Many people would be lost for words when presented with an award in recognition of their contribution to the industry; Phil Cameron certainly isn’t one of them.
When he took to the stage recently at the ARN IT Industry Awards after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Cameron immediately started poking fun at former employers and colleagues including Toshiba and EMC’s David Henderson, who was once his boss many years ago. There’s a fine line between cheeky charm and arrogance but Cameron knows where it is and you can’t help but suspect that this has played a major role in furthering his career.
He has had several mentors in the industry but it’s his father he remembers first when asked who gave him the most important advice about business.
“My father always told me to treat everybody the same, whether it’s somebody on a shop floor or the managing director of an organisation, because they all have the same emotions,” Cameron said. “That has helped me to talk to senior people without getting too flustered about it and relate well to everybody else within the organisation. He also told me learning to read upside down and writing so that nobody knows what it says would be valuable skills!
“I’ve learned over the years that you need to be able to celebrate your successes – I’ve tried to have that style throughout my career and I think it’s worked out. I try to be humble and treat people how I like to be treated.”
Anybody want to buy a toaster?
Cameron started his IT career in 1980 after 18 months working for an advertising and marketing organisation in Melbourne. His father, who was sales director of Philips Electronics Australia, was relocated back to Sydney and, on returning to the city of his birth, a young Cameron saw a sales clerk job advertised at Toshiba.
“I asked my father what Toshiba did and he said ‘I think they sell toasters and TVs’. I applied for the job and got it,” Cameron said.
After a year as a sales clerk, he was promoted into a rep’s role selling TVs, videos, microwaves and toasters to retailers that have since disappeared from the landscape including Waltons, Homecrafts and Norman Ross. Toshiba’s Information Systems Division (ISD) didn’t even exist at the time and Cameron spent his first few years with the company selling consumer products. In 1985 the company released its first notebooks, or portable computers as they were known at the time, and Cameron joined ISD as a sales rep.