Newly appointed national sales director of Dimension Data, Christopher Long, has a wide range of experience in the IT industry, from programming to setting up online organisations. He spoke to MATTHEW SAINSBURY about why he decided to join the integrator and some of the pain points in the industry.
What was your first job?
My first job after university was with a company called Accenture in its graduate recruitment program. My first ever job was slinging newspapers for a newsagent.
What did you do at university?
I did a degree in economics majoring in accounting and a degree in science majoring in computers and statistics.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I did a good industry apprenticeship with Accenture, where I started out in programming and at a very low level, then moved through to looking at user requirements and doing some analysis work, then started to supervise some people, and managing projects and then selling work. From the services perspective, I learnt to understand everything about how our systems and solutions come together, right though to working with customers and understanding what they want. I left there and had a number of services and sales management roles, and ended up running a sales team.
What do you like about your current job?
I’m in my fifth week. I chose to join because I like Dimension Data’s position in the industry – it’s well regarded by the customers and vendors and is of a significant size with enough of a sales team and technical expertise that we can do some really interesting things. There’s a great culture in the organisation – there’s not a lot of finger pointing, the focus is all about identifying the challenges and finding solutions. We’ve got that breadth of expertise and solutions to pick the right offering for the customer.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
I think it’s mixed. I was a founder of a company during the Internet boom – five of us started Q Strategies and it grew to 160 people, so that was a great individual achievement. Other times I’ve worked closely with companies and customers to bring products into the market very early. Sometimes when you get on the bleeding edge of technology when it works it can be a great achievement. Also with Q Strategies, as we grew to 160 staff, the whole market disappeared. We had to decline, and we managed that process as best we could, taking people’s circumstances into account. Just getting out alive was an achievement.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
One of the challenges I find in the IT industry is that when I did a computing science degree, it was heavily engineering focused, so a lot of the people out in customer world don’t really have a big grounding in technology. Some of them think all this technology is kind of the same and for some of them, it’s not going to make a big difference to the business. Customers struggle to spend the time to understand why a technology is important, and the IT industry always has everyone else with their hand up saying ‘I’ve got one of those too’. Then someone comes out with some great technology and everyone else responds with “I’ve got something like that”. Some of it can be really good and proven and robust, and others can be doing something vaguely similar but without the quality. Without that investigation time, customers can lose the opportunity to get a good solution.