Around the world

Around the world

Datacom NSW systems director, Mark McWilliams, has been with the integration and services company for eight years and plays a significant role in its Australian development. He spoke to ARN about his desire for company growth and his ambition to sail around the world


What was your first job?

I was a sales rep for Xerox New Zealand back in the 1980s. It was a good training ground because it was a big international company and a leader in its field at that time.

How did you end up in the IT industry?

I have always had a passion for IT. When I was working for Xerox I was the first guy to actually buy my own computer, put it on a desk and have my own contacts database. I was headhunted by a recruiter who told me about a job going at Wang and asked if I would be interested. I went for it, got it and spent almost 10 years at Wang.

What were you doing at Wang?

I started selling PCs and local area networks, which were new at the time. I then moved to account management.

How did you progress to where you are today?

I moved from Wang into IT recruitment because I knew lots of people. I thought it was something I would be good at but I hated it because it was far too transactional and not strategic enough. One day I visited the director of Datacom in Wellington, New Zealand, who said 'you can't be too happy working in recruitment, I know of you, why don't you work for us?'. So I ended up at Datacom.

In my eight years with the company I've had five different jobs and moved around. I have grown parts of the business that were having some trouble. I was running the sales team to start with in Wellington and then the outsourcing team. I was then given the task of running our New Zealand Post customer account, which was our biggest client, but also our biggest non-Datacom shareholder. I had the task of taking the 25 contracts we had with them and merging those into one mega contract. We did that in 2005 and it would have been the third biggest outsourcing deal in New Zealand for Datacom. I came over to Australia to head up the NSW systems team in 2007.

What do you like about your current job?

In Datacom we get a lot of autonomy. We don't have to report back to guys offshore or wait for direction. We can operate in our own local market and make decisions that are relevant. This year we will probably be about a $60 million business and essentially I get to run that.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

It's probably getting the New Zealand Post agreement signed. While it was highly gratifying, it was hard work. In the last nine months I have been in Australia, I have also been delighted with the changes that have been made. We have doubled staff numbers and revenue, we've got a great facility here and we made the Hansen Technologies acquisition in August. We are still winning good business and we have been recipients of some of our competitor's downfalls in terms of getting good people. Datacom has had a 42 per cent revenue jump in the last seven months through acquisition and new client growth.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?

It's probably the margin squeeze. People expect more and more for less and less. Being able to deliver the level of service our clients want when our raw materials, such as resources and people, are costing more and more, is really putting the squeeze on.

What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?

The whole green initiative is becoming more prevalent. One tender we responded to the other day had a whole section asking about what our greenhouse gas emissions were and if we were doing anything to offset carbon emissions. I think there is a lot more seriousness around the environmental factors. I think we are also going to see more around centralisation and virtualisation.

What is the main focus for Datacom this year?

It's based around growth. We have cut through the last year with acquisitions, so for the systems business, it will be about stabilising the acquisition of Hansen Technologies. We've got offices in SA, Queensland and we recently opened up an office in WA, so integrating those operations together and pushing commonality of systems and processes is also important.

Are there more acquisitions on the cards this year?

Who knows? We will take it opportunity by opportunity.

What do you do when you are not at work?

I love to sail and have taught lots of Datacom people how to sail. We won the Line 7 Open Keelboat regatta race last March with the Datacom crew and I have managed to get us into the NSW corporate games as well.

How long have you been into sailing?

Since about 1993. I mainly compete in the Wellington Keelboat sailing competitions.

Do you like gadgets?

I love gadgets. My most recent purchase was a high-definition DVD recorder/player hard disk drive.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

When I was heading into university I wanted to be a computer programmer. I did computer science, physics and mathematics at the Victoria University of Wellington. In my second year I had a change of heart and decided I really wanted to focus on business, selling and helping people find solutions using technology.

What is your biggest ambition?

I think sailing around the world is quite cool and I would like to do it. I have known a few people that have done it and kind of put me off, but it's still in the back of my mind. On a work basis I would like to run the whole place one day. I am pretty happy with what I am doing now; it is a substantial organisation with a couple of hundred people. You get to work closely with customers too and I love that.

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