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Recognising the tipping point

Recognising the tipping point

Interview with Novell vice-president of alliance and channel sales, John Donovan

    Novell Data Systems began life in 1979 as a computer manufacturer and maker of disk operating systems.

    In January 1983, Safeguard Scientifics, a venture capital f rm, reincorporated NDSI as Novell, to design and market software and hardware used for data networks.

    Novell provides enterprise-class solutions and support for proprietary and open source software to over 50,000 enterprises in 43 countries around the globe.

    In 2006, Novell signed a collaboration agreement with Microsoft on Linux and Windows interoperability and support.

What was your first job? My first job outside of doing data entry work for a bank was working after hours for free at Computer Land in Chatswood, North Sydney, doing technical and repair work on computer systems. I did it because I had such a love of working with computers, and I had a friend who worked there who would sneak me in after hours.

How did you progress to where you are today?

I’ve been working in IT for about 25 years, so there have been lots of different diversions. I spent a bit of time working in technical support, physically fixing busted computers, which led me into software support. That led into a sales role in the retail environment, then a sales role in the corporate environment, which led into a marketing and product management role. That got me my start in distribution. From there, I moved to marketing, then to true retail product management – I got a position with Net- Comm for a year before I moved overseas, and ran consumer marketing. I was in the US for a couple of years and joined Symantec, running distribution marketing, and then came back to Australia, where I ran channel sales for Symantec for about 18 months before taking over as general manager for A/NZ operations. In 2003, I took over running channels for Asia-Pacifi c. In 2007 I left, took six months off and started up at Novell about July last year.

What’s the difference between working the channel in Australia and the US?

The US is a very low-cost model. I’ve been doing some research because I’m focusing on developing the value-add in the distribution community for Novell. If you have a look at the US model, they are operating off incremental point distribution, which is fi ne if you have a really broad portfolio, if you’re able to operate on minimal operating costs and if there’s no value-add. In Australia there is a space for broad-based distribution, but increasingly if you look at the services partners are looking for, it’s more around that value-add, and that costs more money. In general, vendors in Australia do have and should have a greater reliance on distribution partners to provide more of the services for them.

What has been the biggest achievement of your career?

I look to the successes I’ve had as a manager of people. Having enjoyed working with people in very diverse groups as well, I’ve tended to populate my teams with people who are vastly different to myself – and I think that’s the testament of a good manager: The ability to recognise what other skills people have that complement what the manager has. I’ve got a massive amount of personal satisfaction from being able to develop a deeper understanding of the mechanics of IT in different cultures across Japan, the South Pacific and the US, and I think it has helped my understanding of general business drivers.


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