Forging through the IT services scrum

What was your first job?
Tax auditor and inspector. I was studying for an accounting degree and the local Commissioner of Tax, who was a good Rugby patron, suggested I take up a role at the NZ Inland Revenue Department (IRD), which allowed me to have a full-time job, continue my study and have time to train and play rugby.

How did you end up in the IT industry?
During a working holiday I met a bunch of people from Digital Equipment Corporate (DEC) in Sydney - all seemed to be having a great time. By coincidence, when I returned to NZ, the option of a role as finance controller at DEC NZ came up and I could not resist. I always had aspirations to manage a business and the DEC country manager suggested a stint in sales was a prerequisite. I also wanted to move to Australia, so I managed to convince Les Hayman (now SAP) to give me a go in Melbourne as a sales trainee.

How did you progress to where you are today?
DEC was a company that invested in training and mentoring and I had six really great sales years there - including three years as a sales manager. Much of my experience came from the quality of management and the variety of roles I held, including industry marketing, channel and alliance management and Victorian/Tasmanian general manager.

My big break, which I almost rejected, was to take on DEC consulting, integration and outsourcing services for A/NZ. The on-the-job learning was intense. The subsequent Compaq takeover of DEC provided additional opportunities, including the integration of the Tandem Services team. I ended up in an Asia-Pacific role running Compaq services and building up frequent flyer miles.

After 17 years with DEC/Compaq, I joined Nortel as vice-president of global services Asia-Pacific. I left after two years and took a 12-month break. I decided I wanted more autonomy, far less travel and a role where I could seriously help shape the business strategy, direction and results. A UXC director and former client from MITS suggested I meet UXC chairman, Geoff Lord. I liked the concept he had started to build and thought I could learn a lot from him. With my experience, I knew I could add a lot of value and help build something unique. After three-and-a-half years, we are well on the way.

What do you like about your current job?
Working with high quality people and the opportunity to lead and influence them as we shape the businesses. Seeing people grow in confidence, make great decisions, do special things for our staff, and have the passion and maturity to be accountable for the business, gives me the greatest satisfaction. Another rewarding aspect is working on the strategy of how we build UXC into the leading "independent" Australian services company in the IT area. It is down to a small group of us to decide what goes on and that autonomy is very empowering.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?
I think turning around DEC's SI and outsourcing from a major loss-making business with low staff morale and clients with litigation claims at the ready, into a profit table and well respected business. It also taught me the value of seeking advice and not trying to do it all yourself.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
I dislike the over reliance on technology: it should be about the business and how technology helps people in the business. Also, the lack of respect for the outstanding skills and innovation that sits in small entrepreneurial businesses in Australia. Many of these, including some of UXC's operating companies, have people with exceptional talent and commitment who have developed businesses with products and services that many companies could only dream of.

What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
There are new ways to present services and products and the boundaries that define business are becoming less limiting through technology. Software-asa-service, mobility, unified and virtual communications are examples.

What is the main focus for your company this year?
We have five must-win battles for the next 18 months. One of these is to become a lot stronger in the Employer of Choice standing and to this end we have made a number of investments. Another is to continue building greater capability to offer greater value and integrated solutions, especially to the ERP market.

What do you do when you are not at work?
To be frank, I am poor at the work/life balance stuff. I enjoy spending time with my family, but do not do this anywhere near enough, especially with my kids. I am a great sports watcher and enjoy most sports. My wife and I have really taken to soccer and have seen Melbourne Victory (chairman being one Geoff Lord) have a great year. It was a big high for us given our alignment to the club.

Do you like gadgets?
I love them but have no aptitude for them at all, so I have learnt not to waste the money.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
I loved my rugby and cricket and played at a senior level in both codes in NZ. I really wanted to play cricket for NZ, and partly achieved this at schoolboy level when I toured Australia in 1972. I also played senior rugby and played for Auckland in the under 20-21s but never thought I could make the All Blacks - although two of my school team mates did. I regret, given my Italian background, not having a stint in Italy as rugby was an emerging sport.

What is your biggest ambition?
I want to see my family happy and my kids achieve their potential. At a business level, I want to build something unique, that has spirit, is respected for quality and achievement, is a leader in its field and is one where people are involved and work in teams. Lastly, I want to get better at the art of a balanced life.

Company Snapshot

• UXC was founded in its current form in 2002. It is listed on the ASX with a market cap of $330 million.
• Two core business streams: Field and Environmental services, and Business Solutions/IT.
• Subsidiary brands include RedRock Consulting, Oxygen, Eclipse, QSP, Integ, C4, XSI, Planpower, Dytech, UXC Performance Management, GQ-AAS, BCT, Opticon and UXC Management Consulting.
• Now has 1200 staff in Business Solutions Group.