Voyager Innovations, a Silicon Valley-style perks company in the Philippines
If you step into the office of Voyager Innovations in Ortigas, you could easily think you are in the heart of Silicon Valley. This effect is intentional.
The workplace was designed to put employees in the frame of mind they need to envision, create, and innovate, which is all based on best practices set by some of the most renowned tech companies in the Valley such as Google and Facebook.
The innovative-tech company, a subsidiary of Smart Communications, is the digital arm of PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company), so it’s imperative for the unit to exist and thrive on the cutting edge of technology.
Voyager Innovations office, An Open Floor Plan
To facilitate collaboration, the floor plan is completely open. There is not a single office room — even the executives have only a cubicle, whose walls are deliberately kept low. Managers sit with their team members.
There are ping-pong tables, multiple lounge areas, and wall art. Many employees avail of the waveboards scattered around the office to travel from one end to the other.
Employees appreciate the outlets they have for relaxation.
“Some employers might think that entertainment options like our X-Box will be a distraction, but it’s always the opposite. When I’m a bit tired, I take a breather and play table tennis or X-Box. Then when I resume work, I am recharged and ready to rock. I end up being more productive compared to if I had just forced myself to work straight,” said Dennis Macaspac, the product manager of Talk2.
The decorations for the office also have a purpose behind them. Meeting rooms, for instance, are designed and decorated after a particular theme, each coming from the name of a Filipino invention or inventor.
The support beams are adorned with framed objects that employees have donated, so as to give the place a feeling of familiarity and home.
The team has had an active role in building the entire workplace. The statue in the lobby, which was fashioned from scrap metal, was designed by the late Benjie Fernandez, the managing director of Voyager Innovations.
He believes that tech companies, particularly those in the Philippines, do not give enough attention to the workspace and how it can affect morale and productivity.
“Most people in the tech space want to talk about things like growth or funding, but neglect the fact that these things are made possible by the environment in which we work. You need to have a workspace that inspires you. At the office, we’re continually iterating and improving on our office, much in the same way we do with our digital apps and platforms,” Fernandez said.
This is not just a talk — significant thought goes into every detail of the office, no matter how small. As an example, user experience experts from the product team designed all of the walls, including a freedom wall, where employees are free to write whatever they want, and a photo wall, where some of Voyager’s most significant milestones are documented.
The effect of these details is not lost on employees.
“Coming from more traditional workplaces, where it seems like they’re trying to squeeze in as many people as possible, the Voyager office is a refreshing change of pace. I can design from the comfort of a couch or a workstation or a group table. Because the office allows me to be mobile and move around as I like, I feel more energized and creative,” said Monnik Togle, a graphic designer at VYGR
Silicon Valley-style perks
Voyager Innovations does not just stop at the physical environment. The people team also makes it a point to have perks and policies that empower all employees.
Breakfast and fruit are served daily. All employees are on flexitime. The dress code is casual. There are quarterly celebrations of Voyager milestones, and more frequent gatherings called iShare in which employees share their passions.
All employees, including executives and managers, take economy when flying to international conferences and meetings. This allows more people to travel per year for training, which is highly encouraged. When they return home to Voyager, they then share their learnings with their team members in a cascade.
“Voyager has a global vision, so it wants you to learn from the best. While we do attend some local conferences and events, the company places a big emphasis on going abroad to learn from world-class experts. Just this month, I got to travel to New York to attend a content marketing summit featuring some of the best content marketers in the business,” said Nigel Maranan, who handles content marketing and public relations for SafeZone, a platform that provides free data service to the best mobile apps and platforms in the world.
One of the cooler employee policies is borrowed from Google’s playbook. All full-time employees get what is called 10% time. For 10% of their work-time, which would be 4 hours a week or a half day of one full workday, employees take on special projects outside of their core responsibilities that they feel are important to do.
Maranan, for instance, spearheaded the development of the main Voyager website, taking charge of its creative direction and overall messaging.
He also created and institutionalized Voyager’s internship program, so that it can better meet the needs of students looking to gain work experience in an ever-shifting digital landscape.
“It’s easy to assume that special projects have no relation to your core work, but they really do. Every time I’ve done something with my 10% time, I’ve found that it revitalizes my core work as a content marketer. I get to see the bigger picture of what Voyager is trying to accomplish in the Philippines and practice new skills to see to it that we reach it,” said Maranan.
The effort it took to develop the workplace and culture of Voyager Innovations is clearly paying off. The accelerator has improved the time to market for all its assets, reducing the industry average time of video asset creation from two months to one week and leave behind marketing collaterals from two months to one week.
Most impressively, Voyager Innovations launches websites in as little as two weeks, which is short from the industry average time of three months. The company has produced websites, platforms, and apps that are already shining in their respective spaces.
To highlight just a few examples, SafeZone, which provides free data access to mobile subscribers, is now the fourth most visited mobile website in the Philippines and the number one community site.
Online store creator TackThis has more than 30,000 merchants across Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.
Takatack is the largest online ecommerce store in the Philippines, clocking it well over 100,000 SKUs. Smart Padala generated more than P80 billion in annual remittances, making it the number one domestic remittance provider.
Soon-to-launch fin-tech platform PayMaya holds the distinction of being the first non-bank in Asia to be awarded a Visa issuing and acquiring a principal license.
“Would we have reached these milestones without the office being the way it is? Undoubtedly, yes. But we would not have been able to do it as fast, nor as resource efficient, without our workplace and culture being designed the way it is. Our work environment allows us to focus on the only thing that matter — execution,” said Fernandez.