Blue through and through

Blue through and through

IBM ANZ director of global business partners, Andrew Baker, talks to ARN

He might have joined IBM almost accidentally but Andrew Baker has been there for nearly 25 years. When he isn't overseeing Big Blue's partner strategies, he barracks for the blues of Carlton or plays the blues in a band. ARN's BRIAN CORRIGAN can see a pattern emerging.

What was your first ever job?

Selling records at Blackburn Square in Melbourne and answering questions like 'How does that one go?'. After that I also worked as a theatre orderly for six months at a Melbourne hospital, which was a bit of fun.

How did you end up in the IT industry?

I was completing an applied physics degree, of all things, and had recently been onsite at a large industrial company in Melbourne. I decided I would be bored as a physicist and saw an IBM advertisement on the wall at university targeted at people who were looking for something a little bit different so I wandered along and the rest is history. It was almost accidental.

Tell us about your journey through the ranks.

I started as a sales trainee within the General Systems Division. In today's language you would call it SMB and I became a sales rep for 3-4 years before finding my way into sales management. Somewhere around that time IBM had a bit of a shake-up and I found myself as the account executive for BHP for a few years. I was then manager of the process and industry units, general manager of the systems group, general manager of business partners, general manager of SMB and now general manager of business partners again. During nearly all of that time I have been pretty close to SMB and business partners. In fact, on my second day I was taken down to meet a newly formed business partner called Synergy.

What do you like about your current job?

Everything. I like working with our partners because they are straight and true, I like having the opportunity to work across our product lines, and I get the opportunity to go to interesting places now and then. It's just a great job and it logically draws on my background.

What are the most interesting places you've been to?

Probably Florence but that's a long time ago now. I particularly remember the train ride from Milan, which was very nice but we won't go into that.

What has been the biggest achievement of your career?

Getting into IBM.

What do you dislike most about the industry?

Like any industry it has its back-biting and political intrigue but it's always new and refreshing. I'm almost a 25-year veteran with IBM but the scenery is changing constantly. I can't really think of anything I don't like about IT.

What do you do when you're not at work?

I have three children that are almost grown up - they are 18,16 and 13 years old. I play the piano but I 'play by ear' more than anything else. I play blues verging on jazz but not real jazz because it's too obscure. It's a different sort of language. I play guitar too and I'm learning the drums.

Have you played in bands over the years?

Yes, I'm playing in a band now - it's called Compost, which is a bit embarrassing but in line with our musical qualities. It's an old man's blues, rock revival. The band's been going for about 10 years but I got into it in 2003 because the bass player's wife knew my wife. Our kids ride horses together. She came in one day and saw me holding a guitar - not playing it, holding it. That got me an audition so you can see what level we are talking about. It's all very impromptu and we don't do anything that might start to make it look like work.

Do you like gadgets?

Sort of. I'm never the first but I eventually get onto them. I'm probably a bit of a gadget guy in my own way. I've got nine guitars at home now and like neat little things like digital tuners. Collecting guitars is a much easier hobby in the US because they have excellent product at a lower cost. You just need to take an old case with you.

So how do you buy them? Are you often on eBay?

No, generally I buy them new although I did get one old Partocaster, which is like a [Fender] Stratocaster made from bits. I've got six electric and three acoustic although there's no rationale behind that. I think we all like collecting something and guitars is mine.

Are you a sports fan?

Yes I try to follow Carlton but that's very painful at the moment. I've been following them since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Go the Mighty Blues. Still, the draft pick system the AFL has picked up from grid iron in the US should see Carlton flooded with good players for next season. It's almost like rotational success, which isn't very real world.

Have you seen many Carlton premierships over the years?

The one I remember most is skating at St Moritz [Switzerland] when I was 10 years old. That was the club's most famous modern victory. I saw the one where Wayne Harms hit the ball back into play, which would have been about 1977. I've seen them all on TV.

What's your biggest ambition?

To play again at The Espy, which is a big music venue in Melbourne. Compost played there once because of connections. We had 300 people there although I must be honest and admit most of them were invited. It's just big boys' fun.

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