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Express Online's Alison McQuarrie talks to ARN.

What was your first job?

A paper run when I was 12 years old. My brother and I shared the suburb of Northbridge. I was two years younger than him, so I had the smaller section to take care of. I was always amazed at how he could be finished and back at home hours before I had completed my route. Before long, the newsagent asked me to do both sections and I soon figured out what had been going on!

How did you progress to where you are today?

I have been in IT distribution since leaving university. I started out in a medium-sized distribution organisation and worked my way through nearly every job in the company. I worked in customer service processing orders, did purchasing accounts payable and moved into sales before taking the next step into management. After almost six years, I decided it was time for a change and moved to Melbourne with my boyfriend (now husband, so it was all worth it!). I worked in recruitment for two years, and then returned to Sydney where I was lucky to land a job as one of the founding members of Express Online. I started as the only product manager. Gradually, as we took on more vendors and our customer base grew, I was fortunate enough to work my way up to marketing and operations manager. Then, after my general manager was promoted early last year, I was given the opportunity to run Express Online.

What do you like about your current job?

Being part of something innovative and revolutionary. I believe commodity IT distribution will eventually move completely online. It's an inevitable move in an industry screaming out for productivity improvement. It's similar to how the banking industry moved completely to ATMs and online banking for withdrawals and transfers. Convenience, availability and efficiency are much more important to people now.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

Being appointed general manager of Express Online. I work with a great team and we are achieving more each day. It's a fantastic feeling coming to work every morning and taking on the day's challenges. I rarely go home feeling unhappy with our accomplishments.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?

The ever reducing margins!

What will be the 'next big thing'?

I am a bit biased here but definitely online distribution. Increasing competition means resellers need to focus energies primarily on revenue generating activities like customer service, sales and marketing. Purchasing and logistics are important but don't make budget. Express Online's philosophy is about making order placement, tracking and delivery painless. If your orders are well managed, you have more time to focus on differentiating yourself and keeping in touch with customers. With product margins headed south, particularly in the commodity space, the distributors that will survive are those who recognise it is about doing things smarter and making things easier for customers.

What is the main focus for your company this year?

Expanding our product range. It has been boosted in the past 12 months with the introduction of Apple and others. We have certainly enjoyed a fantastic period of growth but we are hungry for more. So my focus is to continue the revolution and deliver a brilliant service.

What do you do when you are not at work?

At the moment it's all about being mum. My lovely little daughter, Hannah, is six months old, so nearly all of my time away from work is spent with her and my husband. I love being a new mother and I treasure every moment. My husband and I have also started the process of renovating our home, so I imagine we will be spending quite a bit of time in the next few months picking out tiles and paint colours.

Do you like gadgets? If so, what is your favourite?

I am a big fan of my new iPod nano and can't live without my BlackBerry.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

That changed with the weather. I did my school work experience at the NSW Supreme Court so I had a period where I wanted to be a QC and then a judge. I was probably most serious about becoming a psychologist, which ended up being the area I studied. It's funny how things don't work out quite how you plan.

If you weren't in IT, what would you be doing now?

Most likely a psychologist. My parents certainly would have been happier since they helped fund my university years.

What is your biggest ambition?

To manage my own business and grow it into the market leader. After this, more of my time will be invested in sailing rather than selling.


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