CA channel director, Klasie Holtzhausen, had aspirations of running a farm and studied agriculture in South Africa before switching to IT and Australia. He caught up with NADIA CAMERON to talk about horses, market strategies and career achievements.
What was your first job?
I was a professional horse trainer. After school, I went and trained horses for a year back home in South Africa. I’m a country boy and grew up on a farm, so I love that lifestyle. I also studied agriculture and got my agriculture degree. But I realised it’s a difficult and uncertain future, so I went through the traditional army thing, which you have to do in South Africa for two years.
How did you progress into IT?
I got to a crossroads where I had to make a decision. I could go with my heart and train horses, and not know what the future holds – I didn’t have a farm to fall back onto, so it was always going to be tough. Or I could go in another direction where there was more opportunity for success. So I went into IT. Through a friend of a friend, I was able to get a role as a mainframe operator.
When did you relocate to Australia?
I’ve been here 10 years. In South Africa, I went through various roles and didn’t stay in operations for very long. I moved into a systems programming role on the networking side for a large mining group. Then I went to a large retail company doing the same thing, before moving to more technical specialist and server desktop and LAN management environments. I became a manager managing that type of environment for a retail customer, then decided I needed to go into vendor land. I took a sales role with EDS selling outsourcing agreements and managing customers, which helped me to migrate into account management. That was my last role in South Africa. I came to Australia without a job, not knowing what the future held. I’d never been here before, but thought rugby, sunshine and barbeques – how bad can it be?
When I arrived, I took a contract as a manager at the Department of Education and Training, where I was responsible for email and that infrastructure for all schools in NSW. I did that for about a year before joining IBM as a sales person selling services. Then I moved into the channel for six-and-a-half years, in the software area. From there, an opportunity came up with CA.
What you like about the current job?
I’m very passionate about the channel and I think it’s a very exciting place to be. I don’t think it’s the easiest job, as you have to manage both ways – back up internally, as well as partners outside the organisation. I enjoy that challenge and building up skills and experience in the channel. I also enjoy the variety. There are different channel models and routes to market and each has its own value proposition and characteristics. It’s not the same thing every day and you have to think about achieving the best outcomes each time. It’s a very broad role.
In the current economic climate, do you think more vendors are interested in engaging with the channel?
Absolutely. Under the leadership of our new country manager, [Brenton Smith] I’ve seen that as well. We are integral in our route to market in this region and we’re getting a lot more involved.
What do you dislike about IT?
At a personal level, it’s the long hours and the strain that has on the family. Outside of that, it’s always changing and it’s quite interesting.
What’s the biggest achievement of your career to date?
There’s been a few – the first sale I made for EDS was in a new division and broke new ground for the company as well as me. Getting that over the line was quite a challenge and I had to be creative and responsive. That first sale was a big achievement. Locally, when I joined IBM’s services organisation, I sold a solution to a German company in Germany that had local representation, but we did a lot of video conferencing. That was a good achievement.
What’s your main focus this year?
It’s really to provide that acute focus on our customers and partners. It’s a time to strengthen relationships. As we work together through this challenging climate, we’ll be looking to fill the gaps and take advantages of opportunities in the local market. We had some strong results globally in our previous quarter, so we want to make sure we capture the opportunity across our product portfolio to ensure we have the same level of success in Australia. Managed services is a key area of growth for us – it gives us that reach into a market that we don’t always have or address with point solutions. Our partners help achieve that end-to-end capability. It’s an interesting area because partners are like your customers as well.
What’s the next big thing in IT?
Everyone has already spoken about virtualisation, cloud computing, and those kinds of things, but the thing I’m keeping my eye on is where we will end up with mobile phones. What things will we be able to do with those devices in the next 12-18 months? We started with text and now we’re running all types of applications on mobile phones. It’ll be interesting to see what that does to standard infrastructure going forward. Everyone is going to want a slice of the pie.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
The problem is there’s not a lot of time away from work, but I like to play golf. I enjoy spending time with my family, going to the beach or boating. I’m also keen on property investment and spend some time on that. I’m also a sport tragic – I watch a lot of sport as there’s so much available all year round.
Do you still go for South Africa?
Yes, it’s especially hard after the recent experience with the cricket – I’ve taken a lot over the 10 years I’ve been in Australia, so it’s payback time.
Do you like gadgets?
I like them but I never get the time to set them up properly or use all the features. But I enjoy having the latest and greatest.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was a child I thought it would be cool to be a doctor. Then I wanted to be a farmer. However, here I am today in a completely different environment. I did have an acreage in South Africa and farmed a sheep stud and did some shows. I enjoyed it as a hobby.