EDITORIAL: Riders on the storm

EDITORIAL: Riders on the storm

My guess is that not many of us choose the career we end up in. It's different if you did a traditional qualification like law or medicine and continued through to the appropriate profession, but most of us involved with IT seem to have arrived by default.

How people got to where they are is always an interesting conversation for me. It's rare when the excitement or magnetism of technology is the main reason - the journey is usually circuitous with a few failures and some disillusionment along the way.

The range of backgrounds in the channel is extraordinary, both in terms of education and experience. Some accountants, colourful musicians, spurious librarians, lots of bored ex-teachers (like me), the odd lawyer.

The fascinating thing is that there aren't many business degrees. In fact, particularly at the smaller reseller level, business training and experience appears to be a hindrance. How often have you heard about channel colleagues who have all the technical expertise in the world but can't make the most of their businesses and get into trouble?

The other problem is that resellers' customers are often very business-savvy and want to be sold to in ROI terms rather than technology benefits.

Interestingly, when channel executives are asked what training they want, more often than not it is marketing and sales rather than product and technical information.

But we arrived here nevertheless, and most of us have had some pretty glorious times in the IT industry. I know I've waxed lyrical before about the halcyon days of long lunches, but I also remember the (flash) company cars, the mega-bonuses, the lost weeks at Comdex Las Vegas - the trappings of the IT trade! Those were the good times, when the industry was still "immature" and margins were high enough to sustain its youthful energy. Oh, how times have changed!

Here we are in a new millennium, with the IT industry in trauma, our market erratic, airlines collapsing and the global economy on the edge, and yet we still follow our IT aspirations. Why? Because we are so enormously fortunate to work in an industry that changes the way we live, work, communicate, shop and enjoy ourselves - and because we, as an industry, have grown up. For those of us who need more change, hang on now for the ride of your life.

Beyond the horror of September 2001 is the tempo of the IT channel. In a single month Gateway pulled out of the Australian market, the Tech Pac sale was off, the Nimda worm crashed Web sites and systems around the world and, blow me down, Hewlett-Packard bought Compaq. Within that month's pernicious horror, look at the impact of today's information technology on and post-September 11. As phone systems collapsed, e-mail became the main method of communication. Victims were able to send final messages, survivors were able to reassure loved ones - the Internet was alive with activity.

News and content sites became second only to television as the purveyor of all that was rotten and fearsome. Traffic on the US news sites was unprecedented; frustrated US visitors eventually used Australian and other countries' Web services to see what was happening on their own Eastern seaboard.

But that was just the beginning of the impact of IT. Now our industry is showing its true grunt as companies like Cisco, ADL and Yahoo donate millions of dollars toward rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Here on our own shores, channel champions like Lan Systems are devoting their efforts to ensuring the future of their employees and their partners.

So you see, we did all make the right career choice. The roller coaster just hit a huge dip and we're going up from here eventually - there ain't no other way!

That's business. And that's where your business skills are going to matter the most.

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