Alexei Angelo S. Pineda was born on October 2, 1974 in Manila, Philippines, the youngest child of Patricio F. Pineda Jr. and Sylvia Santos-Pineda. He was named after Alexei Kosygin who was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1980 and considered a progressive and visionary reformer and the most influential figure in Soviet policymaking during this period. Alexei's middle name Angelo was inspired by October 2 is the feast day and memorial of the Guardian Angels.
Alexei grew up 2 hours north of Manila in the Philippines in the Pineda ancestral hometown of Concepcion, Tarlac together with his parents and his older brother Blums, and older sister Rica. He studied at the all-boys Catholic school Don Bosco in Tarlac City where he first discovered his passion for writing, oration, and declamation. This did not surprise his family as it ran in his blood. His mother Sylvia is the great-grandchild of Philippine hero Marcelo H. Del Pilar who was a journalist, lawyer, and orator who led the Philippine Propaganda Movement in the late 1800s during the Spanish colonization of the country. He also uncovered a deep love for computers and computer games, dabbling in hacking into the internals of the family’s Commodore 64 and reading up everything he could on machine code at one point. He was obsessed with and got deep into the C64 game Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.
The time came for Alexei to leave Tarlac as he graduated high school and topped all of the major university entrance exams he took, most notably being part of the inaugural University of the Philippines Oblation Scholars in 1991 which recognizes the top 50 qualifiers from 100,000 applicants taking the 5 hour long UP College Admission Test. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion though that he would study at Ateneo de Manila, the Jesuit university where his grandfathers, father, and siblings graduated from. He was a Freshman Merit Scholar and enrolled in an Honors course, the Management Engineering program.
Alexei thoroughly enjoyed his university years at Ateneo as, alongside his studies, he was able to continue building up his writing and debate gifts and skills and take it to the next level. He was a core writer for the Ateneo university paper Guidon where he became an editor and a fixture in the Pub Room. He was a gifted writer and was glad to find an outlet and an audience during his Ateneo days to hone and share his gift. He took much pride in mentoring others who were also interested in becoming better in their writing at whatever level.
But it was in helping build up the Ateneo Debate Society (ADS) that Alexei is arguably best known for and hands down what he was proudest of. Debate in the Philippines was in its infancy and we're just being built up to be a “thing”. Alexei was part of the ADS delegation that competed in international tournaments at the highest level for the first time – begging and borrowing was involved to get the funding support to support their first tournament, the 1994 Asian Inter-Varsity Debate Tournament in Singapore. It paid off as ADS performed very well overall but capped by Alexei and his 2 other Ateneo 1 teammates being crowned as the overall winner from 24 competing universities from across Asia. This put Ateneo on the debate world stage, generated buzz and interest, and passion for debate in the Philippines overall. Alexei continued to actively volunteer as an advisor, coach, trainer, and mentor for the Debate Society even after graduation.
Alexei graduated from Ateneo in 1995 leaving with not only a diploma in hand and a long list of accomplishments but more importantly with so many friendships. He found and made friendships during those years that are amongst the deepest he has to this day.
Alexei's first job was in brand and marketing with San Miguel Corporation's Beer Division. He started with the Red Horse beer brand (think moonshine disguised as beer and with the kick of a horse to match) and then moved to work on the direct opposite being given the light, classy, sophisticated San Miguel Light. He was promoted to become the youngest Brand Manager to be assigned to the flagship San Miguel Pale Pilsen brand, a 100-year-old icon and the largest selling beer in the Philippines. He took a brand that was in decline and helped lead it back to growth. It was at San Miguel where he started perfecting his gift for balancing long-term strategy with near-term impact and precision execution and his signature attention to detail. He is also responsible for starting rumors that hours spent playing the games Magic: The Gathering and Xmen: Ravages of the Apocalypse may be an unconventional path to build up strengths as a top-class marketer and help learn skills to fast track one’s corporate career – he said nothing to dispel these rumors.
He left San Miguel in 1998 to take his MBA at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (now known as Chicago Booth) in the United States. He was hired as a Summer Associate at the preeminent global consultancy McKinsey & Co. between his first and second years at Chicago. He graduated in June 2000 with concentrations in Strategy, Marketing, and Finance.
Upon graduating from the GSB, Alexei stayed in the US – he accepted an offer to join Microsoft Corporation at their global HQ in Redmond, Washington. This set him on a path to be a world class product manager and leader even before that was a profession and a cool craft. He cut his teeth with the Windows Longhorn team, and then moving on to become the Group Product Manager for Windows, and then subsequently becoming Director of Product Management at Xbox. Most of us that knew him believed this was really the holy grail he was pursuing at MSFT – once a gamer, always a gamer. Can you imagine what more Microsoft could have squeezed from him if they had that inside info? He spent 13 great and fulfilling years at Microsoft.
He moved to Amazon in 2014 to help lead and build their ad monetization strategy across the various devices and ecosystems and was most recently the Director and General Manager for Device and Audio Advertising Products. This defacto internal startup was created from the ground up to champion Amazon’s foray into advertising as a business, taking the fight to Google and Facebook. During his journey over nearly 7 years, the startup has now become a full business unit with almost 200 people from both product and engineering, and with the teams split between Seattle and Silicon Valley. Alexei was regarded as a consummate professional and an integral contributor to Amazon’s devices advertising program – a deep thinker, precise communicator, and a straight shooter -- generally fearless and earnest in sharing his thoughts especially on things that mattered and to do it with conviction. He pursued big ideas and stood tall in that pursuit. He contributed well beyond his scope and earned the trust of so many peers. But most of all, many remember the way he did it, he had a radiant positivity and unique energy, injected plenty of humor and good nature, and always with so much humanity.
He was fortunate to work with, hire, pull together many key individuals at the heart of this team, all equally passionate and like-minded, pushing each other hard, but more importantly, loving each other like family. He has at least a dozen colleagues who were also with Alexei at Microsoft and have been close to him for 15+ years. They not only lost a manager or colleague but lost a true friend. That he left his mark on many of his bosses, peers, and team members goes without saying.
When he wasn’t driving strategy or shipping product, Alexei still very much cultivated his creative passions and energies, channeling these into digital photography. He had a great eye and unbelievable vision that enabled him to catch perfect shot after perfect shot.
In addition, he treasured and loved his friends and colleagues who were his defacto family in Seattle and the Bay Area. He enjoyed many things with them ranging from photography walkabouts to travel to enjoying food, wine, and whiskey. In particular, Alexei loved decadent and rich foods and dishes like duck and foie gras, but also sought out Filipino comfort food like crispy pata, sinigang, and inihaw. You didn't need a watch when you were with him, as you could tell the time by the beverage he had in his hand -- a Starbucks 155 degree Grande soy latte with a dash of hazelnut would mean late morning, an ice-cold freshly popped can of Diet Coke would mean afternoon, and a double Johnnie Walker Double Black would most likely be evening, though late afternoon on a Friday would not be a bad guess as well.
In recent years, Alexei enjoyed traveling to meet up with his family from the Philippines meeting up with them for vacations in the UK, Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong. He cemented his reputation as #funcle to his four treasures, his nieces and nephews: Gaita, Nino, Pax, and Bella.
Alexei passed away peacefully in his home in Los Altos Hills, California on April 27, 2021, at the age of 46. He did so much and loved so much in what is seen as a short time on this earth, that many of us would be blessed to do in much longer lifetimes. He is survived by his immediate family, his father Patricio F. Pineda Jr., his brother Blums and wife Roslyn and their children Pax and Bella, his older Rica and husband Kokoy, and their children Gaita and Nino.
He is also lovingly remembered by so many other families, his cousins, his barkada, friends, colleagues, and classmates that he knew, loved, and touched. For that, we his family are eternally grateful.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to a fundraiser being held in Alexei’s name. We will send the donations to Don Bosco and Ateneo de Manila in Alexei’s name. fundrazr.com/alexeipineda
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