What was your first job?
Kevin Hartin (KH): After dropping out of university, I joined the Commonwealth Bank in 1982 as a trainee with grand plans of one day being a bank manager. Thankfully, the dream lasted only six weeks before I quit after a series of run-ins with management. I was not at all suited to the restrictive nature of banking.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
KH: I managed to talk my way into a computer operator role with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) in Melbourne. This gave me a great grounding in communications technologies and plenty of time to learn about IT. Through natural attrition an opportunity came about to move into a sales role.
How did you progress to where you are today?
KH: I took up a role at Tech Pacific's inception and have been in or around the IT distribution business ever since. I moved to Sydney in 1987 and spent a couple of years doing corporate sales with resellers and ended up back in distribution with a high-end networking company called MM Data Networks. I worked with a small group of resellers and was successful in landing some multi-million dollar defence and security contracts. I progressed to branch manager in Melbourne and later became national sales and marketing manager, before leaving in 1992 to start my own business.
As a founding partner in network distributor, Digital Networks Australia, and later moving to Chips and Bits Australia, I gained plenty of national sales management experience in fast growing distribution businesses. After Chips and Bits floated in 1999 as IT&e, I chased the dotcom bubble before returning to distribution in 2004. I joined Altech after targeting them as an organisation that had plenty of potential and one I wanted to be part of. At the time, Altech didn't have a position going, but we both saw the opportunity and I have been national sales manager since December 2004.
What do you like about your current job?
KH: I particularly like working in a dynamic environment in a business whose management is not afraid to go out and make things happen. For example, Altech took an early position on digital home and brought the Maestro HTPC product to market, backed up with strong marketing, well ahead of the building demand we see today. We became the first in the world to have a Viiv-certified Media Center, which was showcased in the US launch.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
KH: The 10 years I spent coverting Chips and Bits from a local Melbourne distributor into a national player that subsequently floated as part of IT&e. We took an early stake in the Internet boom, with investments in ISP and Web design businesses, and were one of the first distributors to provide online ordering facilities to resellers.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
KH: I dislike the unfortunate reputation the industry now has thanks to the many shonky operators of 5-10 years ago. I would prefer the used car industry took back that claim to fame. I am also unhappy with the constant pressure put on small and medium resellers to justify their right to co-exist with the major national players.
What do you think will be the 'next big thing'?
KH: The convergence of IT and consumer electronics products in the digital home space and the rise of independent specialist resellers providing expertise and value-added services. The next 12 months will be very exciting with the release of Vista, the never-ending progress on more powerful CPUs with lower power consumption and the initiatives of the platform vendors to push into the digital home.