Express Data managing director, Ross Cochrane, is well known and respected for his 13 years at the distributor’s helm. But his heritage in the IT industry was established well before he accepted the post from company co-founder, Jon Shein.
From his early days programming mainframes, through to management roles at vendors and resellers, Cochrane has built a wealth of knowledge around the IT industry’s successes and failures, which continues to serve him well today. It’s also part of why he was nominated by his peers to be inducted into the ARN Hall of Fame in 2009.
“The thing I would say is that this industry has been a fantastic industry to be in,” he said. Cochrane was first introduced to IT during his engineering degree at university, where he diversified into programming.
“In those days it was all done on mainframes – you had punch cards and sent those off to get compiled and you’d hang around waiting for the program to come out of the datacentre because there was no access, other than going into the computer room and getting a compilation,”Cochrane said. “I ended up getting a job with another datacentre as a computer operator. It was the early days of the IT industry and I really enjoyed it. “
Cochrane’s next role was as a mainframe programmer writing cobalt programs for payroll and accounting systems.
“It is interesting going from that application area and almost in a way, I’m back at the application level because I now look at how we use the technology for our business, “he said.
Over time, Cochrane moved into the mini-computer space and worked for Digital, looking at faxes and proprietary operating systems, before embracing systems engineering. But while the technical side had its own rewards, it was moving into a more commercial role and then management that gave Cochrane the opportunity to really shine.
Cochrane was initially involved in sales engagement, then general management roles in the 1980s. He worked with GJ Coles for example, prior to its merger into Coles Myer, and was on-hand to see the transition from paper invoices and hand-written purchase orders to automated IT.
His next engagement was in vendor land, before a long stint with resellers including Hi-Soft and BCA IT.
“Hi-Soft was spectacularly successful in terms of growth, then ran into the normal pains of a young company growing too fast, “Cochrane recalled. “It went into receivership when there was around 400 staff, so it was quite a big business. I then went to BCA and set-up the NSW branch, as they’d only been based in Melbourne, so I have experienced the reseller side.”
A role with Toshiba was promptly followed by his current position at Express Data. Cochrane flagged several key milestones during his IT career, but said the transition into sales management was a life-changing moment.