A leader that advocated values and reciprocity

A leader that advocated values and reciprocity

The Australian IT industry mourns the loss of Mike Clarkin.

Anecdotes from Steve Chambers

I. There was a guy who had been with Wang Australia since the year dot. He worked in the warehouse and would have no contact with any head office executive. However, once every 6 months he'd go on a bender and around 2 a.m. would ring Mike at home to discus the company's strengths and weaknesses. For over 13 years, twice a year, Mike would take his call and listen to what he had to say. "You know," Mike would say, "I learn more about what's going on in logistics through him than I do through any consultant's report." "Who needs sleep? "You can sleep when you're dead."

II. The Australian leg of 'Live Aid' was going to be cancelled due to the fact that IBM told the organisers that a customised computer system that was needed to input and manage donations phoned in during the telethon, could not be created in the time frame that was imposed. Because I had worked with Bob Geldoff before, his people called me on the Monday to ask if Wang could create a system to do this - plus provide all the data entry and phone operators - in time for a 24-hour telethon that would be nationally covered live by the ABC the following Saturday.

We put a team together to front Clarkin with a way to do it. He had to fly to Boston that weekend so wouldn't be here. He questioned each member of the team as to whether they believed that their area could be done in time. The risk for failure on national TV was enormous, but the thought of doing something so important (and so impossible for IBM) was too much for Mike to resist. "If you all say you can do it, I believe you can...go for it" The rest is history.

The software was written in two days and over a 100 Wang employees from the Sydney office volunteered for those two days without sleep to make the 'Oz For Africa' telethon work. On his return he got us to put together footage of the Wang people working on the project plus footage of the African people who would benefit from Australia's donations. At an annual staff conference Mike tossed out all the Wang corporate motivational videos we had been sent from the US to use, and played the video that followed the employees around during Oz For Africa. "This is who we are" he said. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. How many CEO's could inspire this today?

(The author would like to express special thanks Steve Chambers and Brian Twomey, along with Ray Gibson, Sandy Tischmann and Peter Scott.)

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