Adapting to change

Adapting to change

SAP general manager of SME and indirect sales, Helen Masters, may have left her regional home town of Temora, NSW, a long time ago, but her country directness and ability to adapt has stayed firm. She talks about her love of causing and experiencing change.

What was your first job?>/b>

My very first job out of school was as a proof operator at the Bank of NSW. I’d sit in the back room and code all the cheques and the deposits. Back in the old days, there was a person who would read the cheque and code it, and put it through a coding machine so that it could be validated and pre-entered into the system. It was data entry, but I was good at it so it was fine while I was doing my BA of Economics at Macquarie University parttime. It was a job to fund me because I moved up from the country.

Where exactly?

Temora. It’s south of Wagga Wagga, so right out bush. My family was on the farm for a long time and then moved into the town to run a coffee shop. I did year 11 and 12 and then moved away to go to university. I never looked back – there was no way I was going to stay in that place!

How did you end up in IT?

I did lots of different jobs. I joined a company doing import/export, working in the back office and then got interested in IT because that’s where the new trend was and where the money was. I thought, ‘economics is interesting but it’s certainly not going to earn me any cash’ and accountancy is, well, who the hell wants to be an accountant really? I did a programming course and learnt to become a computer programmer and flipped industries. I became a computer operator at the import/exporter, then joined an IT vendor, Mai Basic Four, in the product division in pre-sales.

Is change something that comes naturally to you?

Yes, I’m a change agent. My hobby, and my husband hates it with a passion, is I buy homes, live in them while we renovate them, and then move on. We used to keep the kids in one school while we moved around. The average length of stay ainany one house was about two years, and it was good fun. Or at least I thought it was good fun!

Have you felt opposition as a woman coming through the IT ranks?

I’m sure it’s there and in the background in some cases, but you win it over and you work it through and prove yourself. Sometimes you need to work a little bit extra and I guess I’m a very direct individual and people find that refreshing. I play my cards very openly and people appreciate that.

Should there be more women in the industry?

Only if they want to be, and deserve to be there. I find women put in the extra effort because they feel the need to but they also bring a lot of competitiveness to the team, which is interesting. They are much more practical than men and can just lock down and focus so much more than men can.

What do you like about your current job?

Being able to bring some of my past into what I do. Also the team I have is sensational. They really work together – it’s the most collaborative team I’ve ever worked with.

What do you dislike the most about the IT industry?

We’ve gone from annual quotas, to quarterly quotas to monthly quotas. But, fortunately, we’re starting to move away from the corporate mentality and it’s coming from the top.

So you’re saying IT is too micro-managed?

Absolutely, but that’s driven from the street. What’s the street value, what’s the profitability, it’s always like that.

What’s the next big thing in the industry?

Intuitiveness. If you want to buy a car, you go to Google and you do searches on that. What we’re starting to see now is execs googling their business data and trying to move away from decisions on gut feeling. What SAP has come up with is a solution for helping execs perform Google-like searches on the desktop. No more gut-feel, that’s way too dangerous in this type of environment. It’s all about transparency.

What is the main focus for your company this year?

Harmonisation and bringing the channel together – there was a bit of stagnancy. We want to help our resellers so if they are an SAP partner, they are seen successfully in the market. We pick up market share from that.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I’ve got two children. My daughter is backpacking, or at least she tells me she’s backpacking through Greece, but I’m getting the bills and she’s not backpacking I can tell you! I’m taking a break at the end of July to go join her.

Do you like gadgets?

Not really, but I lived in Tokyo for 12 months and it was a sensational experience. Everyone had an iPod and we all had a mobile phone including my 11-year old son. The gadgets there were just brilliant. You’d go into the Sony building and there’d be floors of technology. We’ve got a 60-inch TV and we’ve got a home theatre set-up, but I have no idea how to use it. My son comes in and helps me set it up. But I’m setting it up for sale so it’s got to be like that.

Why Tokyo?

I actually took a three-month holiday from CA and resigned while I was over there and thought ‘I’m not going back’.

Where to from here?

I’m not sure. I think retirement in three to five years to Tuscany but I don’t know. I do enjoy working too much and that is my problem.

What is your biggest ambition?

I don’t know to be honest. Moving into SAP has given me some new goals and structures. There are some challenges in setting processes and helping it become a better volume business that is easier to use for the channel. I’d like to be part of that transformation.

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