Microsoft’s new country manager, Pip Marlow, has been with the company for 15 years and brings a wealth of channel experience to the role. She chats with Matthew Sainsbury about her vision for the company in 2011 and how she plans on maintaining her work/ life balance. What has attracted you to Microsoft over the years?
Pip Marlow (PM): I’ve been there for 15 years, it has been a while now. Beforehand I was with a company, Agate Technology, trying to get Microsoft on board with a program where I was selling hard drives, and the plan was to preload the software to the hard drives. I was spending a lot of time knocking on Microsoft’s door trying to get them to buy into what I thought was a great business development opportunity. I didn’t actually sell it, regretfully, but what I did do was get to know a number of people at Microsoft, and I was inspired by the type of people that were attracted to work at Microsoft. The company has some very smart, passionate people and they represented Microsoft as such a great innovative place to work at that got me interested, and through that process I came to work here.
What are some of the highlights that you’ve had along the way?
PM: I think I’d start by saying the achievements that I’m most proud of are the ones I’ve achieved in a team environment. I love working in, building and being part of a high performance team.
So working with the federal government team during the Gershon review – it was very exciting working with that team. Another was working with the Queensland team in a similar model with a whole of government agreement there too.
Earlier on in my career in Microsoft I spent a lot of time working on the sub distribution and distribution channel and really building out relationships with our distributors and new programs around going to market and reaching out system builders and VARs.
What’s your vision for Microsoft this year?
PM: I’m only a few days into this role, so some of those things are a work in progress. I think there are three key areas of focus I want to have, and I put people first.
From my perspective, at the heart of any great business when I speak to customers, and the thing that delights them most is the engagement and people – and that’s what makes the difference. So I really want to make sure there’s a strong focus on the people at Microsoft. The business is evolving when we think about the cloud and competing, so we need to really make sure we focus on the investment and development of the people at Microsoft.
Second, my focus with our growth strategy is in making sure we can secure the future and that’s really about the transition to the cloud. And my third focus is the channel; we have a deliberate dependency on partners and that’s how we go to market – our partner community is what differentiates us. So spending time with the channel and making sure we have a great partner community is critical for me. Do you think 2011 is going to be a good year for the IT industry?
PM: I think it will be, yes. You can see through the predictions on IT spend from IDC and others, I think there’s a sense of expectation and buoyancy in the market post-GFC. I know Australia wasn’t hit as hard as some other places, but certainly there were some changes and impact, but I see a sense of optimism from customers, and customers’ appetite to use technology to solve problems.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
PM: I have two gorgeous children if I do say so myself. So job number one right now is managing invitations and design principles for a birthday party – party bags, themes, everything, so I’m a party planner in my spare time. I also try to be involved in the school as well. I try to make sure I stay connected in terms of school.
I do consider myself a hobbyist photographer. I have a fantastic Canon which I love and it’s surgically attached to my hand at any family function, at any time the photo needs to be taken. I love to take photos and play with it.
Is it difficult managing the work/ life balance when you’re senior management of a major corporation?
PM: I think work/ life balance is something you have to focus on. I think about it in a couple of ways – you have to have a great partnership, so making sure that I have a great partnership with my husband. We spend time communicating and planning and we do sometimes communicate with meeting room requests.
For me, earlier in my career I could look at myself every week and say to myself, “I’ve failed this week as a mother, a wife, a manager and an employee,” and I could and would beat myself up about it.
Over a period of time, with a little more experience, I don’t look at it the same. I try and set myself some goals about how I want to spend my time every quarter. I look at it on a monthly basis and ask “did I meet all my goals?”
I also ruthlessly outsource as much as I can. Online shopping I tell you is fantastic.
Are you a gadget person?
PM: I am a little bit of a gadget person. My phone is a big part of my life – I use it for email, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter, so I’m using my phone quite a bit – in fact the last thing I use my phone for is voice functionality.
Other than that, the girls have a Kinect at home, and I’m the cool mum on the street again because the kids are lining up to play that. Those are the main ones. I do try and make sure I’m not always in front of a screen.