Sporting a cure for extreme services

Sporting a cure for extreme services

Southern Cross Computer Systems' Mark Kalmus talks to ARN

What was your first job?
My first job was a clerical role in the accounts section of the Department of Public Works. I had just deferred a post graduate position in Immunology at the Alfred Hospital Campus of Monash University.

How did you end up in the IT industry?
After a year, I transferred from the Public Works Department to an IT support role at the Department of Health. After spending nine months there, I successfully applied for a user analyst's position with Ericsson.This provided me with experience in an IBM CICS environment and exposure to defining user and business requirements. I was the interface between the manufacturing, sales and purchasing users, and the systems and application programmers in the IT department. The company was going through a major implementation of the MAPICS Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) and Financial system. I was also responsible for the generation of management reports in a fourth generation language for use by all the divisional heads. During this time I also undertook part-time studies for five years at Swinburne University and completed my second degree (Bachelor of Business Degree - Computing).

How did you progress to where you are today?
I progressed through Ericsson from user analyst into a management traineeship scheme. My first major role was in the sales department as support consultant for 3270 compatible systems. The next step was a trainee sales role at the city store of Ericsson Data Systems selling a range of IBM compatible data and networking hardware to corporates and state governments.

In 1986, I was asked to join Imagineering, the largest IT distributor in Australia. I was the sixth employee in Melbourne. I undertook a number of account and product management roles for both hardware and software vendors such as Ashton Tate (Multimate and DBII), Lotus and AST. When I decided to leave Imagineering in 1988 they were a $250 million company. I left Imagineering to setup a PC dealership called Technolink. This provided a range of PC and server products and associated peripherals and technical services.

In 1990, we merged with Ipex Information Technology Group and I became national sales director. I oversaw periods of significant growth culminating in annual revenues of over $100 million.

I joined Southern Cross Computer Systems in 1996 as sales manager and became CEO in October 2003. I have overseen the introduction of a number of new organisational initiatives, the latest being the establishment of an IT consulting practice. The practice offers IT strategic planning and governance, risk management and information security consulting services. It has already won and completed a number of significant projects for both corporate and government entities.

What do you like about your current job?
I enjoy the challenge of being ultimately responsible for 40 people's lives. There is variety in every day.

I like seeing the personal development of individuals and the joy they get when achieving their goals. I also enjoy the speed of change and dynamic nature of the IT industry.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?
At a business level, setting a strategic vision, implementing the objectives and seeing those objectives achieved. An example of this was winning a $15 million supply contract with a state government department. A second example was the preparation and winning of a $7 million integration project, which substantially broadened the organisation's capabilities.

At a personal level, being able to balance my business commitments with family life, with my wife of 20 years and bringing up four boys.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
Companies and/or individuals that give the industry a bad name by only being interested in a fast buck and not supporting the customer after the sale.

What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
The continual evolution and integration of mobility, entertainment and traditional data devices into one lifestyle device, further blurring the lines between business and personal time.

What is the main focus for your company this year?
Maintain incremental growth in our traditional markets of systems integration projects and substantially grow the newly formed consulting practice.

What do you do when you are not at work?
I attend a personal trainer twice weekly. As a family we are signed up social club members of the St Kilda Football Club and attend most games at the Telstra Dome. I also enjoy attending most sporting activities my sons take on (my life as a part-time taxi driver). I also enjoy travel, mainstream sports and extreme sports such as white water rafting.

What extreme sports have you undertaken and where?
I have experienced the "swoop" which is much like bungy jumping from 42 metres, and we have white water rafted (Grades 3 & 4) in the North Island of New Zealand.

Do you like gadgets?
I enjoy listening to tunes on my iPod and have a PDA. I do not over indulge in purchasing gadgets.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was younger, I wanted to invent a cure for cancer.

What is your biggest ambition?
1. When I turn 50, to visit Africa on a family adventure tour (mainly to see the wildlife at the game parks). 2. To be able to retire by the age of 55.

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