Legends of Tech: Episode #20
A weekly podcast where Chris Georgellis, on the Customer Development Team, interviews people across the tech industry. From veterans, to hall of famers, day to day tech industry people as well up and comers. Get to know them as individuals, find out what drives them, how they got into tech, and what they see now.
Good morning, good evening, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to episode 20 of Legends of Tech.
I can't believe it's been 20 episodes so far. Today, we've got an absolute legend of the industries, one of the godfathers of IT.
He's a country boy from Coonabarabran.
They call him the Craig Bellamy of IT without the spitting in the box.
He's a great mentor, a great leader and just an absolute champion bloke.
Please welcome Mark Adams. Thank you, Chris. Thank you very much. I like the Craig Bellamy reference.
Of course, the fact that probably 80% of the people watching this don't probably even know who Craig Bellamy is.
You and I do, so that's amazing.
Thank you for that, Chris. Yeah, I have been around a bit. It's fair to say.
A bit of grey in the beard. A bit of grey in the beard, but yeah, look, the Craig Bellamy thing, I think, you know, when we look at super coaches, I see you as a super coach within our industry, mate.
But, you know, I'd just like to see you in a box, though, just cheering on a sales team or even, you know, a horse that you've backed in the Melbourne Cup yesterday.
So, that would be great. Look, I have enough during moments of anger to kick a chair when I'm on my own, Chris.
But, yeah, look, I think probably like yourself, mate, I think I'm pretty passionate about who I work for and I think I'm pretty passionate around what I do.
And I think I'm pretty passionate about who I work with. So, that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it?
No, of course not, mate. But, look, thanks for your time today, mate, and I really appreciate it.
I've been looking forward to this segment for quite some time now.
It's good to have you live on Cloudflare TV.
But before we kick off, how did you get into the tech sector? Yeah, it's a good question, Chris, and it's a good place to start.
So, I think you mentioned in your intro I'm from a place called Coonabarabin.
For those of you that don't know where that is, I'll zero down.
You leave Sydney, you drive five and a half hours northwest, and you'll hit Coonabarabin.
And if you're smart, you'll keep driving.
So, look, I grew up there on a farm, on a sheep farm, actually. And the one thing I think that most sheep farming kids all share in common is a hatred of sheep.
And so the moment I could, while I loved the farm and I've got a great family and my family's still all back there, I got out of the farm and came to Sydney to look for a job, actually.
Originally went for the Air Force. The fact that I'm quite colourblind didn't really help me get a job there.
That's what I tell people. I think there are a few other reasons why I wasn't successful in going to the Air Force.
I think probably referencing Tom Cruise and my love of Top Gun didn't help either too much, and asking him during the interview process how much beach volleyball will we be playing if I'm successful in joining.
But I was unsuccessful, and I was left with, to be quite frank, not much of an idea around what to do, and fell into a computer company working in the warehouse.
And that was about 1988, 89, I think, from memory, Chris, and then was given the option very early in the piece, about three months into the job, whether I wanted to move into sales or whether I wanted to move into the technical side.
And this was basically an organisation that did PCs, and they're actually a company that grew massively through what I'd call the Clone Wars.
That's not a reference to Star Wars. That was literally at that period when you had massive expansion of PCs.
We had the IBMs and we had the Compaqs, but we had this massive influx of Taiwanese clone PCs coming into Australia, and this organisation had built a business on that.
And believe it or not, I moved into the technical side, and the technical side was effectively building PCs to specs, and that sort of started my career from there.
Ironically, on the technical side, which, to be quite frank, still surprises anyone that's ever worked for me or worked with me, I should say that I've got a technical background, but that's how I started by accident, Chris.
And in many ways, excuse me, I think it's fair to say most of us around that period of time, I know a lot of people in the industry roughly around my tenure that have a similar story, that literally joined a computer company because it was a high-growth industry, not because they had necessarily fantastic skills in computers and grew with the market.
So I've been extremely fortunate, in my opinion, reflecting back on how I got my start.
That's fantastic. And I guess growing up, I mean, did you have any, I guess, inclination or passions towards technology?
Chris, once again, in the spirit of not destroying what little career I have left, we did some form of computers in my last year of school.
I think they were on Apricots was the brand of computers.
I think it was an Apricot, believe it or not, but I think the budget did not stretch to Apple.
So I think they were Apricot, like an Apple clone, I think, maybe.
It could be corrected on that one. And I think we were doing basic programming and I failed it.
The only subject I ever failed at school was a computer-related subject, Chris.
So I had no real understanding of PCs, had no real understanding of the industry.
So it wasn't like I wish I could tell you all that I left school with a vision and a passion to pursue this industry, but I didn't, actually.
And, you know, when you're on a farm in Coonabarabin and the options you have for work experience are you take a week off from school and just work on the farm or you work at the local mechanic shop, then you don't always have a huge exposure.
It's probably changed now, but in those days, you didn't have a huge exposure to what options were available to you, right?
Yeah, and I understand.
And fun fact for you, my computer studies teacher actually said to me, Chris, whatever you do, do not pursue a technology career.
It's not for you. And then, you know, 20 odd years later, here we are today.
So it is interesting, right? I know.
Well, when I fell into the job, the first company I worked for, I thought I should do a TAFE course.
So I started the TAFE course and I only had a week into it.
And when you're so colourblind, you can't read the bands on a resistor, Chris, then you realise that, you know, you're not destined to do that.
So, but look, I love the technical side.
I do the technical side. We can probably cover it as we step through my history in the industry.
But I was in the technical field for, like yourself.
I mean, we both share a common theme there as well, before we made the move over to sales.
But I was in the technical field for probably the first 15 years of my career in IT and really enjoyed it, to be honest with you.
Probably enjoyed the customer side of it maybe more than the technology per se.
But spent, probably spent the first 15 years of my life focused on that.
And up until probably the last year, would have been convinced that was going to be what I did for my whole career.
Yeah, fair enough. And so you raise a point there that you're actually colourblind.
So what was that like, especially being in a technical role where you had black cables and blue cables and all these different things that you had to plug in?
Did that, I guess, impact you a little bit in terms of how to do that?
I had bigger issues, I think, when it came to being a technician rather than just the colour of cables.
No, look, it didn't affect. Look, it certainly, it was clear that it had I gone, I was always a board-level tech guy, right, as we called it in those days.
I was never a component -level tech guy. And so, you know, and I went from in those days building PCs at a board level and then I quickly went into pre-sales, like yourself, Chris, where it was less around the components but more around the architectural design of what you were trying to do.
But no, look, it was never only an issue.
But if I'd ever gone down to component level, I think it would have been very, very difficult for me because I was proudly third generation of colourblindness.
But yeah, bad enough where it was a real challenge, right? Yeah, I can imagine.
So, Tommy, so you've entered, I guess, the tech sector pre -Internet, let's call it.
Yeah, pre -networking. Yeah, what was it like, I guess, being in that, during the Clone Wars being a technician and I guess the 90s was a pivotal moment for us in terms of our industry.
I guess what were your observations at the time, going through what you went through during that, I guess, during that 10-year period?
Yeah, look, interesting. So you're right, I was, you know, 88, 89.
I'm probably getting my timing wrong, but I was just on the cusp of local area networking coming into Vogue, right?
So when I started, it was still very much around single PCs, running single applications, Lotus 1, 2, 3, and that was kind of what we did.
And there was a real clear demarcation between what customers purchased.
There's probably no different nowadays. You know, the big end of town, because I worked for some large computer organisations as well during that tenure, there was IBM and Compaq and it was an IBM-Compaq war.
When you went down to sort of mid-enterprise and commercial and they were trying to sort of move into the whole PC space, they were the sector that was really, really looking at clones.
So you were already seeing, I think, very early in the piece, Chris, a clear demarcation that's continued right through the whole history that I've been in the industry around, you know, what is purchased and view that from a high end of town is very different to a mid to lower tier.
So that was sort of interesting. Most of our customers that we were selling clones to were brand names but not large organisations.
And when you're getting failure rates of around 50% of the PCs that we were selling were coming back, Chris, you could understand why the big end of town were IBM or Compaq shops.
I then moved to an organisation... Networking sort of emerged, I think, in 1991.
Novell did. And I realised that it looked like it was quite an interesting sector and I jumped from PCs into networking and into Novell and worked for an integrator, in fact, a single supplier of Novell in Australia for a period of time and then spent a couple of years in the networking space when that was emerging, which was also very interesting as well as organisations were moving more to PC-based networking and that sort of had a whole new raft of opportunities and challenges around that.
And I can remember walking into this organisation and we talk now about Ethernet, but I can remember we had GNet and RXNet, I think, and ArcNet and Ethernet.
There were four or five different local topologies at different speeds.
Let's not talk about Token Ring and FDDI and all those other types of land -based infrastructure.
Let's not talk about all the vast array of protocols that were floating around like IPX, SBX and everything else.
So, you know, it was an interesting market because there was no really defined leader around some of the networking space.
There was no real defined dominant protocol from a local area point of view.
And so, you know, interesting times, right?
That's unbelievable. So, you spent 15 years in, I guess, being a techo.
So, what were some of the highlights for you during that, I guess, during that technical tenure for you?
Yeah, it's a good question.
Look, I worked for some really interesting organisations. I got to work on, you know, Novell.
I got to work on the early days of OSI and gossip-compliant protocols, which was interesting for about a year, year and a half.
I got to do a bit of travel and training in Europe around certain areas of technology.
And then I then managed to move into working on Cisco and Cisco technology as well.
So, when I look at sort of over those last 15 years from a technology point of view, it was quite interesting, always predominantly around, you know, networking space.
But yeah, look, I was quite interesting. Worked on some great customers, worked on some great technologies, worked on some technologies that were here today and going tomorrow.
You know, I think probably some of us, for example, remember, though many of us probably don't, there was a period of time when OSI was the protocol that everyone had to standardise on in Australia.
There was a thing called gossip-compliant.
And, you know, there was a view that TCPIP was not the protocol that should be the de facto standard.
And so a whole new protocol was launched globally.
And in federal government or government, you had to show that you were gossip-compliant.
So, I put a few networks into Canberra, for example, that ran a protocol called OSI, where we've got the OSI seven layer stack, right?
There was an OSI protocol floating around. And so we were putting in all these networks to this OSI protocol.
And the funny thing, Chris, is all we're doing is we're putting gateways to convert them back to TCPIP.
So, you know, customers are spending all this money for this protocol and we were just converting it back to IP before it went into, you know, the host and when it went into the edge device or when it went out the network.
So, yeah, lots of interesting customers, lots of interesting technology, right?
That's amazing. Now, you have told me a story once about, I guess, there was a time where you took a customer offline by accident.
I would love to hear about that story and maybe if you could share some pearls of wisdom around that.
I don't think... Well, I think there's a clear outcome of that, which is why I'm in sales now.
Yeah, look, I think it's... I don't think it's sad, but it is probably the story I remember the most about my 15-year tenure.
That and another story I'll get to at the end, which is a serious sort of defining moment for me.
But yeah, look, I put in a large network for a bank, a UK -based bank, and it was for a dealing room.
So, you know, pretty reasonably important environment, you know, reasonably critical transactions.
And network, the hub or the centre of the network was Sydney.
It then went to the UK.
It was a Cisco router. Then it went to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore as well. Everything hubbed back to the network in Sydney.
They were running voiceover. It was quite complex.
And then back to the UK. Live dealing room, currency, reasonably important.
And I'd spent about six months getting this working. We had some challenges with it.
It was operational and I was in there. It was fully functional.
Customer was happy. Response times were good. Through sheer bad luck, it had been handed over to HP and HP running OpenView was monitoring it 24 hours, 24 by seven.
It was a critical. So you can all see where this is going, right?
And it's a legitimate and true story. So anyway, handover's happening and I'm handing the environment over to a young technician who I work closely with.
And I guess to a degree I'd mentored up until this point.
And after this, I think he chose someone else to help his career and his advance.
Anyway, cut a long story short.
We're in the computer room, which you had to access through security. And I'm running through the environment and I'm explaining what you're doing.
And the old Cisco equipment, believe it or not, they're off on switch was a large toggle switch.
Like you get with the old driving lights. Who puts a toggle switch on a major router?
I don't know. But that was the industrial design that Cisco had in those days.
So as I'm running down the back of the route, I'm going, yeah, that's the interface to Japan.
That's to Hong Kong. And that's that. I hit the switch of the router and turned the router off.
Chris, you know what those AGS pluses are like.
I'm really my age now. Like they power down quick. They don't power up quick.
Powering up of an AGS plus is a bit like a jet engine firing up. There's an awful lot of noise.
It's a reasonably long process before you get full thrust, right? So it's not an instant turn on.
It powers up. It's kind of reasonably long. So I may have said a few words when it went down.
And then I had to wait a period of time and I reloaded it to load up.
True story, this young guy who I was mentoring, I turned around, he'd left.
He'd done a runner, which was the smart thing to do. Because I actually, in fairness, during moments of stress, I would have blamed him for doing it because that's the right thing to do.
He would have had to take blame for that.
So I turned it back on and just, what do you do? There's no getting around.
And I remember walking out of the computer room and just standing at the director of IT's desk because everything was lost.
All connections go out, right? And then there's a bit of a murmur on the floor.
And then the phone calls started happening. Because you can imagine what HP in their Knox saw.
It just would have been like a Christmas tree lighting up.
It would have been red everywhere, right? So I literally fell on my sword.
I admitted to it before. On a serious note, I didn't turn around and say, oh, someone kicked the plug out, honestly.
Which is always my style as a technical person, was not to make mistakes.
We all do that. But I was always very conscious of the importance around ownership of a problem, around customer relationships, around being professional.
And as much as I took a dealing room down, I didn't get sacked and they didn't kick me off site.
They were pretty unhappy, as they should have been.
It's a great story, not because I enjoy having business impact.
It is kind of an interesting one. But the way I handled that meant that the relationship we had with the customer continued and the way that I was viewed inside that customer continued to be well -respected, though I don't think they were overly happy with me.
But yeah, not a highlight of me. Not long after that, Chris, I moved into becoming a pre-sales engineer.
It seems like there are defining moments in my life where I realised that maybe being on the tools isn't as good.
Then I moved into pre-sales, which is the natural progression that a lot of technical people do when they ultimately decide they want to take a path into sales.
So then I moved into pre-sales not long after that, which is why I was doing a handover, and then really then became even more focused on architectural designs and network designs and pitching to customers and developing relationships with customers, all those things that pre -sales people do, which I really, really enjoyed.
And I love that, actually. And for me, I moved from Cray, where I was an engineer, and I did pre-sales there.
Then I moved to a company called 3Com as a pre -sales engineer, effectively, from memory, and really loved that aspect of the technical role, which I think kind of started me thinking maybe sales is a better option for me.
And what I did certainly highlighted that maybe sales is a better option for me.
Yeah, fair enough. Hey, we've actually got a question in from one of our – he's a weekly member that joins in, tunes in every week, mate.
So I'm just going to play his message.
Jason from San Francisco. Hey, this is Jason calling from San Francisco.
Great session. Mark, here's my question for you. You've mentioned a bunch of the protocols and standards that you've worked with.
Are there any trends you've seen as far as figuring out ahead of time which standard, which protocol is going to wind up becoming the widely adopted standard?
Thanks. Thanks, Jason. Legendary work. Yeah, look, my only observation on all of this is the customer ultimately decides.
I think when we look at where trends ultimately go, we as vendors, we as suppliers, we're always the creators of new concepts.
We're the creators of new technology. But ultimately, it's the customer adoption generally in the high end, in my opinion, that determines where a technology goes.
Once again, if you looked at it, we had IPX – probably the two dominant protocols when I was sort of doing a lot of the networking stuff was IP and IPX, right?
There are others around, but they were the two, right? And there was always this massive battle who was going to win out between those two.
And then OSI came on top because they thought, well, those two, we can't work it out.
That'll be the saviour.
It was more closely aligned to IP. But ultimately, the customer decides.
So we can generate something that looks really nice on paper, which the OSI protocol did.
But ultimately, if customers don't want to go down that path, if customers want to continue with what they have invested from a technology point of view, then my belief is that will win ultimately out.
The customer to me is still the most important driver around adoption of technology and the success of technology, whether it be protocols or other concepts such as cloud, et cetera, which is good.
The lesson there for us is the more time we spend educating customers, the more time we spend talking to customers, the more time we get to understand what our customers want, what our customers need, and what our customers invest in, then the better position we are as salespeople, I think, around delivering a solution and influencing the outcome, if that makes sense.
Thanks for the question, Jason.
And Mark, thanks for your words of wisdom around that. What's your view on that, Chris?
I think similar things, right? So definitely customer will lead. There's a lot of technology options for customers, but I think it's the ones that make sense in a business context.
And to your point, it's the high end of town that will look at something.
Like I went through the converge comms era where we went from TDM to IP.
And conceptually, you look at that and go, you know what? That makes a lot of sense.
Why am I running two sets of infrastructure? I've got this IP network.
Why don't I start to run other, I guess, you know, call it workloads from there?
And I think, you know, it takes a few to make a leap to do it. And it takes organizations as well.
At the time, Cisco was a dominant player in that space. But it's just an evolution.
I think to your point, it's, you know, as long as it's solving a problem or delivering a better outcome.
Now, you could argue that going from TDM to IP, from a voice point of view, you actually went backwards from a features and functionality point of view.
We both know you did, right? But in terms of operationally and converging the two systems together and setting a platform where the network is the key and you start to overlay applications, you go, well, that makes a lot of sense long-term.
So, you know, I think, you know, if you look at that, cloud definitely was another one.
You know, how can we spin up applications or devices like that rather than me standing up infrastructure and getting those outage windows?
So it's got to solve a problem. It's got to create a business there.
But ultimately, to your point, I think the customer's got to go, you know what, I think that's the part that I want to go.
But also it's the technicians that get educated the best will be the ones that push that message out into the industry.
And, you know, we're seeing that now. Yeah, I think the whole converge is a really interesting one, Chris, because you're right.
It was, you know, it was not a new technology.
There were reasons why the technology on paper around, you know, voice over IP, if we go back to its very early concept or terminology, was not as robust as a traditional voice network in parallel, right?
But the features weren't there.
The reliability wasn't there, et cetera. But commercially, it made sense. And for customers, they could understand the vision and they could understand how they could get value and benefit from it, right?
But we needed the customers to agree and we needed the customers to decide ultimately what technology path they were going to go, right?
Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And you could argue now it's happening in the networking security space.
So, you know, there's definitely a merger of the two worlds.
You've got the, you know, the on-premise infrastructure, then you've got cloud providers like Cloudflare and, you know, some of the other ones that are out there.
You know, there's a merging of the stacks that are coming together.
Customers are trying to work out, do I just subscribe to a service?
Do I still deploy infrastructure? Do I do everything in between? So, you know, I think the networking and security space in my opinion has been the last leap to, you know, call it virtualize or software-defined, whatever the word you want to call.
We've seen applications move. We've seen, you know, compute and storage move.
The network's always been that piece, that tricky piece around how do we move it to the next level of consumption?
Security, you could argue, is a service that sits on top of a network.
And even us now, you know, we're having conversations with a lot of enterprise organizations where they still want the comfort of having, I guess, perimeter firewalls or infrastructure because they do things that maybe a cloud service can't do right at this point in time.
But the writing's on the wall.
Definitely as capacity grows and as our networks get better and stronger and we start to catch up on these services, ultimately customers will be subscribing to those services.
So it's just an evolution, I think. Yeah, look, I guess my view always is in the 30 -odd years that I've been in the industry, the one thing that has never changed is, you know, you have to win the hearts and minds of your customers, whether they be around you as an organization or whether they be around the technology that you're selling.
And I know that sounds really obvious, but in some cases, for many organizations, it's not.
You have to be with a customer and you have to be prepared to spend the time because it takes time in many ways to convince a customer around a new technology or a new adoption or a new vendor.
I guess my view has always been, you know, the more time you spend with that customer, whether they're yours or not, then the greater success you're going to have, right?
And sometimes that just takes time. And we all know in the current climate, it's a challenging time around, you know, getting some of that access.
And so for all of us, I think, you know, in many ways it's a new chapter in my career because, you know, we're all dealing now with something that we've never dealt with before, which is how do you, I say, how do you get above that white noise?
How do you get above the, you know, all the information that's being flooded now to the customer?
Because, you know, the communication paths into customers have been so restricted now in the new world that, you know, how do we somehow deal with customers, get our message across, but somehow stand out when we're one of 30 or 40 or 50 types of emails or webinar invites that customers are getting daily, right?
So that's a challenge we face today, but we can't lose sight of that core intent, which is how do you get in front of customers and how do you get them, you know, to influence the outcome, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, yeah, you're spot on.
And I think if you look at, especially with emerging technologies and, you know, I'll pick on our geography as, you know, being Australian New Zealand, you know, it's always who else has done it within our industries?
We have a lot of people that don't want to make that first leap or I'm already using one technology, why should I use someone else's?
So, you know, if I look at the pioneers of the industry, you know, you look at the Cisco's, the HP's, the IBM's, but now like over the last probably 10 years, the Amazon's, the Azure, like the Microsoft's and, you know, some of those technologies that are coming through, where you would have thought, like if I look at voice, for example, you wouldn't have thought that Microsoft would have been a voice player 10 years after Cisco had dominated that industry.
No. And then you wouldn't have thought Zoom would have become, you know, the number one video player in the market 10 years ago either.
So it's just interesting to see just the dynamics and you could argue, you know, circumstances of this year has probably forced adoption of certain technologies, but, you know, I guess that's why I love our sector.
Yeah, it's interesting.
You just know it's going to happen. I can remember sitting down, because I had 10 years at Cisco, right?
So that after, you know, at 3Com and then I spent about 10 years at Cisco, 1997 to 2007, which is an amazing, amazing time.
And probably, you know, Cisco's a great organisation, still is, but that was a really interesting time around Cisco and their growth in technologies and I was blessed to be there, right?
But I can remember meeting Microsoft at one stage in the early days when they were just starting to dip their toe into voice and we were sort of talking to them and not really at Cisco, that was, and not quite trying to work out whether they're a partner or a competitor, you know, so yeah, interesting times.
And of course, you know, we saw what happened there, right?
And how they went into that market. We see how much voice has changed now compared to where it was then too, right?
Yeah, exactly. It's really interesting. And I think, I guess, in technology wars become very, I guess, close to, you know, I guess the consultants and the architects hearts as well.
So I remember for me personally, I was a Cisco voice guy in all my training and certification and then we saw the Microsoft crew come through and saying, oh, let's just do voice now.
And, you know, we tore that to bits, right?
We poked every single hole in it and, you know, we were pushing customers hard not to go down that path because number one, we knew the technology back to front.
It's effectively, you're indoctrinated through that technology because you've spent money and hours to become certified in a particular area.
So it becomes a bit of a religious war in a sense where you're part of this cult.
And when, you know, when there's a new cult coming in, you've got an army of people that are going to defend that as much as we can and similar to what we're going through now in the security world too.
Yeah, it shows the power of certs, doesn't it?
It's funny you sort of say that because, you know, I sort of mentioned, you know, my great story of taking down a network but somehow wedged it into I'm so good at customer management that I survived it, right?
It's not true, but kind of the point I was trying to make.
And that was a defining moment. The other one for me was to your point when I was actually at 3Com, I think.
And, you know, I was, once again, I'm going to show my age, but I look old and so I should show my age.
So I was, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I was designated the, I think the token ring and maybe the FTDI expert at 3Com, right?
Let's not even go there, right?
And I can, and because FTDI was 100 meg and that was the fastest speed out there in those days when you couldn't get any more than 10 meg out of Ethernet, I think.
And so I was the skilled person and I've done training on it. I've spent some time up in Asia in helping there, I think, in some building some networks and I was the resident expert, SAS and all that stuff, right?
And then 100 meg Ethernet came out, I remember, or something like that.
And I remember sitting, you know, with my other, with the other pre-sales guys and they were getting really passionate and really excited about how this new high-speed technology, you know, was going to fundamentally change the way that local area networks are built, which it did, by the way.
And I can remember thinking, right, so I've just invested a year of my energy learning technology that's been kicked out overnight, which it was, you know, who was going to roll out FTDI, you know, seven times the cost of 100 meg Ethernet, right?
And I can remember just thinking seriously, right?
Like every, maybe it's time I, you know, relied less on, you know, the technology aspect of getting deep diving and spending maybe more time from the sales point of view.
And that was, to be quite frank, that was a defining moment.
You know, I went into, started to move more into the commercial side and spent less time really on the, and, you know, spent some time in channels and then, you know.
Yeah, so I was actually, I was going to ask you that. So, you know, you said, you know, if people knew you today, they'll think, geez, I wouldn't have known Mark had 15 years, 10 years of tech-o.
Nah, by the way, I said that when I was a tech-o too, but let's not go there.
Yeah, sorry. So, when was the point, I've got a story that I've got, when I became, when I went, you know what?
Enough's enough, you know?
That was it. Honestly, to this day, and I know you talk about- You're sliding to a moment.
Yeah, I know you talk about slide. Honestly, no word of a lie.
And look, and I think it was the, I think it was 3Com announcing the 10 slash 100 switch, or maybe it was the first 100 meg switch or something like that.
It was that. I can honestly remember. I might get the level wrong. Walker Street, I think it was Walker Street.
We're on 3Com level seven in the office with the two other pre-sales guys, Jeff and Rob.
And they were talking about what we're about to launch and me at my desk, and I'm thinking, nah.
And it wasn't long after that, I started to then just subtly change my role, right?
And so I started working more with partners, started going out and doing a lot more road shows, started doing a lot more presenting, started to do a lot more of the commercial aspect in the channel side.
And that was really then how I moved then into Cisco.
So it was a defining moment, Chris. I haven't had many in my career where I've gone, nah, I think I've got to move in a different direction.
And I laugh about my technical prowess or lack of it.
I was okay. I was pretty good. But as I said, I always enjoyed the customer relationship side.
And I think you're probably not that different to be honest with you, Chris, because you and me have known each other for many, many years, right?
When it came to dealing with a customer, I was always trying to build a relationship with them.
I was always trying to make sure that I was professional in the way that I presented.
That was how I drove, what drove me from a career point of view.
And I just realised that maybe I realised it late.
I don't know. I realised it and then I pursued it from there, right?
Fair enough, mate. So that was the moment. So 15 years ago, then you transitioned intentionally into business.
So how did you, I guess, if we fast forward a couple of years, you're at 3Com and then how did you go from 3Com to Cisco?
And I guess what was happening within the industry at that time? Because as we all know, probably 3Com was a dominant player at that point in time.
And then Cisco was, I wouldn't call it emerging, but they were the ones that were up and coming.
So what was that like? The move was easy because we're all in the same building and they're about five floors up.
So the interview process was easy.
I'd make out that I was going down to the basement, but I'd go up five floors.
So I look at a couple of things. The country manager of Cisco had been the country manager of 3Com.
He'd got me into 3Com. He'd been country manager, I think, where I'd been before.
So I had lots of hooks into Cisco personally. If you looked at the way that vendors like 3Com and Cisco had come into Australia and they'd built their business up, they'd come into Australia, then they'd taken a lot of people out of the major systems integrators because they didn't have a big presence in Australia.
So when they developed their presence, they naturally hired people that knew their technology.
So 3Com and Cisco were full of people that knew of me, that all knew me quite closely.
So the networking of people helped me get in.
Yeah, interesting times. When I joined 3Com, I think I had a choice of both organisations, 3Com and Cisco.
And 3Com, you know, sometimes you can make decisions, Chris, that aren't right.
And sometimes, you know, that don't always work out.
And I thought 3Com at that stage was, even though smaller in numbers of people, was bigger from market cap point of view.
And I think they were bigger than Cisco in revenue.
And over three years, my two and a half years there, that completely changed.
Not due to me, for the record. Where, you know, Cisco just smashed it.
And that was during the time when you had 3Com, Bay or Nortel, maybe Bay, I think, and Cisco.
And Cisco was only in routers and they made the transition into switches, which was the heartland of 3Com's business.
Once again, what was the defining moment for me as well?
I remember at 3Com, we had some really great products, some really great high-end, very powerful chassis-based, you know, high-concentrated switches, right?
Perfect for the large enterprise market. And Cisco then launched theirs.
And I can remember, we're all quite excited because from a technology point of view, theirs wasn't as good as ours.
And we did things on back planes that they didn't do and yada, yada, yada.
And I remember all of us getting really excited and saying, ha ha, Cisco's just launched their switch and it's crap and it'll never go anywhere.
And then three months later, that won most of enterprise.
And it just, go back to the original point. We had, I think we had a better technology and we had better options for the customers, but Cisco was just very, very good at being engaged with customers, driving the agenda, understanding customers and shaping their vision and being very clear around what value they added beyond just the technology.
You know, what they added around their support, what they added around, you know, their people on the street and all those other values, right?
They were great at setting a vision. And so in the space of, I think in a space of a year, almost launching into that space, Chris, that adjacent market, which, you know, Cisco was always very good.
You know, we're here, let's find an adjacent market to grow.
They did it with switching and they did it with voice.
It became clear. They just owned that market very, very quickly.
So I jumped across to Cisco, which was really bizarre to move five floors up.
Literally it was five floors up and then to be in an organisation that I'd sort of been a part of trying to compete with for two and a half years.
It was really, and just to see just the cultural difference was amazing, right?
So, mate, so talk about your transition. So being at 3Com, you get a job at Cisco.
So what was that? What was that ride like as you joined? Like that would have been, what year did you actually make that transition?
97 I joined.
Yep. And I joined in the channel group as a channel account, a two-tier channel account manager.
And I covered, so we were building our channel. So our job was to find non-Cisco partners.
We'd just launched the distribution model and our job, three or four of us, our jobs were to go out and sign up two-tier partners in through distribution.
So I had, we laugh about it, but I covered between Parramatta Road and Pacific Highway.
There's three of us, right? I covered that belt. And someone else covered Pacific Highway up the coast.
And we had someone that covered the Parramatta Road down or something like that.
So we literally did it like that. Because how else do you do it?
We were on the road. So I did that. And it was a couple of years of great fun, building up partners, dealing with channel.
Cisco had, in those days, not a great reputation from a channel brand point of view.
They weren't always clear around direct versus channel.
So you dealt, I went into this not hostile environments, Chris, but very quickly in a commercial point of view, entered environments where customers or partners were sometimes a bit upset with you because of bad history.
And so, yeah, it was really good times, but challenging times.
And we built a business from pretty well ground zero, worked with distribution.
Yeah, it was good times, right? I mean, I kind of say this regularly about Cisco and Cisco was a great place.
And I've worked at some other places, including where I am today.
They're amazing, by the way. Cisco wasn't, and hopefully will not be the last amazing organisation I've worked for.
It's not. But during that period at Cisco, Cisco made average people good, good people, great, and great people, fantastic.
Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, and so, yeah.
And so, you know, it's that sort of high tide, right? And so that's what they did better than anyone else is that you came in as a, as I was a good, a good, a good operator.
I think I was a good operator with good history and some good basic foundation.
And they made me quite good at what I did. And I advanced to the organisation as a lot of people did.
I grew with the organisation. And in the end, you know, as you know, Chris was, got to a point of the sales director there for a couple of years at Cisco, you know, running a team of 50 or 60 people, whatever it was in the end.
I can't quite remember. And some pretty big targets, but yeah.
Yeah. Fun times. Yeah. So what was it like? So Cisco held the title of the world's richest company in the world.
And you were there. For a day. For a day.
Driving up the ramp at North Sydney into the car park and came on the ABC news that Cisco for that period had the largest market cap in the world.
I think it was 24 hours.
I'm not sure who that surpassed and then who took over after that, but yeah, for a period of 24, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. Look, someone once said when the taxi driver gives you advice to buy a stock, get out of the stock.
And at that stage, yeah, you could get in a taxi.
And if you said it, if you said that you worked for Cisco in the taxi, then he would give you guidance on why you should be buying their stock and probably knew more about their results than you did.
Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. So what was it like, I guess, as an organisation to, I guess, to be cramped like to have that, I mean, it would have just, did it create a frenzy within the, I guess, within the workplace?
Was it, was, you know, I'm sure there would have been some, you know, I wouldn't say party time, but it would have been a massive achievement for, for an organisation to hit that mark.
Look, I think so. You know, it's, it's interesting because there's, there's two, there's sort of two camps.
I think there's two things there, right? There's two parts.
I think of that organisation that are interesting. One is the growth of, of the stock as an organisation.
What does that do inside the organisation? Cause there are some really powerful things that that does.
And there are some potentially some negative things depending on how it's handled.
And then, and I think more importantly, there was just the growth of the organisation and the growth of numbers and hitting numbers and the growth of large deals that I think was probably for, for the most of us, probably more exciting.
And I say that because, you know, there were people that were inside the business that, that had joined 10 years before you.
And obviously on paper, they're worth a lot of money. and that sometimes became too much.
The sum of these people became too much of the, the conversation that they would have about the organisation.
But for me, for people like me, I was probably less concerned around that.
So there were people that had made tremendous wealth through joining Cisco.
And of course there were some challenges that became the nature of the conversation and how they judged working at Cisco, which I didn't, what I loved was.
And it's a fine line. The confidence of the organisation, Chris.
Yeah. So it was a pretty aggressive sales culture. To say the least, it was pretty aggressive around the need for you to make your number, the expectation to make your number.
You know, we committed weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, every week.
So very regimented on the numbers and what was expected of us as sales people and as sales managers and sales directors.
And there was an awful lot of focus, but you never felt like you're being set up to fail.
You never felt that you were given a number you couldn't achieve. And no one ever spoke in that organisation about hitting a hundred percent.
People always spoke around one 20 to one 30.
And so I think the psyche of that organisation during that period was, was pretty amazing, but though, you know, they're growing it, you know, 25, 30%, probably more every year.
You know, we could, we used to do a list of our customers in enterprise and we could name on one hand, two hands, maybe across all of enterprise sector customers that didn't have the Cisco equipment.
So it was, it was, I think they say, don't they say beyond 60% market shares dominance?
Well, you know, Cisco was probably at 90, right? Yeah. I mean, especially here in Ains, it had like a non unnatural 90% market share at one point, which is unbelievable.
So how did you transition from, you know, techo now you've gone into pre-sales.
So how did you then ultimately become a sales director? What was the, what was the path that you took and how did you actually get there?
Channels and then into channels management and then into sales management and then sales management into sales director was the path over about five years.
I grew, went really quick inside the organization and probably sometimes on reflection, when you're a sales director of a couple of hundred million dollar business at 30, 38, maybe 37, probably think a bit young in hindsight.
Now, when you look back, I don't think I was that worldly for one of a better term.
I think there's a thing that comes with age and that's a thing called wisdom.
I didn't have a lot of it.
And all I knew was the Cisco way. And so the progression was really, really quick.
Chris had a fantastic training platform to get you there.
You know, the moment you became any form of leadership, then there was a huge amount of very strong training to get you to that level.
But yeah, it was a quick, quick advancement probably over five years, five to six years, I think.
So I was a sales director for a couple of years.
So that was a natural progression, which was a bit unusual, you know, but yeah, I guess, I guess in some ways I was reasonably successful at what I did there.
That's fantastic. So I guess you, as a person, were you always inclined on the business side?
Like, is that, was that your natural position or did you have to work hard to really develop yourself into that particular space?
No, I think I had to develop that, I think the toughest, if I look back and talk about one of the toughest, toughest, toughest things I had to do around that transition from technical to sales, and then into leadership.
When I reflect back on the bits that I struggled the most with technical to sales channels, doesn't really matter.
You're still trying to, it was about, you had to become proactive.
So in the day in the life of the, of a SC or a technical person, my diary was most times owned by someone else.
80% of my day or my week was mapped out by someone else telling me that I needed to be over at customer X or customer Y mostly.
Right. The biggest challenge for me was then going into roles where if I wasn't proactive, my diary would be empty.
And that's a real hard mindset to get over.
And I struggled, I struggled with that. You know, my first six months at Cisco were harder than the next nine and a half years at Cisco, because, you know you had to get to that mentality that, you know, if my diary is not mapped out, if I'm not the one that's setting appointments, if I'm not the one that's deciding where I go, then I'm not going to be successful.
That was, I think the hardest transition I made between those career steps.
When I first went into leadership, the biggest challenge was how do you then lead with people that were your peers?
And that was a challenge obviously, but once you get over that, then the other leadership stuff was, you know, just through experience.
And being, being a young leader, you know, 37, 38 at the time, I'm sure there would have been people in your team that were much older than you.
How did that, how was that?
How did you deal with that? Because, you know, we've seen a lot of like, especially now in these days, we've got like four generations working at one time.
I guess your time, you know, you've come through a pretty, you know, young leader.
Did you have older people within your team that were your peers that you had to manage?
And was that a challenge for you? Yeah, look, it was a challenge. And there were a couple that were very challenging, but, but challenging, not because of me being 37, but that was just the nature of, of who they were.
So they were challenging for everybody.
But yeah, look, it was a challenge. Look, I always felt that, look, I, my strategy then, which was by no means, when I think about it now, that'd be quite Frank.
I don't think it's ever changed. Chris. Cause you know, once again, you and me work closely together at different stages.
So I probably use this philosophy at stages as well as I'm a big believer that if you've got to manage, if you've got six or seven or 10 people that you manage or manage, I identified a couple that were critical to me that were the most senior that the people that the team listened to that could help me shape the business.
And then I worked closer with them and that wasn't picking favorites.
I didn't let them get away with it.
The other guys did, but there were clearly shapers inside your business that had a desire to make an impact on the team.
And so my view has always been identify those people and then work with them because ultimately they are, you know, your most powerful assets to shape and drive the time.
You know, if you've got one individual that's not, that doesn't like the fact that you're younger than them, but you've got a couple of senior people that are working closely with you around shaping the team though, they'll remove that as an obstacle.
And I've just applied that logic everywhere.
I've gone, I picked the people that, you know, really are the people that have it have share a similar desire to you to drive change and work with them.
Does that make sense? Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's definitely, it's a good way of looking at it as well.
I mean, it's definitely, look, it's the way you look without talking about our history.
It's the way you and me have worked together before.
Yeah. Yeah. You're spot on. I don't think people get, and you know, I'm just looking at it from, you know, people that make these career changes or they get promoted into these roles.
You know, I always, one of those ones I've always worked on the youngest in my family, got two older brothers.
So I've always been a natural person to work with older people.
That's just been me, but there's a lot of people that come into these positions and they sort of freak out because I don't feel a senior as the other person, or you may get one or two people that just think cause they're older and they're more senior that, you know, who's this young person that's going to do that.
So it's, it's interesting to get your perspective on it.
Cause I think a lot of people may not make that transition because they don't feel like they're either old enough or experienced enough to take on a position like that.
So I think it's important to think of it in that way where it's all about finding the right people and building something that's going to help you drive, I guess, an outcome ultimately.
Look, I was really fortunate, you know, and I certainly did more than Cisco, but it's an interesting 10 years when you look at multiple changes and challenges and everything else.
Cause there was luck because during that, during that 10 years of Cisco, I also experienced the dip of Cisco, right?
So it wasn't all growth. It was also the recorrection that occurred in the marketplace and some inherent challenges that went with that.
But, you know, I was fortunate there to manage a very senior team that knew what they were doing, that were exceptionally talented around the sales point of view and relationship building.
And so why are you going to get in the way of that? Your job is to facilitate that.
If you've got a team that are very skilled, then you don't get in the way you work at how you can make them more successful and have them more outbound.
That's different. If you're managing a team of people that might need more mentoring around the craft of selling.
So great, a great team to manage when they're better salespeople than you'll ever be.
So, you know, you don't, you don't tell them how to, how to build relations.
You don't tell them how to get the PO.
I kind of know that. So you have to work out how you make sure that they are supported in the business to be effective, which is what I did.
And I think that was a good strategy.
Right. And then of course I went to UXC after Cisco, which is probably, I will say for, you know, it says a lot, I have a good friend in the industry that has always said to me, if you can find a place to work at where you work with good people that you like, that you trust, then that's 80% of what you'll ever need in a job.
Yeah. And, and UXC, which is where, you know, I met, I still think people that I'm probably the closest to in the industry where I met you, Chris was UXC, which to me to this day, we're full of very, just very nice people, you know, very professional, but genuinely good people with a good soul and a good spirit, you know, where, you know, with real, with a desire to, you know, make good of a really tough environment, which it was in that time.
And, and so, you know, I will still say that UXC while Cisco was great around its growth, UXC was just a really nice place to work with really nice people.
Yeah. That's great. And I guess you, you won't know that until you experienced the two, I guess, two sides of the coin.
Yeah. A lot of people don't know, and I guess until you have those experiences, you got, you got enough to benchmark it off.
Now, a little birdie tells me that this is not your first live TV performance.
No, we had a bit of a chat about that.
It's a great, you want me to tell the story? I'd love to, I'd love to hear about it because I didn't even know until today that you had a, you know, you were a presenter and a live television.
Well, I think it's a great story, not because it talks about, you know, how wonderfully talented I am, but it's a really interesting concept about what they did and why they did it.
So for those of you in Australia, if you, we all know that when we go to the local pub, there's the TV in the corner and it's generally got the horses or the dish lickers, greyhounds racing and sky.
I think it's sky is the broadcast feed in the early days before we had we had wonderful, wonderful environments like you and me are on today provided by an exceptional organisation known as Cloudflare.
There wasn't always a lot of options around getting different types of media out to your customers and partners.
And so Cisco for a period of time used to hire pubs, certain pubs scattered throughout Australia, not every pub, but certain pubs where, you know, North Sydney or maybe Millicent's point or down in, you know, it's probably somewhere in Melbourne and they would then for, for money and a fee take over the sky feed.
And for an hour, while customers had a chicken still in seven beers, then they would pump out a feed on the sky TV.
And then, and that was a great way of getting out.
And so I was, I was asked to, and it was all live, right? This wasn't pretty tight.
This was live. So I went to a studio sky skewed studio, the Northern beaches as I think I was probably, probably 98, maybe 99 and stood in front of a TV proper studio with a teleprompter.
And I launched Cisco's first in Australia. I was the person who launched Cisco's first 10 slash a hundred stackable switch at, on this sort of sky channel feed.
So yeah, it's not the first time I've been on this type of format, not the first time it was live though.
I can honestly say, which says a fair bit about the wonderful warming host.
I was a lot more stressed then Chris than I am now.
And you know, a young guy with a camera in your face and a proper studio and a teleprompter.
Yeah, look, I I've completely forgotten about it, but it's just showed, you know, I think we're doing some, we are, and we're doing some great stuff around our marketing currently in Australia around, you know, being creative around how we bring customers in, which I think is really working well in a tough environment, but it's a great story around just thinking outside the box.
So, you know, hire some pubs, get a sky fade. I'm not suggesting we do that time and get the message out to your customers.
Right. Mass mass, mass media, right.
Mass market. You never know. Who knows, maybe we could take that flat TV into a pub closest to you.
Maybe. Yeah. We've got a question actually.
So it's a written question. Mark loving the session, mate.
If you had a choice to go back in time, would you switch to sales earlier than you did make?
Thanks to everyone for the question. No, I don't think so.
Look, I don't think so. I could go right back to my first job where they gave me that option.
And now I look, I once again, I up until that defining moment where 50 was killed in a space of one invention, you know, it was a, the technical side was a good fun job, right.
So now I'm, when I reflect back, I've made some career mistakes over the years, but no, I wouldn't, I wouldn't go back and change it.
And, you know, the time was right for me. Right. That's yeah. I guess, you know, and I guess you don't know what you don't know until later on in the track.
Right. So the technical side was great. Yeah. And I think, you know, it would have been, I'm sure at that time it would have been your intuition.
And I guess your gut feel would have helped you make those decisions to make a change.
Look, I think so. Look, I, I, maybe it's luck. Maybe it's good fortune. I think, I think it helps when, you know, lots of people in the industry, there is no doubt.
I've made conscious efforts at different stages, Chris. To either change careers or pursue a technology.
And it's probably served me well. When I look at where I am now in the organisation that I'm in.
And what we take to market. Cause I think it's extremely relevant.
Around customers needs. And I think that's only going to increase.
Over a period of time. And it hasn't been random acts of decisions to get me here.
So clearly I've made some okay decisions. Right. Cause what I will say.
Is. I'm extremely happy with where I am today. And who I work for and the position that I'm in.
And not everyone can say that. And it's very good for me to be able to say that.
I'm happy that I've got the opportunity to say that. After 30 years in the industry.
And so I must've done something right. Right. Brilliant.
Good words of wisdom. My friend. We're close to the hour. It's been a very.
Very quickly. There's a whole bunch of stuff that we haven't covered. So we're going to have to have part two, but before we go.
Any tips for the origin tonight?
Well, Queensland's got no backline. So, unless Mel puts on a jumper, then I'd say that three zip, go the blues.
Go the blues. All right, mate. Well, look, thanks for your time today, mate.
It's been an absolute pleasure. I've learned a lot about, I guess, about you today, and it's, mate, I'm looking forward to another session.
Maybe we can take the old Cisco, take a feed into a pub, and maybe we can run a Legends of Tech, mate.
So, mate, thanks again. Viewers, legends out there in the world of Cloudflare TV, thanks for joining.
Appreciate your time today, and look forward to seeing everyone next week.
See ya's. Thanks, Chris.