After more than three decades in the IT industry, NTT Australia CEO Steve Nola will be officially retiring in September 2020. A replacement is yet to be named.
Speaking with ARN, Nola said he was looking forward to slowing down and spending more time exploring other interests outside of IT, such as the non-profit sector, giving back to the business community through mentoring young entrepreneurs and indulging in his side project in wood working.
"I've been blessed to be part of very successfully businesses, albeit the same organisation that has morphed itself over the years from the original ComTech days to Dimension Data and NTT, it's been an incredible journey for us and the journey of the industry as well," Nola said.
"It's gone through its ebbs and flows from the early days of the networking era, distributed computing, the Internet and now the digital world. I've been very blessed and fortunate to be part of an industry that has evolved and changed.
"I leave with a bit of sadness, there's a part of it that I will miss, but at the same time, I want to focus on doing something else and to be successful, you've got to commit more than 100 per cent to the job and I feel that I've done that. It's come at a big sacrifice at a personal level, but I think it's a great opportunity to spend more time with the family," he added. "The timing for me feels good right now, and I leave a very successful business in place."
Nola also shared one of the most valuable lessons learnt during his career is that it is ultimately about people and building the right culture and a dynamic workforce, rather the technology itself.
"It's not just about the tech, it's about the people. Working with great products is not the sole reason why you're successful," he said. "We learnt that lesson very early on and today, I still talk about the values that make companies successful, and rarely talk about what we do and how we do it, you'll learn about that on the job."
The transition between businesses has been some of the highlights for Nola, who kicked off his career as an electrical engineering graduate deploying Australia’s first fibre optic networks in the mid-1980s for Telecom (now Telstra) in Sydney and Melbourne, and joined Australian networking distribution company ComTech Communications in 1989 where he was responsible for setting up the Victorian office.
In 1996, the company was split into three businesses: ComTech Communications as a systems integrator, Express Data for IT distribution; and ComTech Education Services (now DDLS) providing IT training and certification.
That also coincided with the international investment in ComTech from South African-based Dimension Data, and the acquisition by ComTech of the Melbourne-based national systems integrator Datacraft.
Nola stayed with the ComTech brand, overseeing the transition of the Victorian branch to a systems integration model and incorporating the Datacraft team and operations into the business.
With the acquisition and rebranding of ComTech to Dimension Data, in 2001 Nola was promoted to CEO, successfully rebuilding Dimension Data’s Australian business after the dot-com crash and setting the region on a high-growth trajectory over the next ten years.
During this period, Dimension Data Australia successfully transitioned from an IT reseller and systems integrator into an IT services firm. In July 2010, NTT made its US$3.2 billion play to buy Dimension Data, eventually merging the businesses eight years later.
There have been many industry accolades along the way including Nola's induction into the ARN Hall of Fame in recognition of his pioneering work and entrepreneurial flair in the Australian ICT industry.
In 2011, Nola took on a new role as global CEO for the Dimension Data Cloud Solutions business unit, establishing the group’s cloud services infrastructure and capabilities, as well as managing the integration of a number of acquired local and international businesses including OpSource, BlueFire and Netforce.
During those years, Nola oversaw significant investment, including the establishment of 17 globally managed cloud data centre facilities.
He returned to the top Australian role in 2016 subsequently taking up the CEO role for NTT Australia when NTT Group brought 31 companies and brands together in October 2019 to form the new operating company.
NTT global CEO Jason Goodall said Nola has shown incredible insight and leadership over many years, as well as sustaining growth and profitability.
“Today, our Australian region contributes more than US$1.2 billion to the NTT business with over 3000 employees," Goodall said." Aside from business success, one of Steve’s proudest achievements was the establishment of the Heads, Hearts and Hands corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability program in Australia in 2004, and seeing this program adopted globally.
"He has always believed in giving back and leaving the world in a better place, and the difference this program has made to the lives of our employees, the local community and broader society over many years will be one of his lasting legacies.
“Steve has not just left an indelible mark on our company – he has been one of the driving forces that has shaped our business, in terms of our industry reputation, strategy and innovation. We thank Steve for his determination, commitment, drive and friendship over an extraordinary career and wish him and his family health and happiness as he starts his new chapter," he added.