What is your job background and history?
I was at Telkom as a technician and I studied through them in South Africa. Telkom was the local telco, like Telstra is in Australia. I was there for a short while and then went over to Dimension Data in South Africa. I was with the company from 1987 until around 1991, at which point I left and struck out on my own for a while – I made a bit of an entrepreneurial decision to go on my own for a couple of years and bought and sold a few businesses. From there I went over to Cisco, where I stayed for about six years, and was the channel director running the South Africa and Africa region. I then moved over to Microsoft to oversee its Africa enterprise partners and sales accounts managers before I moved back to Dimension Data and to Australia.
What made you decide to go into the IT industry?
It was a preference I had towards the technical side of things and wanting to get closer to the latest technologies. I didn’t really want to get my hands down to circuit boards, but I wanted to get into the latest developments so I started in some computer programming, then moved more into the technical aspects. And from there once you get into it, you can’t get out of it, it moves so fast that you tend to just stay in it.
What do you like about your current job?
It’s always changing – everything is an opportunity and every day I’m meeting new customers and working with some of our vendors on strategic builds and opportunities, which is always exciting. I think having the opportunity to meet customers that want to evolve and grow their networks and solutions and taking new technologies to a different level is really exciting.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
There’s so many little things – overall, I would say it’s growing individuals to a level where they can start taking ownership, especially within some of the challenging regions that I’ve worked in. Growing some of the African regions was a huge challenge, because when I was in Africa there was nothing there – in some places there weren’t even telephone lines. We were putting in infrastructure and running some of the biggest networks in Africa. It is just an amazing achievement to see people who don’t even understand how to use a telephone adopting complex technologies that they have never used before.
What other major differences are there between working in Africa to here?
There is a lot more knowledge behind technology here. A lot of the guys are more knowledgeable about rolling technology out because they’re so used to it and see it more regularly. While South Africa is less of a challenge in comparison to the rest of Africa, in Africa it is a different story entirely. It’s a place of complete opposites – you’ll be walking on the road and see potholes and at the same time you’ll see a fancy Mercedes or BMW convertible and you’ll wonder how they drive on roads that are so badly designed. Another example – they’ve got buildings that are done in marble and the most beautiful stone, yet the power goes off every few minutes and you get stuck in the lifts. And the same applies to the infrastructure: They don’t have the same infrastructure as we would have in Australia and some of the things we take for granted aren’t available there. For example, ADSL cable to your home in South Africa has only just started happening in the past few years, and in the rest of Africa it’s not even heard of. So when you compare where the guys are and how they’ve adopted some of the technologies, a lot of it is running and running well.