NEW YORK — “Sipag at tiyaga para may nilaga,” which roughly translates to hard work and persistence.
That’s exactly what it took Batangas-born Virginia Mayo-Policarpio to become IBM’s senior IT specialist and cybersecurity expert.
“You can measure intelligence but you can’t measure grit,” said Mayo-Policarpio. “Hard work desires nothing, it has taken me many more places, that sipag and tiyaga than anything I can imagine.”
Uprooted from the Philippines when she was 12, she came to the US believing that she will become a doctor like most Filipino kids do.
“I cried, I was used to having yayas and katulong. We lived in the basement apartment, it was difficult. But I think that really shaped who I am.”
Between her father’s job as a line cook and her mom’s cashier salary, they had very little money to start their life with in America.
So she and her mom cleaned homes.
“I was in charge of taking all the blinds in the house and cleaning them in a bath tub, it was in that exact moment, when I had this aluminum blonds soaking in soapy water that I made a pact, I made a pact to myself that I was going to work hard, to do well in school so that I or any of my children would never have to clean homes for a living.”
But with hard work and persistence, she graduated with a master of science degree in engineering management at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she also finished IT technology and Computer Engineering.
Today, her work in cybersecurity and security patch management is not only a rare job for women, but an important one especially in the age of hackers.
“What drove me to the profession is to invent something that’s never been invented before, it’s something that is in my heart, you know as a human being, you wanna do something and you wanna go to uncharted territories and discover new things that has never been thought of before in the area of security, data security, cybersecurity that is ripe with innovations.”
The multi-awarded engineer was recently recognized as one of this year’s distinguished Filipino women by the Philippine Consul General in New York for her work to keep cyberspace safe.