Touchbase's Andrew Fisher talks to ARN
What was your first job?
I found my way into the working world as a collections officer for a major state bank. I had some very interesting days and nights chasing the bank's money to all corners of Australia during the three years I was there. This often required driving to a customer's house and serving court papers. In some rare instances, the role required me to take possession of houses, which at the age of 18 was a true eye-opener. Mind you, taking the boss' company car out for the day was a lot of fun.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
My role at the bank allowed for a 45- minute lunch break, which was strictly enforced. Being a very social person, this severely impacted on my desire to have long lunches in the sun. I had the chance to meet up with a close friend who was working at AAPT at the time, where it seemed long lunches were all the rage for successful sales people. I had to have a piece of that freedom along with the apparent luxuries of the deregulated telecommunications era. I quickly discovered how difficult sales could be. I spent three years there and then moved to a role with Telstra UK based in London.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I have to start by saying the support of my family and my parents has been instrumental. My parents were both very successful sales professionals in the Brisbane IT scene. It is not uncommon to come across one of their old clients today in my circles.
I am constantly reminded that my mother, for example, used to take cake to all her client meetings. A small, but apparently very memorable gesture. It is also true that I have had amazing mentors. I have worked for people who have knocked out my bad habits and been supportive of my good ones. The ability to act with quiet humility when faced with any challenge was a key learning.
What do you like about your current job?
Touchbase is a special company. I have worked for some large organisations and done well, even progressing to lead large teams for Telstra in the UK, but the time I have spent at Touchbase has been the most rewarding. The ability to enable change and to make a difference without the big company mentality of 'watching your backside' all the time is a true joy. Touchbase has delivered time and time again for me. I am empowered to make a difference to my people, my clients and their clients and put them before profit. This is a rare gesture and provides a 10-fold return.
The leadership at Touchbase is some of the most entrepreneurial and inspirationalI have seen.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
I had to reflect on this question for some time, because I feel the lessons I have learnt about leading people have been the biggest challenge and as a result my biggest achievement. In terms of a role, I would say my appointment to Australian managing director of Touchbase was the highlight. Up until then, I always wondered if I had what it took to run an organisation.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
Open plan offices!
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
Unifi ed communications will revolutionise the way we interact and do business. Using integrated directories and intelligent presence information with the common desktop will help users reach the right people and resources the first time. This is a virtualisation we have only seen in the contact centre industry in the past. It is very powerful and compelling to any organisation with multiple locations where access to disparate skill sets is difficult.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
Touchbase is undergoing massive growth globally. Attracting and retaining people is the number one challenge in the IT industry at the moment and seems to be a global phenomenon. We are concentrating heavily on the Cisco Unified Communications portfolio worldwide and seeing great success from it. Our clients are seeing incredible returns in productivity from this technology.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I travel every second week, so time with the family is the only priority when I am home. We recently built a new home so we like spending time there. We enjoy the simple pleasures of camping on the beach and when I get permission from the 'boss' I take off for the weekend and scuba dive in Byron Bay.
Do you like gadgets?
I am a subscriber to a well known gadget magazine and I do not allow my wife to throw the junk mail away until I have read every electronic catalogue cover to cover. I recently returned from a work related trip to Hong Kong where I delighted myself by spending an entire day at an IT fair. I am a tragic gadget fan and I need help.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I recall wanting to be a policeman, until my elder brother insisted he was going to become a bank robber and I would have to arrest him when I grew up. I later decided I wanted to be an architect, for no reason I can recall - but I have always loved the look of a city skyline.
What is your biggest ambition?
One day I would like to have an office with a view of some water. I think I would die with excitement.