Netforce's Debra Lee talks to ARN.
What was your first job?
I was a graduate trainee at the Commonwealth Bank in North Sydney. In my first year I sold bank bills and negotiated interest rates for customers.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
I starting in banking and then went into stock broking. In 1994, the two original Netforce directors, Jim Cantor and Scott Atkinson, decided to get the company going. I joined them from the beginning. We started as a network integration company and had contracts with several major institutions. Over the years we have reinvented ourselves, adding managed services and an application development arm. We also gradually moved into putting together wide area networks for companies.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I have worked in several areas at Netforce: administration, accounting, sales and marketing. I am now managing the business through a team of people. How did that all happen? Through hard work, perseverance and a lot of blood, sweat and tears I think.
What do you like about your current job?
I love reading customer testimonials when we do case studies and finding out how our technology affects or improves their business operations. Personally, I also enjoy working with a great team of people and seeing them grow. If you're doing well as an organisation, everyone else gets to do better too.
How have you found working in male dominated industries like banking and the channel?
I have been the only female in many meetings all through my career. These days I keep in good company with a lot of women here. But we're just part of the team. At the end of the day you are all there trying to make your customers happy. We have sports at lunch time and I'm the only female that plays. That can be a challenge when you're surrounded by sportsmen.
What do you play?
We play competitive Frisbee, which is made of two groups of people and it's pretty physical. We do that twice a week. We've got a personal trainer that comes in and we go down to the local oval.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
I'm really stumped. I think to help build up a company with 40 people is one of the biggest things. You don't foresee where you are going to get to when you first start up and to be able to sustain that through a long time and reinvent yourself, meet customer demands and be around, is an achievement.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
I don't really have any dislikes. My problem at the moment is having too many roles and not enough people to fill them. It's a dynamic industry: If you love learning, then this is an excellent place to be.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
The biggest development is the acceptance of managed services. Companies want to focus on what they are good at and don't necessarily want to deal with day-to-day IT operations. They are quite happy to get someone else to take that on-board for them.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
To leverage the acquisition of Rosser Communications. There are a lot of customers we need to get in front of and speak to about what Netforce offers. My focus will be on customer service this year: putting that in context of a large organization and working on our systems.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I've been doing extreme relaxation activities - yoga, exercise and massage. It's all about trying to unwind when you're not at work so you are actively relaxing, instead of being tense all the time. I think there is a lot of pressure in this environment and the more you can do to help keep a balance, the better. I also like to read about travel and generally socialise and get involved in as much activity as I can.
Do you like gadgets?
I'm not much of a gadget person but my favourite gadget is the Navman, which I have a love/hate relationship with.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I just wanted to be a carefree traveler and spend lots of time visiting museums and art galleries. Later on, I was excited by working in the short-term money market and wanted to be a trader because there was a lot of excitement and buzz.
Have you been to many museums and art galleries?
I've been to several in Spain and Japan. There's one called Hakone in Japan, which is actually an open air sculpture museum. It has mountains in the background and beautiful landscape scenery with amazing contemporary sculptures. It's a scenic and magical place.
What is your biggest ambition?
My biggest ambition is to attract and retain the best talent this industry can offer. I think that being an employer is pretty challenging in the IT industry. There are so many jobs and not enough people. Personally, I want to fulfil all of my travel ambitions. One of the things I enjoy outside of work is reading about exotic places to go. I've had a chance to travel but it only makes you hungrier to go to more places and see more things.
Any travel plans this year?
I head off to Chang Mai and Bangkok for a short stint in three weeks time. One of my ambitions is to get to Morocco. I have already had to put this off once so maybe next year may be my lucky year.