Riding high into the New Year

Express Data general manager of sales, Mal Shaw, kicked off his channel career selling multi-user accounting systems for a Sydney reseller. He spoke to ARN about the distributor’s plans for the New Year as well as his love of sailing and cycling.

What was your first job?

I did a milk run close to where I lived.

How did you end up in IT?

I joined the IT industry in 1990. I had a background in sales, computing and small business and got my first job in IT selling multi-user accounting systems to small businesses in Sydney.

Did you study IT?

I studied a bit of computer science, but I also had a background in sales. I worked in hotel management for a few years – there are a few of us at Express Data who have a background in hospitality, and I think it provides a good grounding in customer service.

How did you progress to Express Data?

I worked for resellers for about seven years, then joined Express Data in 1997. I’d worked with Ross [Cochrane, Express Data managing director] in Sydney at BCA Systems previously and went travelling overseas for a year after leaving there. When I came back, I asked Ross to be a referee for me. He said he would as long as I talked to him about a role at Express Data, which I ended up taking. In my previous roles, I’d been a customer of Com Tech’s, so I was already an admirer of the company. I’ve had four roles in my 11 years here – I started as a BDM for Bay Networks products, then moved to NSW state manager. After that, I moved to Victoria and was responsible for Victoria and Tasmania for about five years. I moved into the national sales role about two years ago.

What do you like about your current job?

I enjoy the way we operate, the values we share and the people I work with, who I admire and am inspired by. I have a pretty experienced team too, which makes a big difference.

Is there anything about IT you dislike?

We try to work with selected vendors and resellers and that can be at risk if the product areas we represent are structured with a low barrier to entry. So low barriers to entry is a dislike I have in IT. We search for structures that recognise skills, certification and training and value.

What’s your focus for 2009?

From my perspective, we think our success is about building deeper relationships with our partners. We started with some new partners last year – Hitachi Data Systems is one we announced recently, which takes us into the storage space. We see this as complementing other areas we are working in. We also launched Microsoft Service Provider Licensing Agreement [SPLA] recently and Next IP with Telstra, so we have new things as well.

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Is the economic situation going to change your go-to-market strategy in the New Year?

It’s difficult to predict the New Year. We know what the quarter looks like to the end of December and have a little bit of an idea next quarter. We are seeing a counter-trend, which is related to the decline of the exchange rate since July. One of the impacts is price increases, which has brought orders forward. We still have strong orders in the current environment, but we do think January could be quieter and into the year. We have had a consistent plan we’ve been sticking to over the last few years and will keep to that. We think state and Federal Government spending will increase, so hopefully that will be good for our industry.

What do you see as the next big thing?

There are probably two next big things. One of them is video – we have a big networking business and have been involved in LAN, WAN and the move of telephony onto IP networks over the last few years. The next wave in regard to that is video, which clearly has a high bandwidth requirement. The other one is cloud computing, or subscription-based access to applications and a paradigm shift in the way software is used and delivered. There are two places the channel can play: We think end-users will probably use a mix of application sources and have some on premise applications, while others are provided by a SaaS provider, or they might use applications from several SaaS providers. The channel’s role is to try and deliver integration between on premise for example, with applications or Web services, as well as telephony and collaborationtools. We also think our tier-two channel has a role to play in managing usage and billing via resellers to users.

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

I spend time with my family – we have young kids, and I enjoy spending time with them. I also cycle and have been riding mountain and road bikes for the last seven years. In the last few years, we have done two charity rides through work: Kilometres 4 Kids last year from Sydney to Melbourne; and Kilometres 4 Kids this year which was from Sydney to the Hunter Valley and back.

How did you get into cycling?

Ross got me into road riding and challenged me to the first ride around the bay in Melbourne three years ago, which was about 210km. I used to do a lot of water sports and racing offshore yachts off and on for 15 years. I raced 40-foot yachts out of Sydney to Southport, Cabbage Tree Island, Bird Island and Sydney to Hobart. I was bowman and put all the spinnakers up. I actually got involved because it is a great example of the challenge of team work. When I moved to Melbourne, I wasn’t near the water, so got into mountain bike riding as there are a lot of national parks near where we live.

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Do you like gadgets?

I’m interested in technology, mainly the digital revolution and photos, video and music.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to be an engineer – I spent my younger years dismantling anything, either mechanical or electrical, and failing to reassemble them.

What’s your biggest ambition?

My ambition professionally is to continue to grow and succeed; my ambitions personally are around educating and supporting my kids as they grow up into adults.