D2K managing director, Matthew Drane, was nominated twice for Young Australian of the Year and built a successful business in Queensland – all by the time he was 33. He speaks to MATTHEW SAINSBURY about being a regional player and his ambitions to do something significant for the broader community.
What was your first job?
My first paid job was working in Kmart’s photo lab. I was 15, and my sister worked on the service desk at the supermarket, so she got me the job. I joke about it now, but doing the extra courses on colour theory and colour development stuff was useful – when it came to selling laser printers and cameras, I already had that extra knowledge.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
If somebody is good at playing a piano, they’re given a piano and their natural skill comes out. I don’t think IT is a natural skill as such, but it just seemed to be something I got fairly easily. Like every other kid my age, I got a Commodore 64, and enjoyed the Atari 2600, and developed an interest for computing from there. As time went on, we were lucky enough to afford things like the Osborne computer, which developed my interest, and which was nurtured though high school. I did my associate diploma in business study at TAFE, but it was more focused on mainframes, not what personal computing could do for people, and I didn’t want to be a part of it. So I went and became a nurse before coming back into IT.
What do you like about your current job?
I like the challenge. I can make a difference in what I do and influence what is going on. I get to travel a lot more than I used to, so I get to see what’s going on and try and bring that back sooner. I like that I’ve got the freedom to go out and see new technologies and bring them back, and actually influence things that are happening. I’ve gained more credibility now – people now listen, rather than just see me as a young punk in IT, which was probably the hardest thing in the early days.
What is the biggest achievement of your career to date?
I honestly don’t know, I don’t think I’ve done it yet – my biggest achievement is still to come.
What would be your biggest ambition then?
I’d like to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s going to benefit a lot of people and revolutionise something. One of the companies I own is a software development company that writes agricultural software, and I really think that’s my big thing. I’ve been a Young Australian of the Year finalist two times running, which is an achievement. We’ve got seven offices, and lots of staff that have a great time and do a great job. With the agricultural software, the goal is to get to the point where we give one licence free to every farm in Australia – that’s the kind of thing that I’m looking for as my big achievement.
We also do a lot of community stuff and have just announced community leave, where staff get one day per year off to go and do an activity such as Clean Up Australia day.
What was it like being nominated for Young Australian of the Year?
At the time, I was young and out of my depth – I think I grew up overnight as a result of it. Being a regional player, you’re not as savvy around the submission, the application, or promoting yourself. The nomination was great, but the best thing to come from it was I got to meet a network of successful young business people. I still associate with a lot of those people today.