IDS-G's Stephen Robins talks to ARN.
What was your first job? During school I worked part-time and in the holidays on pig and other farms in Sussex in the UK where I grew up. We had loads of free manure. After I left school in 1972 I didn't really know what I wanted to do and ended up in the building trade.
How did you end up in the IT industry? I was on a building site in the middle of winter and had just about had enough of it. I met a mate from school who had taken a role at American Express in the computer operations area. Next day I was doing the mandatory IBM aptitude test and offered a job in the IT operations group. That was March 1974.
How did you progress to where you are today? It's a long story. I worked for Amex for three years in various roles and left to take on some lucrative contracting roles. After that I joined IBM as a systems engineer working initially in London and then Amsterdam.
In the early '80s a close friend invited me to Australia to be best man at his wedding. My three-week holiday turned into what has become a 25-year, on-and-off stay. Locally, I had a number of systems programmer and technical support roles with Computer Power, Goal Systems, Legal Aid Commission and Westpac. I joined Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) in 1993 as facilities manager for a large Hong Kong-based customer. Then I took on a channel sales role covering Korea, China and Taiwan, before leading professional services across Asia.
I returned to Australia with HDS in 1999 to take on responsibility for storage area networks and Y2K co-ordination for Asia-Pacific (someone had to do it). Later I was regional director for northern region NSW, QLD, NT and WA. I left in 2004 to set up Independent Data Solutions Group (IDS-G).
What do you like about your current job? Giving myself a day off for doing a good job and approving my own leave applications! Not having to send reports or updates to meaningless emails that you typically get in large multinationals. And the challenge of it all.
What is the biggest achievement of your career? There's been a lot of fulfilling achievements. A satisfying one was taking over management of the NSW operation of HDS. We won what was at the time a significant storage tender and HDS' first ever contract at Qantas. The company had failed in reputedly 36 tenders over the previous 15 or so years.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry? Government tenders waste considerable time and effort for public servants and bidders and do not necessarily get agencies the best deal or solution. I also dislike large outsourcing agreements, which benefit global vendors and service providers to the detriment of the domestic industry.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry? It's a big industry so I will only cover the storage and data management. ILM, DLM and HSM have been talked about for some years by the storage vendors without any real ability to deliver on it. There is still no total solution covering all platforms and data types today. I see this getting a lot of traction in the future and someone making a lot of money delivering on it. Virtualisation in the storage space will also be significant over the next 12-24 months. This will allow ILM and DLM to disengage from products and to see pools of storage of different values and capabilities. Another hot topic is enterprise storage management.
What is the main focus for your company this year? Growth and to continue to add new technologies that fulfill market demands. We have just launched operations in Asia and that will be a significant focus over the next 12 months.
What do you do when you are not at work? Play golf, ride my old 1972 Triumph Hurricane, and watch rugby (I played for years).
Do you like gadgets? Yep some ... I really got into them when I lived in Asia. I try and stay up to date with most of the current fads: Blackberry, IP-telephony, that sort of stuff.
What did you want to be when you were younger? An aircraft engineer or in the air force. I applied for a role with British Caledonian but failed to get an interview. I would have liked to have joined the fire brigade, but my father was chief officer and I'm not sure it would have worked having him as my boss.
What is your biggest ambition? To see IDS-G develop to be a significant Australian business while servicing other parts of the world from here instead of the other way around. I can then consult 2-3 days a week and spend the rest of my time enjoying my family, golf and riding motorcycles.