In the Hot Seat: Strumming a technology tune

In the Hot Seat: Strumming a technology tune

What was your first job?

Laurie Sellers (LS): I was a new car salesman for a Ford dealership in Yorkshire, England, for about four years. When people hear that I started out as a car salesman, they usually nod knowingly and say "ah yes, that explains a lot"!

How did you end up in the IT industry?

LS: I was very interested in electronics as a hobby and, under a UK Government retraining scheme in the early 1970s, managed to gain a place at the Control Data Institute in London. Over the next six months I attended full-time training as a hardware engineer and got my first IT job at Systems Reliability Limited (SRL) in Luton, as a commissioning engineer. In those days the circuit boards were commonly assembled by hand and our job was to find - and correct - all the human errors.

How did you progress to where you are today?

LS: In the latter half of my six years with SRL, I was convinced by the general manager to undertake a three-year 'sandwich' study course for a Diploma in Management Studies. With the company's support I attended the Luton Technical College of Higher Education part-time from 1978 to 1981. By the time I left SRL to immigrate to Australia, I had advanced to a technical support manager's position.

In Australia, I was employed by ICL in North Sydney, firstly as a field services manager and then as the NSW support manager. In 1984 ICL invited me back to England for a three-year stint as a software development manager. Shortly after my return to Australia I was part of the government sales team in NSW. Fujitsu purchased ICL in the early 90s so I worked there until 1993 when an old friend, Rob Hack, asked me to join him at GEC Alsthom. At the end of my first year, I took over running the company's IT distribution business - i.t.connXions. In 1998, the year that the company changed its name to Alstom, Rob left the company and I replaced him as chief executive.

What do you like about your current job?

LS: The people I work with; whether these are staff, peers, suppliers or customers. It's a great community.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

LS: Leading my management team through a successful management buyout in October 2004.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?

LS: Over the past decade or so, the IT industry has conditioned itself to accept a much lower average margin than most industries do. This makes it a tough business to survive in. On the positive side though, those who are able to survive have developed management skills that would rank them amongst the best in any industry.

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