I joined in April 1997).

My current role in ALI is as President and CEO of AyalaLand Malls, Inc. (“AyalaMalls,” the malls group of ALI) which operates 30 large-format malls and 27 retail centers all over the country. AyalaMalls consists of over 750 organic personnel and about 6,000 service providers, all focused on providing a memorable malling experience to its customers.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: During my college years at the University of the Philippines, I was involved with the UP Statistical Center Student Council for two years: I was vice-vhairperson my junior year, and chairperson on senior year. I was also involved in the Statistical Center student organization called UP Variates. On the side, I tutored engineering students on math and statistics and taught a few young Koreans conversational English. I graduated Top 8 of the graduating class of the University of the Philippines Statistical Center.

Prior to my current role in AyalaLand, Inc. (ALI) as head of AyalaMalls, I was president and CEO of Alveo Land, Corp., the residential arm of ALI catering to the high-end market. Alveo has grown to become one of ALI’s major brands; it is the biggest brand in its market segment and has led (and continues to lead) the Philippine market for five consecutive years during my time with the company, which spanned over 11 years. Before becoming its CEO, I headed Alveo’s Project Development Group for 6 years, where we planned not just residential condominiums and subdivisions, but multiple mixed-use complexes and communities, and a forthcoming exciting landmark city southwest of Metro Manila.

In AyalaLand, I serve as a faculty member for HR’s Learning and Development unit, rolling out the Project Development Process to the ALI group under the Professionals-In-Development (PID) program for many years now. For some time, I also provided training on the Project System Module of SAP, after being part of the competency team that transitioned the company’s systems and processes to SAP back in 2001.

In Alveo, I spearheaded the formation of the first Corporate University in ALI with the launch of the Alveo Center for Excellence (ACE) in 2018, designed to foster a holistic and dynamic learning environment for the organization with the vision of cultivating a learning culture to achieve mastery of business operations and drive performance excellence.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Admittedly, I tended to be quiet and observant in class. However, I consider the two key highlights of my time in business school to be: 1) Winning the Integrated Strategic Management (ISM) games where I functioned as Team CEO; and 2) Having the honor to be chosen to address the class during the Certificate Ceremony in Hong Kong, where I shared the importance of gratitude, transformation, and impact in our journey as ambassadors of Chicago Booth.

What brings me the most pride is to have had the opportunity to learn from distinguished professors alongside very bright and talented individuals from different cultures and industries. It has been a priceless experience made more meaningful with new friendships gained around the world.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, it would be rising from the ranks to become CEO of two big and influential brands of AyalaLand – Alveo and AyalaMalls. I look back on the past 22 years and think about how I have learned and evolved and matured in leadership. The leadership roles that have been entrusted to me convey a message of deep trust for which I am extremely grateful, and nervous yet exhilarated about! There can only be one choice in playing a role with such great accountability: that is to aim for excellence each time in order to deliver positive and lasting impact not just within the organization, but more importantly in the communities that we serve.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Linda Ginzel. Her courses on leadership provide the best frameworks for leading with a purpose. She provides inspiring and insightful perspectives that lead to helpful introspection, focus, and self-awareness. She nudges us on how, as executives, we can improve, evolve, mature, grow and become more effective as leaders.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Apart from Professor Ginzel’s leadership classes, I also enjoyed Operations Management. Innovation and synchronicity relative to time, efficiency, and quality provide a strong competitive advantage that spells business success and sustainability.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? It is said to be the most rigorous in the world: a good test of endurance, and a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to stretch my boundaries, expand my knowledge and challenge my thinking by learning from the best and alongside the best.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Learning, articulating, and utilizing formal and effective frameworks that validate, inform, and complement what may have been informal practices led by instinct and intuition.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? All decisions must be well-informed in order to be effective. Hence, it is important to collect data, to seek reliable information, and to test and boldly ask questions. That way, you can boost your confidence as one arrives at meaningful and actionable conclusions. This kind of thinking serves me well at work whenever decisions need to be made.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Two months before the program started, my mom, who was vacationing with us from the province, was diagnosed with heart failure and was given only six months to live. At that time, I was already CEO of Alveo and the company was running fast across all fronts in order to get projects off the ground and maintain market leadership. I decided, with my Mom egging me on, to still pursue the program despite the prevailing challenges.

For the first half of the program (about a year), I remember stealing moments to study for exams and prepare final papers during the different stages of my mom’s hospitalization outside the operating room while waiting for her tests to finish. In parallel, I would also hold meetings and approve plans. It was a challenge to have time and focus to successfully multi-task, but I felt more effective that way (it was also a good way to avoid falling into a depressed mental state).

On the second half of the program, I received my unexpected new assignment to head AyalaMalls under a mandate of transformation: a bigger organization to handle that will likely show some resistance to a change in leadership, an unfamiliar territory to conquer and lead.

At this point, my boss asked if I wanted to defer school considering all the major items on the professional and personal fronts that will require my energy and attention. I decided to continue on with the program. I was dead-set on conquering the mountain of challenges in front of me, intending to survive it with an iron will and with whatever strength and grace I could muster. Simply put, I didn’t want to prolong and further compound the agony. I wanted to complete my eMBA journey and savor the difficulties and exciting times that came along with it, so that I could swiftly transition to new adventures that awaited.

I am very fortunate to have a husband and two daughters who have been very supportive and understanding, as I endeavored to balance my time between my work, family, my mom, and school.

A recurring question that gets asked of me is, “How do you do it?” I am sure there were many more who were in the same or even worse predicament than I was in but managed to also finish the program successfully. They will probably agree with me when I say that there really is no magic formula. With commitment, dedication, and a strong desire to survive, just like leadership, doing “it” is a choice. If there’s a will, there’s always a way. (Just as my Mom had a strong desire to survive, and so she lives up to today, healthy and alive.)

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myths: It could be boring. You could learn things just by reading books. When you are older, you will have less patience and capacity for taking exams.

Realizations: Learning never stops regardless of age. That nothing can substitute for in-class interaction and learning from great professors.

What was your biggest regret in business school? None.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Paul Wilt. He is very articulate and generous and courageous in sharing his thoughts and thus is able to stimulate and bring conversations forward.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started to move up as a senior leader in the organization and felt the need to expand my thinking so I can contribute more broadly, strategically and effectively.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To make a lasting impact in the organization as we move to uplift and better contribute to society.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who made an inspiring difference in her own way.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?
Professionally, to be able to set up ALI’s Corporate University as a means to strengthen the organization especially at the junior level.

Personally, to travel the world with my family, including my parents before age could prevent them.

What made Jennylle such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Jennylle has 22 years of hands-on real estate planning and project management experience with the Philippines’ most respected and leading real estate company, Ayala Land, Inc (ALI). (ALI is the 2nd largest real estate company in South East Asia.) She started her career as a project development assistant (a staff position) in ALI in 1997 and worked her way up to vice president of ALI and CEO of its biggest brand. She has a lot of different exposures within the Group and great achievements. In the middle of the program, she was asked by her senior management to head another unit (AyalaMalls) with a strong mandate of transformation. Although she found it quite challenging to cope with study, work and family commitments, at the same time handle an organization three times bigger than her previous one, she still took on the challenge and made it work. She is regarded by the company’s President & CEO Mr. Bernard Vincent O. Dy (Chicago Booth alumnus MBA 1989) as one of the few CEO potentials in the next 10 years. As a female leader in a male-dominant industry and country, her story is interesting and inspiring. She is a true leader who has huge potentials to make great things happen. She is also a passionate leader who inspires and encourages colleagues, classmates, and other people around her to realize one’s potential and talent. She had shared her experience openly in one of the Women’s Networking Sessions during the program.

Yeng is always warm and nice to other people in spite of her success and achievement. She is always humble to learn and improve for a better self. She is a real role model for both male and female leaders. With her leadership, her team won in the recent ISM competition. Besides career achievement, Yeng managed to balance her work, school, and family life well. She makes sure that she participates in her daughters’ school activities, graduation, family celebrations, and be a supportive mom, wife, and daughter to her family.”

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.