After graduating from AIM with a Master in Business Management (MBM) degree (With Distinction) in 1978, Sonny Coloma joined First Philippine Holdings Corporation as Head of the Human Resource Management Group. He designed and implemented an integrated a HRM system for what was then a newly reorganized holding company of a diversified conglomerate in the areas of energy, power generation and financial services industries.
After his stint in First Holdings, he was invited by the Philippine National Bank to join the senior management team of what was then the largest land transportation company in the Philippines, Pantranco North Express, Inc. He occupied the positions of Vice President for Operations and Vice President for Management Services in a concurrent capacity. In this dual capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the implementation of a massive fleet modernization program involving almost a thousand buses. He was also responsible for putting in place a computerized management information system to track bus operations and closely monitor financial results.
In late 1982, he was rehired by Far East Bank and Trust Company where he served as Vice President for Human Resource Management until late 1987. His most significant achievements included the following: a) overseeing an unprecedented recruitment and employment effort to support the bank’s branch expansion program that increased FEBTC’s branch network from less than 60 to more than 2000 branches within a three-year period; b) implementing a progressive employee relations program that was largely responsible for maintaining a high level of management-employee harmony (FEBTC was one of only two banks that retained its non-union status in an industry that was characterized by a relatively high level of labor militancy); c) managing the bank’s employee communications effort that saw the FEBTC Banknotes win several awards of distinction from the Philippine Council of Industrial Communicators and the International Association of Business Communicators (Philippine chapter).
He was eventually reassigned to the bank’s corporate planning group where he was responsible for setting up a corporate relations unit for managing stakeholder interface including investor relations, media relations and corporate public communication.
In June 1988, he joined his alma mater AIM as an Associate Professor and a core faculty memberin the MBM program. He taught courses in human behavior, marketing management and general management. In 1989, he became the first Program Director of Master in Development Management Program in 1989 and was part of a faculty team responsible for designing, planning and rolling out a pioneering degree program in development management.
From 1994 to 1996, he served as Associate Dean for the Master in Business Management (MBM) program. Before he became Associate Dean, he headed the study committee that worked on the revision of the MBM curriculum that attracted high enrolment on account of its emphasis on globalization, cross-cultural management and total quality management. He was also part of the faculty team that conceptualized and implemented the Program for Innovative and Relevant Management Education (PRIME) that became the basis for involving leading multinational and domestic corporations in providing action consultancy and field research opportunities for MBM students.
During his deanship, the MBM program achieved all-time high enrolment figures. For the first time in AIM history, the MBM program had three sections in the first year and three sections in the second year. It was the biggest contributor to Institute revenues and pre-tax earnings.
In 1998, he joined the nascent Asian Center for Entrepreneurship as a core faculty member of the new Master in Entrepreneurship (ME) degree program and served as Guru of ME Fusion Class of 2001. He was part of the faculty team that conceptualized, designed and rolled out the pioneering ME degree program.
In June 2000, he was appointed Associate Dean of the Executive Education and Lifelong Learning Center (EXCELL) and became its first Dean when AIM implemented the multi-school system. In 2000 and 2001, respectively, EXCELL won international recognition from Asia, Inc. and Asiaweek magazines that rated its executive education and Executive Master in Business Administration (EMBA) programs number one. With his vision of making AIM EXCELL the preferred provider of executive education by the region’s top-tier global corporations, he pursued the building of corporate university partnerships.
Today, AIM EXCELL has corporate university partnerships with blue-chip corporations such as, among others: Citibank, Pfizer, Intel, Bristol Myers Squibb, Mirant, Jollibee, Lopez Group of Companies, China National Overseas Oil Corporation, and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India. EXCELL has been AIM’s major revenue contributor for the past 3 years. During Mr. Coloma’s term as Dean /Associate Dean, EXCELL revenues grew from Php 67M in 2001 to Php 126M in 2003. Excell contributes close to 40% of total AIM revenues.
In 1996 to 1998, he also served as President of the University of Makati (Pamantasan ng Makati). He was responsible for recruiting outstanding young graduates as faculty members, setting up a College for Information Technology and putting in place programs on academic excellence and faculty development.
In late 1989, he heeded the call of public service and accepted appointment as Undersecretary for Operations of the Department of Agrarian Reform under then Secretary Miriam Defensor Santiago. This stint, while short-lived, was characterized by the attainment of land acquisition targets during the difficult period of coup attempts and destabilization efforts.
In 1990, he served as Undersecretary at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) under then Secretary Oscar Orbos. He was responsible for overseeing the land transportation sector that included the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the third largest revenue contributor to Philippine government coffers after the BIR and the Bureau of Customs. During his watch, the LTO won several Salamin awards from the National Coalition for Transparency, a joint government-civil society project for recognizing government agencies that were commended by citizens for excellent front-line service.
Another agency under his supervision, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) streamlined and simplified procedures for application for franchise of public utility vehicles such as buses, jeepneys and taxis. This contributed significantly to solving the acute lack of public transportation vehicles in the period after the EDSA People Power I revolt.
In January 1991, he was appointed as Head of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) and concurrently Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the President of the Philippines. In a concurrent capacity, he also served as Cabinet Secretary, Administrator of the President’s Social Fund and Chairman-Director of government corporations in housing, transportation and human settlements. His most outstanding contribution was to simplify and streamline the administrative structure in the Office of the President that brought about the merger of three offices, the Office of the Executive Secretary, the PMS, and the Cabinet Secretariat.
In 1998 to 2000, he rejoined government service as Undersecretary at the DOTC, this time supervising the maritime transportation sector while concurrently overseeing all financial and administrative functions of the department. His most notable achievements included among others: a) spearheading the campaign to reelect the Philippines as a member of the governing Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO); b) formulating a long-term development plan for the maritime industry; and c) implementing and expanding the maritime safety improvement projects featuring the establishment of lighthouses throughout the country in cooperation with the Japanese and Spanish governments. He resigned in March 2000.