AXXIS Technology's Mathew Dickerson talks to ARN
What was your first job?
My first job was screen printing BMX designs on T-shirts for other students at high school and other members of my BMX club. This was when I was 12 years old. I also worked on a milk run and in casual retail jobs while at school. During university I kept my screen printing business running as well as selling paintings door-to-door and working in a pub.
My first full-time job was when I took a year off university and worked in the Agency Support division of Prudential Assurance Company. My role was to write programs and support agents in the field with their 'computers'. The computers were about the size of a calculator and the printout was a 20-column docket that told you how much you were going to be worth when you retired. The 'computer' and docket printers were housed in a large suitcase. Then I started up AXXIS Technology when I was 21.
How did you end up in IT?
A love of all things technical, geeky and that used electricity. I was writing programs for the first computers we received at our high school [two Apples] within days and ended up doing lots of school database work for the teachers. I loved to play with the technology and turned my passion into a career.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I was lucky that the timing of my business tied in with incredible growth in the IT industry in general. We have taken a few educated gambles over the years that have paid off very well. I had a strong customer focus from when we first opened the business and I have tried to instil in my staff one maxim to live by: Always put yourself in the shoes of the customer. If you make decisions based on that you won't be far off the mark.
What do you like about your current job?
I don't actually work for a living. I get to amuse myself with new toys and solve complex solutions for clients using technology. I get to live in a great regional area [Dubbo, NSW] with a three-minute commute to work yet travel around the world and talk about IT. It doesn't get much better than that. People tell me I don't have a job -- I have a lifestyle!
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
One significant achievement is to have started an IT business at 21 and still have it running 18 years later. We have received some great awards over the years -- local business awards as the best overall business in Dubbo; state and Australian-based awards, such as the Australian Business Council Award for Innovation; and international awards like the Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year in 2006. Probably the best achievement of all was being listed as the only Aussie in the 2006 book of the Top 15 successful SMB Consultants [compiled by US-based small business expert, Harry Brelsford].
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
Cowboys doing poor work and giving the IT industry a bad name. I would like to see more widely recognised qualifica- tions that will ensure a higher quality of work across the entire industry. There is not always a clear career path with specific educational levels within the industry.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
Managed services and the best way to deliver those to the SMB market is the real sweet spot at the moment. We have been selling our managed services model, called SLAM, to IT providers across the world [currently being used by over 100 IT providers across nine countries]. We will look back in five years and question how any IT providers ever survived in a break/fix world.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
We have achieved great market penetration in Dubbo and there isn't a lot of room for growth in that market. We opened our second branch last October which has really taken off. We will continue to expand our business model throughout regional NSW over the coming 12 months. We have also taken on three great long-term staff as shareholders in our current business and will continue to allow further staff to buy into the business.
What do you do when you are not at work?
Play with technology. I have a fantastic family with four beautiful kids so I like to spend time with them. I am very proud of their achievements at school and in all the extra-curricular activities they choose to participate in. I am also Deputy Mayor of Dubbo so I spend time serving my community. The role is an incredible challenge: I have to take a different mindset into council decisions. I can make decisions quickly and flexibly in my own business. With the council, I am dealing with a budget of more than $100m and am answerable to the 40,000 residents of Dubbo for every decision I make.
I also like to mountain bike and I am riding across the Simpson Desert in October this year. This is a 580km trek over five days with 10 hours in the saddle each day ending up at the Birdsville pub. As you can imagine, my bike has lots of gadgets and toys associated with it.
Do you like gadgets?
I think my previous answers provide a suitable answer for this one. A gadget a day keeps the boredom at bay. I find myself using gadgets in all facets of life. It might be using gadgets in relation to my mountain bike adventures or using a video camera and editing software to record the childrens' activities. I am continually fascinated and excited by what technology can do.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Older! I never had a burning ambition to be a train driver or work in a specific area. I always wanted to do things in a flexible, fun way and had strong ideas on the best way to do things, which led me to creating an environment where I could control that.
What is your biggest ambition?
I want to make an important difference in the IT world with the skills and experience I have gained over the years. I like to pioneer and innovate.