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Legends of Tech

Presented by Raymond Maisano, Stephen Bovis
Originally aired on 

A weekly podcast where Raymond Maisano 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.


Transcript (Beta)

Good morning, good morning everyone, good afternoon to our US friends and good evening in Europe.

I always forget what the Europe time is. Welcome to Legends of Tech this week.

I'm Raymond Maisano hosting my final hosting for this week. We're lucky enough to have with us Stephen Bovis, an old colleague of mine, my old boss.

Stephen Bovis is the Managing Director, Vice President of Hewlett Packard Enterprise for South Pacific.

Always know it's a mouthful remembering South Pacific.

Unfortunately, you don't get to go to Fiji often, is that right? Very rarely.

Yes, I've tried that many times, but it never worked. Yes, I'd be content to actually just make it out of my front yard right now.

So yes, Fiji is a long way from home.

So thank you this morning for joining us, really appreciate it.

The way that I like to start this is just some fast questions. I gave you a heads up there'd be some fast questions, so they are pretty tame.

So let's get going.

Firstly, Coke or Pepsi? Coke. All right, wine or beer? Both. Oh yeah, good answer.

Mustang or Tesla? Mustang. Oh, John Lennon or Paul McCartney? Sorry? John Lennon or Paul McCartney?

John Lennon. Track suits or jeans? Jeans. iPhone or Android?

Android. Oh, Android. And this is my religious question. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. Okay, fair enough. That's the end of my fast questions. It wasn't painful.

Pretty easy. So let's get into it. What got you into tech? Is there a point?

For you where you thought, okay, this is an industry that I want to be in? Or is it something that you had a high school?

Did you have computers? How did it start for you?

Yes, I've actually started a couple of ways. The first thing was a friend of mine was working for Dick Smith Electronics.

And he actually helped get me a job there.

So I did a bit of a part time job working at Dick Smith in the early days.

It was out at their Laguna store. So I lived pretty close to that in New South Wales.

And then when I was in year 11, I decided to do an electronics course. So you know, electronics in those days was, you know, relatively new.

So I did a course after school, it was something like about 20, 20 weeks or so, so about half a year in a couple of hours, every Thursday night.

So I did that. And then when I finished school, I was lucky enough to get a role with the Department of Aviation.

You know, that's what it was called in those days.

These days, it's a combination of Air Services and CASA.

And the government in those days used to do what they would call traineeships or cadetships.

And they would, you know, basically you would spend half your time studying in either a TAFE or university and the other half of your time you'd spend, you know, doing in-house courses with the Department of Aviation and also being stationed at some of the facilities.

So things like airports or receiving stations, so everything that helped aircraft get into the air and get them down safely.

We had core memory and valves, it's changed a lot.

Yeah, I can imagine. And not just from the tech, but the support for it.

So given that, that's actually a really interesting place to look at.

Was there ever a consideration that aviation or that part of the industry was something you wanted to pursue or was it always the tech side?

No, it was, I mean, it was the tech side. You know, so, you know, I worked for them for, I think, about four years.

So, you know, three years, you know, to go through the course and then, you know, a year.

And then I decided to leave the government.

And, you know, and then from there, I moved into private industry.

Okay. All right. So now we're starting to move through into the corporate world.

You started off in a few various places. If I go through your sort of LinkedIn, some various spots, what were the key ones that you did prior to joining Compaq as it was back then?

Yeah, look, I think including Compaq, you know, I was sort of thinking about this.

I've worked for nine full-time companies. So that includes, you know, sort of the government and that's over, you know, what I'd say my 20, you know, 20 sort of eight-year career so far.

And I actually reflected on all those nine companies, seven of them are no longer.

And one of those is, you know, one of those that I started with, which I said is the government.

So it'd be pretty scary if they're no longer.

And then the other one that hasn't gone away is the company that I'm working for now.

So hopefully I don't have that curse on companies that I work for.

Well, it's certainly, well, it's been a long stay at the moment, but let's go back to starting at Compaq.

I mean, Compaq was a very different company before the HP merger, as we know today, which then became Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

You know, Compaq was very much, I think at the time had just acquired digital, is that right?

And sort of putting together a mid-range and the compute sort of coming up from the desktop era.

Is that the time when you started? No, I actually started with digital.

So I was a digital employee for about 18 months before they were acquired by Compaq.

And prior to that, I worked for, the way I got into digital was I worked for a business partner of digital's.

Okay. And so digital from, you know, from digital to Compaq would have been a big shock.

So at that point when that part of the merger happened, you know, first of a couple of mergers for you, was there a consideration that, you know, was there a preference for you, for how the company was going to go?

Was there an idea that actually I'd like the digital pace I joined because I like digital and then the Compaq bit is just, you know, that's not real compute?

Yeah, look, I mean, prior to, you know, prior to joining, you know, digital as an organisation, I've been with, you know, sort of smaller, you know, IT companies.

So, you know, most were relatively small or their footprint, you know, they're either local organisations or they were small global organisations that had, you know, relatively small teams here locally.

So, you know, I was pretty used to, you know, working in a, you know, what I'd say a fairly dynamic sort of environment.

When I moved across to digital, you know, I found that, you know, obviously quite different because the organisation that I worked for prior was very entrepreneurial and, you know, the way that, you know, we, you know, worked and, you know, it was owned by a guy who was, you know, a super entrepreneur.

He had, you know, businesses all over the place and, you know, he used to set them up like a mini franchise and, you know, the only thing is you didn't have to invest in it, but you sort of own the business and the way you would go.

So, when I moved into digital, obviously a lot more structure and a lot more process.

It was a company going through huge amounts of change at that point in time.

So, you know, because, you know, it's sort of heyday as a company, it sort of ran its course in some ways because the market was changing.

When the compact acquisition of digital happened, the compact culture, you know, was one that, you know, I was probably more, you know, sort of, you know, more familiar with, you know, because it was much more fast moving and, you know, a bit more entrepreneurial than, you know, at that point in time what digital had become over the years.

Yeah, it's, you know, interesting to sort of reflect on, you know, so many of the what were seen as the big names of the industry sort of folding through.

At the same time, if I recall, one of my guests from a couple of weeks ago was at Data General, you know, similar sort of thing, you know, digital.

Those big names of that mid-range era was about the timing where they started to fold into other organisations.

So, seeing digital as one of those big names.

I was at BHP at the time and, again, one of my guests as well talked about, you know, how that merge happened and we were a digital customer.

So, you know, very much experienced that transition.

But also... Yeah, sorry. Yeah, but also that was the time where we saw the, you know, the birth of what was happening around, you know, x86 architecture sort of starting to spawn up.

So, was that part of, you know, where, you know, what sort of set the path or direction for you over the next period of time?

Or, if I recall correctly, you were in the storage side of the business at the time, is that right?

Yeah, it actually worked. So, prior to joining, you know, digital, I actually worked for a couple of companies, as I said, a couple gone, you know, sort of bust in that time.

So, I worked for Control Data and I also worked for Memorex Telex.

So, I worked for both of them, one in the technical capacity, one in the sales capacity.

And then the business partner that I was working for, for Digital was, you know, was responsible or we, you know, sort of set up a storage practice as such.

And Digital was one of the suppliers for that storage. We had a bunch of different companies that we were working with, Storage Tech and, you know, Seagate.

So, you know, pretty much what I did there was, you know, everything from, you know, what I call sort of value lines through to, you know, a little bit of volume distribution as well.

So, when I came into Digital, I came in, you know, having a storage background and I came in as a storage sales rep into Digital.

So, coming in from a storage sales rep, you moved into what was product marketing at the time and how was that transition?

Because, you know, if you're sort of looking at where you were beforehand, the product marketing would have been a very new experience.

How did that go? Yeah, look, it wasn't really a new experience because when I was with, you know, the previous company that, you know, before I joined Digital, I was there for about six years.

And, you know, as I said, it was like a startup organization.

So, I was responsible. In fact, I was like employee one for that storage practice, as they called it.

And, you know, my job was to, you know, pretty much build that business from nothing, you know, through.

So, we build it to about the $30 million business before I left the company.

And, you know, it entailed, so my role there really entailed everything.

You know, it was probably my first foray into, you know, general management.

So, you know, doing everything from sales to, you know, business planning, you know, marketing.

So, really all the four Ps in there, as well as, you know, over time leading, you know, a small team that was structured, you know, around that business.


So, when I moved into marketing, you know, from a compact point of view, you know, I'd already, you know, sort of done that aspect of it previously.

Yeah. And then, but you also then go from a little bit entrepreneurial where you're sort of making it up as you go along to a company who's been around and established and has processes and then follow this path while you're trying to be inventive in what is essentially a tech part of the industry that's probably starting to flat line for the storage side.

So, how was that contention? Was that still an area where, okay, I know I can do this, I'm going to, these are the things I'm going to do or what are the opportunities for what's evolving in the tech area?

Is that something that you were looking at at that time?

No, I don't know. I don't know if I necessarily was, you know, I think, you know, I mean, you're, you know, I mean, we see this in the tech industry, right?

It's constantly evolving and changing and, you know, you've got the opportunity to, you know, reinvent yourself, you know.

So, whether that's, you know, a technology set or a portfolio, you just sort of evolve through with it.

So, you know, when I was, you know, doing the storage, you know, at Compaq, you know, over time, you know, I moved into, you know, also doing the server portfolio as well.

So, you know, that was everything and networking as well.

So, in the end, you know, from an infrastructure tech point of view, you know, I was, you know, pretty much transitioning to manage, you know, all of it.

Hmm. So, at what point, so, given I've obviously worked for you for many years and I've known you a long time, you're Mr Analytics.

Where did this come from? How was the analytics side?

That's the engineering background. That's the engineering background.

Right. So, it's clearly a passion. Yeah, I'm not that techie anymore.

I don't know why I have an Android, actually, because it gets me into trouble.

Yeah, sometimes easier than it just works. Right. So, let's start sort of moving through into the Compaq HP merge.

You know, that's a, that's a, I guess, this is the point where I was there as well.

A little bit disruptive because, you know, at the time, if I recall, we all thought that Compaq had a very clear trajectory and then HP came about and what was seen as a merge, but may not have quite been a merge.

How did that transpire for you? Yeah, look, I mean, it was an interesting one, really, because, I mean, again, you know, culturally, and, you know, I think, you know, it's a big thing, the culture of organisations.

So, you know, as I said, I mean, the, you know, Compaq organisation had, you know, very fast-paced, you know, entrepreneurial, you know, sort of culture about it, you know, just get things done.

You know, with digital, there was a lot more structure. When Compaq, when HP, you know, quite, you know, Compaq, I found that, you know, just a, you know, a little bit more structure came back into the, you know, the way things were done, you know.

So, I think, you know, all of those things are just a blending of cultures in terms of, you know, how organisations run and how they get stuff done.

So, now that the HP Compaq pieces come together, this is now the next, you know, 16 years of your career.

So, let's step through that one and sort of analyse some of the favourites.

You've had many, many roles. So, product management, we started to see different portfolios along the way in a time where the industry is really starting to significantly scale.

I would think in the, you know, early 2000s, you know, we've come across the dot-com sort of push, the move to virtualisation coming through just afterwards.

That was clearly an exciting part of that growth phase for the business.

Let's talk through, you know, how you sort of navigated that and how you look to run that part of the business at the time.

Yeah, look, I mean, it's, you know, it's a transition, you know, no different than, you know, the business or the industry's going through now, right, in terms of, you know, sort of cloud adoption.

So, you know, you just, you know, you just got to move quick.

I mean, it's as simple as that.

You know, you've got to read the trends and, you know, you've got to stay close to your customers and partners.

So, you've got a good external pulse in terms of what's going on.

You've got to listen a lot. That's really important, not just to your customers and partners, but also your team.

And, you know, you just, yeah, I mean, you sort of in a lot of ways, right, you know, there's certain things, you know, when things are changing that you can control, you know, and you sort of control those.

There's things you can't control. So, you just move with it and do it quick.

Yeah, speed is always part of the keeping up and staying in front of the curve, you know, through your time of running the server business, you continued to manage a business that had massive market share and growth at almost at the high point and you choose to pick up the family and move to Singapore.

What was the thoughts around, you know, making a significant move out of the ANZ market and move to Singapore?

Yeah, look, I mean, I've been, you know, with the, you know, Australian entity for, you know, a long time, so, you know, around 10 years.

And, you know, at that point, I was reporting directly to the managing director.

And, you know, I was at that point in my career where, you know, I felt I needed to change.

So, I actually applied, you know, for a role in a different business group. So, the way the company was structured, you know, typical, you know, IT company metrics, you know, sole structure.

So, you know, whilst, you know, I was reporting to one, you know, part of the business, there were also, you know, two other divisions.

So, I applied for a role there to, you know, look after, you know, the entire sales team and that other business group.

So, in those days, that was the, actually, it was a combination of both the printing and the PC part of the business.

And I got that job, you know, which was fantastic.

And then what happened was, is that the business group that I was working for, you know, sort of said, hey, look, you know, we'd like to keep you, is there something, you know, that we can do?

We've got, you know, a role up in Singapore, would you be interested in that?

And I said, yeah, I probably would be, just, you know, tell me a little bit more about it.

So, tell me a bit more about the role.

And I went home that night and, you know, I said to my wife, I said, so, you know, I've got this other role, which is, you know, probably relatively safe because, you know, it's in Australia and so forth.

But I've also been offered to apply for one in Singapore, what do you think?

And, you know, she said to me, yeah, let's do it.

You know, I think it'd be a fantastic experience for us as a family, for the kids.

And so, I applied for it and, yeah, got the job. And, you know, sort of about three months later, we were packing all our stuff up in Australia and, you know, we moved up to Singapore, which was not an easy, you know, you've got to take risk.

You know, I had, you know, four young children at the state.

So, one was, you know, sort of 12 years old, which was a little bit of a challenge for her.

And then the youngest was four years old. So, you know, relatively young family, a little bit disruptive for them.

But, you know, my wife was signed up and she wanted to do it.

So, that was good. So, if something all went pear-shaped when we got up there, you know, at least I wouldn't get the blame for it.

I always look at when I'm speaking to some of the guests around these sliding door moments, and this is certainly a sliding door moment for you where you've got the opportunity to, you know, stay safe in what is, you know, a known area or sort of make the move.

Now, while the move was in an area that you were comfortable with as far as, you know, running the server business for APAC, it was still cultural change of moving out of Australia into Singapore.

And then everyone who understands the APJ market recognises Asia-Pacific is a very different mix of countries and cultures, etc.

Talk us through how you start to contend with, you know, having to deal with all that outside of the safety net of what you knew.

Yeah. So, I mean, I also moved, you know, I signed up at a time, you know, when things were, you know, moving, you know, quite well as well.

So, the business up there was very strong, you know, it was strong in Australia and it was strong around the region.

And then, you know, when I moved, it was 2009. So, that was, you know, when we had the global financial crisis.

You know, its impact on Australia at the time was, you know, probably less, you know, than what it was on markets like, you know, India and Japan and China, you know, which I was responsible for.

So, you know, the first, you know, sort of by the time I got up there, you know, we were well in the midst of the financial crisis and, you know, the business was, you know, was really struggling, you know, and that was just, you know, a consequence of, you know, what was happening from an overall market perspective.

So, I spent the first, you know, two, three months living in temporary accommodation and, you know, every afternoon, you know, it was sort of like, what have I done?

You know, because it was a pretty, pretty tough time. In terms of, you know, how you, you know, sort of navigate through that.

So, you know, look like, you know, I say this right, it's all about the team you pick.

So, you know, I had the opportunity to, you know, sort of bring a couple of people into the team and the guy that was responsible for the China business from a marketing point of view, you know, was keen to, you know, grow his career as well.

So, he came and joined me in Singapore and so, you know, we sort of had, you know, an Australian, we had a, you know, a guy that was very familiar with the Chinese market and then between us, you know, we had and he came in as my operations guy.

So, we had a fantastic opportunity, you know, where we, you know, had a good understanding, you know, of the business, you know, what we needed and, you know, I knew Australia and New Zealand particularly well and knew China really well.

So, you know, we could compare notes there and then it was just a matter of us getting, you know, building the relationships with the other countries like India and Japan and Korea, you know, all the countries through Southeast Asia, you know, which is really a, you know, a melting pot of different cultures and, you know, the way things get done.

So, it's just really, you know, really listening and learning more than anything, you know, but then as part of that, you know, we were in recovery phase as well.

So, you know, we had a recovery plan, you know, that we needed to, you know, work on to get the business back on track as the market started to pick back up again after the, you know, after the crisis that, you know, sort of hit its peak.

Yeah, it's, you know, interesting in sort of balancing, you know, a little bit of the business life is much easier to understand, to focus and deliver and then work the home life.

How was that balance for you?

Yeah, there wasn't a lot for the first 12 months, you know, especially when I was living, you know, we were living in temporary accommodation, you know, starting to travel quite a bit, you know, during that stage to start to build relationships and, you know, I felt and because I was reporting, you know, not only into Singapore, but also into the US, you know, I was on, you know, calls, you know, very late at night, most nights a week, you know, and, you know, everybody was always on.

Yeah, so when you're working, you know, in one of those roles, you know, you, you know, sort of Singapore time, you know, nine o'clock in the morning, sorry, six o'clock in the morning, you know, the Australians would be waking up, you know, it's, it's the start of their day, or they've already started.

And then, you know, when you're in Singapore, you've got, you know, India finishing a couple of two and a half hours later, you know, and then you've got the US waking up not long after that.

So it was, it was particularly, you know, in terms of, you know, working hard, you know, I'd say that's probably the hardest that I've ever worked.

It was, you know, very, very long hours, you know, you get up Saturday morning and have, you know, two, 300 email, you know, from the night before from the US and from Europe, that you'd have to get through.

So yeah, getting that life balance was tough, especially in the first 12 months, you know, because the business was, you know, needed a lot of work.

But when things started to improve, and we started to get growth back, and the market started to come back, you know, what I had to do then was just really, you know, sort of readjust, you know, in terms of how many hours I was spending on the work side.

Yeah, I think that's an important part of helping everyone understand that, you know, while there's, while there's peaks and troughs, as far as effort and concern, you've got to, you've got to manage that life balance.

And I think that's something that you certainly have always, has always talked to me about is maintaining that, you know, personal life balance is really key to being able to give your best self, I think.

Yeah, look, and it's tough, right? I mean, today, people are struggling with it as well.

You know, when your home's your sort of office, and, you know, you're just working, you know, at home, you've got to try to get that balance right.

It's, you know, it's tough to do. Yeah, we were talking about that just before, before we started, I think one of the challenges, you know, in that same sort of scenario of, you know, running an APEC business where you're constantly speaking to other people in other countries, we're now, you know, sort of locked down, certainly in Melbourne, we're locked down, and we're spending all day doing the same thing.

The balance, the life balance piece is really important to make sure that you're not burning through just the sake of meetings for it, but you're actually focusing on what's productive and what actually is balance.

If we move through from Singapore, we're now starting to pick up, and you've missed the analytics again, hitting world market share, which is excellent.

Number one market share in the business that you're responsible for.

Thanks in part to someone who's looking after the ANZ business for you.

Yeah, I thought I would.

You decide to make another change. So, you know, you've finally got this business, you know, in a really healthy state, you know, why now make a change to say, I want to take over, if I recall correctly, is it the global accounts business?

Is that right? Yeah, it was actually a combination role. So, you know, it was a global accounts, building inside sales across the region, and also looking out to the commercial and government sector, but global accounts reported directly into me.

You know, and there were two types of global accounts, there were those that were headquartered in Asia Pacific region, and then there were those that were, you know, headquartered in either Europe or the US.

And, you know, they had a footprint in one of the countries or multiple countries around Asia Pacific.

Yeah, look, it was the transition there, you know, it's a funny thing, you know, when we went up to Singapore, you know, we signed up for two years, that was it.

And, you know, basically threw everything into storage and took a few things up.

But it was like, we'll be back in two years if, you know, if it doesn't work out.

So that was always a bit of a time stamp that we had. And, you know, my 12 year old, you know, I think, as I said, was in a difficult time to move, you know, one, you know, that's sort of that age.

And, you know, she was kicking up a little bit of a stink.

And she got up there and within two weeks, loved the place, and basically said, Dad, I want to stay here until I finish my school, and then I'll go home.

So look, you know, two years became eight. And, you know, I was, you know, responsible for the server business in its entirety, you know, up, you know, I've been doing that for five or six years.

You know, the company, you know, constantly evolved and changed.

So I think, you know, in that six years, I've worked for, you know, I think six different leaders as well.

So, but that's good, right?

You learn, you learn, you know, you learn a lot, you know, from working with different leaders, all of them have, you know, their different styles and experiences and skills.

And, you know, I find that, you know, that's something that, you know, I enjoy is, you know, learning, you know, from different leaders in terms of the way they do things.

And, you know, all of them have, you know, different, you know, skills, you know, you talk about, you know, me being analytical, well, I worked for a leader that was even more so.

I found him particularly tough.

You know, he was always really, really focused around data. And data would, you know, pretty much, you know, drive every decision that, you know, you would make and you'd have to, you know, back it up, even if you want to take a risk, it had to be very calculated, but it had to be, you know, built on data.

So after doing that for a, you know, sort of running a server business, which was a P &L, you know, I really felt that I wanted to get more sort of the customer side, you know, bringing together all the different portfolios across, you know, networking services, you know, the infrastructure side.

So that role, you know, gave me a great opportunity to, yeah, you know, not that the other one wasn't focused around the customer, it was, you know, a combination of customer, you know, but very central around a particular, you know, portfolio, as opposed to being, you know, much more focused around customer segmentation.

So HP, just a little bit before that acquired EDS at the time, so the services business became quite a big part of that portfolio, which takes in the customer engagements very different, in a very different field to, you know, the server businesses you're running.

Was that a new learning or a different type of engagement, given that you're responsible for global accounts and had some of those big contracts?

Yeah, look, it was, yeah, I mean, it was a learning, right, just in terms of the different, you know, the different engagement from a customer point of view, you know, if you're running, you know, their organisation as a, you know, as a services business, then, you know, it's slightly different than, you know, supplying some tech, yeah, you know, which may, you know, in some ways be, you know, just an acquisition, sometimes it was, you know, part of a strategic, you know, overall engagement, but it was good just to really, you know, focus on, you know, especially with the global account side, you know, as I said, we had, you know, different sorts of global, some were, you know, local, you know, where their footprint was, you know, either in a Japan or in Australia.

So, you know, you had the opportunity to learn quite a lot there in terms of that end to end engagement with the customer.

And then, yeah, so, yeah, look, it was, yeah, it sharpened different skills.

Yeah. So, you talked about just a little bit before around, you know, having many leaders, I mean, HP went through a few CEOs as well, and a few leaders went through the APAC business.

Even wind back to your time prior to moving to Singapore, were there any, did you have any mentors or people who helped sort of guide this part of your career?

Because you're now sort of built up into, you know, you're in a VP role, you're running regions, you run global accounts.

Was there someone that you relied on to, you know, just talk about, you know, what is the right move?

What should I be, what are the things I should be doing?

Yeah, look, I don't know, you know, what I would say, I don't know if I had, you know, what I consider one formal mentor as such.

But what I did do is have, you know, a bunch of different leaders, you know, whether they were in the industry or even outside of the industry that I could lean on.

You know, so one of the, you know, enriching opportunities when you, you know, when you move to a new country and work.

So, you know, when I was in Singapore is that, you know, from a business point of view, you've got to really build, you know, relationships.

And so some of those personal relationships you rebuild will be with people, you know, that were in a similar position to yourself, you know, they, you know, move from their country, you know, not always, you know, Australia, it could have been the US or somewhere in Europe.

And, you know, you would meet them, you know, either via the school or you would meet them when you're out.

And, you know, I had the opportunity to, you know, engage with different business leaders in a range of different industries, you know, finance leaders, you know, those that were in the hospitality industry, the mining sector, engineering sectors.

So, you know, I managed to over time is build, you know, quite a good network of business leaders that weren't just in, you know, sort of the IT industry.

And, you know, I could use them as well as sort of informal mentors in terms of, you know, what they were facing, how they would, you know, because most of them would also have Asia Pacific roles.

So we'd be dealing with, you know, different, you know, cultures and teams in different countries, you know, so it gave me a good opportunity to, you know, also spend, you know, time with them in an informal manner over dinner, over a beer or a glass of wine, and just chat.

And, you know, that, you know, from a business point of view was, you know, just invaluable, right, in terms of the lessons that I learned there.

And many of those contacts, you know, I continue to keep, you know, in contact with today as well, which is fantastic.

Yeah, I think it's important just to be able to talk through with someone who's, who's maybe a peer or experience in those areas to understand these are things that I'm thinking about doing.

You have a period of time where you've developed and grown business into Singapore.

You look like you're pretty much set in Singapore now for, what did you say it was, eight years?

Yeah, I was there for eight years.

Eight years. And now, and now you're ready to start shaking it up again.

What sort of led to thinking about, okay, times have changed. Either I move, either I move further north, what is it, northeast, or I move back south.

What was the, what was the thoughts there?

Hey, look, you know, it's a funny thing. There's a, you know, there's a, you know, we talked about, you know, sort of mentors and, you know, learning from, from leaders, you know, which is something that, you know, I shared, you know, I probably should just share a story and, you know, then it'll, you know, sort of, you know, you know, give you a little bit of insight in terms of, you know, what sort of makes me, you know, sort of want to do these changes.

So, you know, I worked for, you know, the Australian business there for a while and there was a leader, you know, who, you know, I won't, I won't, I'll just call him Tom.

And, you know, Tom was a senior leader within the organisation.

He regularly used to come down and we would do business reviews and he was particularly tough.

You know, everybody used to, you know, prepare for days and days and days before he'd come and, you know, no matter how good, you know, things were, Tom would always find a problem.

He would always find an issue and, you know, he had this mantra is that, you know, you can be pleased but never satisfied.

And, you know, when Tom first, you know, started coming down and doing these reviews, he'd do them every six months or so.

You know, the first two or three reviews, you know, they were so tough.

Like, you know, I felt like, you know, the next day, you know, I probably don't have a job anymore.

Yeah, that was the way Tom was and everybody used to hate it.

And the first three or four reviews were really tough.

The business was, you know, probably not as strong as where it needed to be.

You know, there were good parts and there were, you know, a lot of opportunities and things to work on.

And over time, you know, he was, you know, sort of down probably every two years, sorry, over a period of two years.

And once I got up and, you know, you'd never know what questions he would have when you're about to present.

You know, you just have to, no matter how well prepared you were, he'd always throw something in and you go, oh no, how do I answer that?

Anyway, so I stood up to present and I was feeling pretty good.

You know, like I thought, you know, I'm well prepared.

You know, I'm pleased with the business. It's in the best shape it's ever been in.

And I'd been preparing like for days, you know, for this presentation.

So I get up and I stand up and I say, so Tom, today I'm going to go through, you know, these things.

And is there anything else that you'd like to hear?

And Tom said to me, he said, he said, now I'm not going to use the exact words he said, because it's probably not appropriate.

So he said to me, does your backside feel like it's on fire?

And I looked at him and I said, what do you mean?

He goes, well, you know, do you feel like you're on fire? And I said, no, I don't actually.

I feel, I feel really good. I feel in control. I feel comfortable.

And he goes, it's time to get another job. So I went, okay, let me, you know, let me explore that.

That was when I then, you know, applied for the roles that I spoke to.

One of them was the Singapore role, you know, which ultimately he helped me get.

And then I said to him, okay, so what do you want me to do?

He goes, you can sit down. And I felt a little bit deflated, you know, but Tom had basically said, hey, look, you know, your time's up.

It's time to change.

So, you know, I always reflect on that, you know, and I share that story with, you know, a number of different people because, you know, it's sort of like, if you become comfortable, is it time to move?

You know, is it time just to make that change?

So, you know, I was up in Singapore there for eight years, you know, had I become comfortable, maybe not completely, because I mean, it's just such a fast growing, you know, dynamic environment that you're working and living in.

But there was the opportunity to come back to Australia. The, at that point in time, the, you know, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Organisation was separating the enterprise services business.

And the MD of the company at the time was on the enterprise services side.

And they were looking for a new MD for the local business.

And, you know, before I went up to Singapore, it was always, you know, one of those things that I wanted to do, I felt that, you know, be fantastic to run a local subsidiary of a global international company.

So, you know, I went home, you know, when that when I found that opportunity was coming up, went home to my wife and said, Hey, do you want to move back to Australia?

And she said, not particularly.

And I said, Well, you know, there's this fantastic job that's come up. And, you know, I think, you know, it's something that I want to go and do.

And I think it'd be good just to reconnect, you know, you feel like, you know, if you've lived overseas for a long period of time, you know, it's not the same, you know, in terms of family and friends, you know, trying to, you know, sort of engage over, you know, sort of the telephone or, you know, these sorts of tools, it's just nice to reconnect.

And I felt like I needed to reconnect with the business as well. So, yeah, it was a good opportunity at that point in time for me to pack the family up and, and come back home.

And boy, did I underestimate how difficult that would be. You sort of, you know, the move to Singapore was tough.

You know, when you've got to pack a big family up and move and, you know, everybody knows what it's like moving house.

So, you know, this is just moving house internationally. You know, coming back to Australia was, I probably underestimated how difficult it would be.

Yeah, that's an interesting perspective.

And I actually, I haven't asked you this one directly, but before you moved to Singapore, you lived a more outdoor life, you know, large property, etc.

And sort of moving into Singapore, where it's certainly space and outdoors and a backyard doesn't exist.

So, the ute doesn't make it with you to Singapore.

You know, clearly coming back gives you the opportunity to do that.

But I think if I recall correctly, you don't actually go straight back into a big property.

Is that right? No, no, I don't do that. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Look, the property was in the rural part of Sydney. And, you know, a little bit out there at that stage, then, you know, coming back, the kids are now, you know, a little bit more self -sufficient and, you know, living out where there's not, you know, sort of relatively good access to public transport.

You know, we thought that was going to be probably not a good thing to do anymore.

It wasn't that, you know, love the quietness out there and love the outdoor and all that sort of experience.

But it was, you know, really, you know, let's get the family into, you know, an area where it's easy for them to get around with public transport, get to their schools, get to their friends, all that sort of stuff.

So, yeah, so we moved back into, you know, probably something fairly similar that we were used to in Singapore.

Very good. So now we're back in suburbia and back in Australia.

So, you know, this is the challenge that you've now, is it three, four years into?

Is that right? Yeah. Coming up to four years. I came back in 2016 in December.

And come back into very different times as well. So HP is split out with the printing group and the enterprise group.

Services is out, software is out.

Really different mix, really different, you know, moving of people, etc.

You know, what's the things that you focus on? Because, you know, clearly you're Mr.

Analytics. So, you know, the numbers are easy, but how do you contend with...

Ah, they're never that easy, right? People change. Never say delivering numbers are easy.

Yes, very true. Very true. But otherwise I'd just give you a bigger number.

How do you balance everything? Yeah, exactly. Well, you've done that.

How do you balance now having to deal with, you know, the change and, you know, people's comfort levels around, you know, shaking up the organisations, moving it around and getting it re-energised and focused?

Yeah, you've got to, you know, I mean, ultimately, you know, you've got to look at, you know, what's the strategy of the organisation, you know, now.

So, you know, if the strategy, you know, in the past, if it was, you know, heavy services engagement and outsourcing with customers, you know, and now that's not, you know, really part of what the company does, you know, you've got to, you know, I mean, you can't really create, you know, sort of what I would consider to be a local strategy as such.

So, you know, you need to, you know, align yourself to what the worldwide strategy is of the organisation in terms of where the area is the focus.

You then need to, you know, work through, you know, well, what's the structure, you know, that you need for, you know, to be effective in terms of, you know, driving and aligning behind that, you know, strategy, you know, and then, you know, to your point, you've got to pick the right team, you know, and that's always, you know, a tough thing, especially if, you know, the businesses transition from something into, you know, something quite new, you know, you've got to say, okay, well, what, you know, what does the team, you know, need to be, you've got to surround yourself with good people and, you know, that's always, you know, one of the, you know, hardest things to do in a lot of ways is find those people or, you know, or build that team of people, so that generally takes, you know, time and you've got to have, you know, a relatively, you know, in my opinion, a good degree of patience in terms of getting, you know, that team together, you know, and then, you know, from there, you know, back to your point is you've got to have, you know, some sort of system in terms of how you run the business and what you look at and what's important and what's not important, you know, and then, you know, the one that I think, you know, and it's probably the biggest learning for me over time, you know, and I've mentioned it a couple of times is, you know, what's the culture that you want, so, you know, when I came back to the Australian business, you know, because of the amount of change, you know, the employee, you know, sort of morale was probably not the highest, you know, we do these, you know, workforce surveys like all companies do and, you know, there was a lot of work that needed to be done to really, you know, build, you know, a much stronger culture and I'd say, you know, over the last three or four years, you know, we've certainly seen a massive improvement in that in terms of, you know, just building the team, you know, just simple things like, you know, making sure that you've got, you know, a good diverse workforce, you know, you're inclusive, you know, I kicked off, you know, graduate program again, so, you know, over the last, you know, couple of years, we've been investing quite heavily in bringing, you know, graduates and younger people into the organization, you know, and they make a massive difference, you know, come with different ideas and it's just a, the people aspect I think is, you know, some ways, you know, you know, coming back to your analytical background, if that's where you, you know, focus a lot of your time, you know, you don't pick up that people side of things and, you know, the people I think is in the end, you know, probably my biggest learning in terms of how do you, you know, have a motivated, you know, passionate, you know, team, you know, that, you know, all want to be successful and build their careers and, you know, if you get that right, you know, you can, you know, achieve any results.

One of the things that I've been able to see from the outside now is certainly the, some of the programs that you've helped support around diversity, I think you mentioned diversity as being one of the key attributes to the new workforce for you, you know, how do you, how do you go about, you know, building that in?

Because it certainly takes time, it's not something you can just pick up and go, oh, I want a diverse workforce.

How does that happen? Well, you got to, I mean, you know, ultimately you got to have a plan and you got to have goals, yeah?

So you need to, you know, you need to set yourself some form of goal or target that you want to work towards.

So, you know, with, you know, for example, the graduates, you know, and it's not, you know, you've got to be consistent, you know, I mean, it's not like you can just turn something on and, you know, throw, you know, a whole bunch of resources or money at it and then, you know, expect that it's going to stick, you know, you've got to do it over a long period of time.

So, you know, if you're, as an example, you know, you want to bring, you know, some more, you know, youth into the workplace, you know, doing, you know, that one year, you know, is not really going to yield your results.

You've got to do it over an extended period of time, you know, to really change it.

It's the same thing with, you know, sort of females in the workforce, which is sometimes tough in the IT industry, you know, because a lot of the, not all, but, you know, and it's changing a lot, but, you know, because in the past it was very much a technical, you know, sort of industry is that, you know, finding, you know, females coming from, you know, the STEM courses, you know, in universities or TAFEs, you know, it's quite difficult.

But, you know, with IT now, which is, you know, becoming much more intrinsically linked, you know, into business and, you know, is very much part of business strategy, you know, so that IT strategy and business strategy, you know, are pretty much, you know, sort of linked together.

You know, you're starting to get a lot more choice coming in, in terms of, you know, the sorts of people you bring into the organisation as well, you know, is changing from, you know, not, you know, in the past, you know, it was sort of very technical, everybody would have a technical background.

You know, now you can start to bring different sorts of people in and that gives you, you know, even more diversity as well, yeah, because you don't end up with a bunch of, you know, sort of technologists, you know, you've got, you know, people coming in with different skills and different experiences.

One of the things that, you know, we've experienced with such a massive change in such a short period of time, COVID has really changed our interactions, our interactions inside businesses, our interactions business to business.

How were you able to support the team and move through the period of lockdown through March and onwards?

What are some of the things that you're able to put in place to support the team?

Yeah, look, I mean, it's, you know, I think we're still learning, you know, I mean, we're now at, you know, the six-month mark and, you know, as a team, you know, we're talking through, you know, if this extends, you know, for another six months, you know, the things that we're doing today, you know, are they still working?

Do we need to do things differently? You know, I think the challenge that everybody's faced is that, you know, when you go in the office, you know, it's very easy to, you know, sort of move around and, you know, talk to the team and listen and hear what's going on, you know, and, you know, now that that's not as easy.

So, you've got to, you know, be much more proactive in terms of reaching out to people.

You know, the challenge then becomes is that, you know, you put a call into, you know, somebody to see how they're going with a particular customer and you've got to leave a message and then, you know, they call you back and you're in a meeting and, you know, so where, you know, when you're in the office, you just sort of walk up and if they're not on the phone, you have a chat sort of thing.

So, you've got to put a lot more effort into, you know, sort of reaching out to people, you know, in both, you know, a formal and also an informal sense and just checking in, like, you know, asking how you're going.

You know, we then also looked at, you know, a bunch of different things, you know, we've got all these obviously great tools that we can use, you know, whether it be your Zooms or your Skypes or your WebExes or your Teams, all those sorts of vehicles to communicate to the team is that, you know, one of the things that, you know, we felt that we would do slightly differently is just have, like, a half an hour check-in for, you know, the whole team so everybody could join and, you know, we just vary the topics, you know, we do a topic one week around, you know, some, you know, some tips to, you know, how to work from home, you know, some wellness things in terms of, you know, how can you, you know, exercise if you're in the home, you know, how to eat healthily.

So, you know, a whole bunch of different things from wellness to, you know, showcase a fantastic win that we've just had with a customer or showcase, you know, something where we've really supported a customer, you know, that's had a challenge whilst they've been in lockdown.

So, just really try to, you know, sort of up your communication with the team is key.

I only got a few minutes left, so time's gone so fast.

What would be a couple of the things that you're most proud of? I don't want to end your career, you've still got many, many years to go, but what are some of the things throughout such a, you know, great career that you're most proud of?

What are the things that you think are, you know, these were points of time that, you know, really were a step above?

Yeah, look, I think, you know, I've touched on a lot of these, right, that opportunity, you know, early on to, you know, sort of run a business end to end from a startup point of view and, you know, see the results, you know, as I said, you know, getting, you know, sort of up to, you know, being close to $30 million business over a few years.

So, that was, you know, fantastic experience, you know, moving, you know, the family to Singapore, you know, was certainly, you know, a highlight, you know, of my overall career.

But then I think, you know, just in general, if I reflect on, I've sort of said this is, it's just, you know, I mean, it's an industry that's constantly evolving and changing, which makes it, you know, in my view, you know, just so exciting.

So, you know, the opportunity for all of us that are in the industry is, you know, is just to really embrace that change.

You know, some of it, as I said, you know, you can be part of defining it, you know, some of it you can't, you just need to go with it.

And, you know, I think that if you do that, you know, it's like my experience is that, you know, sometimes people say, wow, you know, you've worked for, you know, the same company for, you know, 24 years.

And, you know, when I reflect on that, I say, well, actually, it's not the same company.

You know, the conversation that we've had today, I mean, you know, you've just sort of, you know, reminded me, you know, about different parts of it and brought me back.

It's like I've worked for, you know, I don't know, probably 20 or 30 different companies in that period of time, because it's constantly evolving and changing.

And it'll continue to do that. So, you know, I just think, you know, that, and look, you know, it comes down to, you know, in the end, you know, I say this in terms of, you know, you've got to be passionate.

You know, you've got to be passionate about what you do, you've got to be passionate about the company you work for.

And if you do that, and you embrace change in the IT industry, you'll be, you know, you'll be successful.

Yeah, it's very good. I think it's important to find the path that allows you to bring your best self and allows you to continue to leverage passion.

If you're passionate about something, it certainly feels better.

We've got a couple of minutes left. So, you know, everyone's gone through now, everyone's gone through the COVID plus or minus, which is, you know, have I managed to put on weight or lose weight during the lockdown period?

Which side of the street do you live on? I've put on nothing. I've stayed the same.

Oh, well, you admit neutral. One of the things I try to do, you know, and I encourage my team to do this as well, you know, if you get stuck in your home office, you know, from eight o'clock to six o'clock at night doing these sorts of calls, you know, you just got to get out and move around.

So, you know, what I've been doing is at least having, you know, sort of an hour every day where I, in the middle of the day, generally around lunchtime, where I just block my calendar and I get out and go for a walk.

And my wife also bought me this rowing machine as well for my birthday.

So it gets a bit of use as well. Was that a hint from your wife?

No, no, no, not at all. Not at all. She uses it as well. Yeah, I think just in a last minute wrap up, I think that's an important thing.

I keep telling my team, pick one of the meetings that you have online and do it as a walking meeting.

I just got to remind myself to do the same thing because unfortunately, as a lady, you tend to want to always present, but it's important to also show in your actions and take that opportunity to get out and be external.

Not that I can do that in Melbourne at the moment.

Nah, that's a bit tough. Because of extended lockdown, but I think...

You can walk around the backyard a few times. Yeah, I know every inch of my backyard now.

I can tell you that very much. Look, so thank you so much.

I really appreciate spending time with us today. You know, you're such a strong leader and great support for me and I really appreciate the time that we had when we worked together and certainly one of the people I look to in the industry as a strong leader and this is Legends of Tech and I certainly believe that you're one of the legends of the tech industry in the Australian market.

So thank you for joining. I really appreciate it. Good luck with you and your family.

Enjoy the lockdown. Enjoy the family continuing to move on and to broaden out and look forward to our next catch up when we can physically catch up.

Yeah, it'll be great.

I think I owe you dinner. Yes, you do. Thanks, Stephen. Okay, thank you.