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Tallying up the channel

Tallying up the channel

After more than 17 years and two stints with CA, Allan Smith was recently appointed as the software vendor’s vice-president of channel sales, Pacific. He caught up with ARN to talk about his progression into IT, the differences in business culture abroad and getting the most out of life.

What was your first job?

I stacked shelves at Woolworths. My first full-time job was with the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide as a clerk. I was born in England but spent most of my life in Adelaide.

How did you get into IT?

I went into the Commonwealth Bank's IT unit. I spent a couple of years in Darwin in the ordinary bank as a teller and trainer then went into IT. The division was called EDP - electronic data processing - in those days and was a whole different world of shift work. Then I moved to Sydney and ran the disaster recovery centre. A few years after that I moved into vendor land. A few of the senior guys I was working with at the bank moved across to a company called Uccel, which CA later acquired. The product line was related to stuff I was doing at Comm Bank, so one of the guys there asked me to come on-board and support it. Six months after I joined CA as they acquired Uccel. So I had 14 years with the Comm Bank, then took the plunge into a new job only to join someone else six months later.

Have you had much exposure to channel in your roles with CA?

I have in bursts. I was the country manager of Korea for nine months at one point and 99 per cent of business there is channel. There was the added complication that the partners spoke another language. I also spent time in Hong Kong which is another big channel country for CA both for tier-ones and tier-twos. The year in Korea was good because it honed me in terms of communications: It had to be quite clear and unambiguous. The programs were somewhat different in each country - Hong Kong was dramatically different to Korea and the small work I did in China was different again. But on the whole business in Asia is much longer-term focused. In the US there wasn't much channel there, but even in Australia in the direct organisation, we interface with channel partners a lot in enterprise accounts. That model has occasionally been different year to year and it's an interesting challenge to communicate that to partners.

What do you like about your current job?

The variety. Even the different people in my team, and the partners I've met so far, have presented a variety of characters.

What's your biggest achievement to date?

Latterly it's been developing people. Korea was a good achievement for me and for the team there as that was a difficult environment and we had difficult issues to deal with. We brought a good guy on-board after I put together a profile to take to the recruitment agencies and that worked out really well. Under his leadership that business is doing well despite looking difficult for a while. The recruiters told me that in Korea all companies go through cycles like this - other vendors like BMC and Oracle seem to go through it too. Business over there is quite personality based - the figurehead is the key person. For us to avoid that downturn despite having the change of country manager was a good thing.

Do you have any dislikes in the IT industry?

The IT industry is maturing and we're getting more regulated than before. I don't dislike that, but the end effect of that and how it creeps into our processes does take some adaptation from us and our partners.


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