Legends of Tech
A weekly podcast where Cloudflare's 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.
Good morning and good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to Legends of Tech this week.
I'm lucky enough to have a good friend of mine, Matt Dickson. Matt Dickson is currently the CEO of Metricon.
And let me just introduce Matt for a moment. You know, in my words, a technical champion, a digital disruptor, a change agent, process improver, winemaker, connoisseur, executive and man about town.
Welcome, Matt Dickson.
Thank you, Raymond. I'm not a man about town anymore at the moment. We're not allowed to go out.
Yes. So for everyone, Melbourne's in another lockdown. So how are you managing being confined?
I think I've been actually learning quite a lot about myself over the last, I think it's nearly six months now.
I think we went into this, we got a rather sharp surprise where we share a building with another couple of companies in Queensland and one of their officers had a COVID case apparently was traced to entering their building on, I think it was March 19.
And so the entire building had to be cleared.
And we went into working from home basically the next day.
So my IT group was quite incredible in terms of their response to turn that around.
As you imagine as a construction company, we don't really think about working from home.
We do work from lots of other sites. But I think so March 19 to today, it's three full five months.
And I think that I'm very fortunate that I've got a great wife and a couple of daughters.
They sort of keep me very sane.
They've been quite self-sufficient. The two daughters are teenage.
So the key thing there is they like being in their rooms a lot. So my wife and I use the rest of the house while they're in their rooms.
And I imagine that being at home during this period, if you're home alone without family support or partner support would be quite difficult.
The other thing that I have learned is that you do get tired when you're at home every day.
I've found myself to be a little bit tired and a little bit frustrated, get a bit grumpy with seeing the same people every day.
So you really do have to focus on having daily activities such as workouts, going for walks, catching up with friends, because just doing all the same work day in, day out, go from your bedroom, go to your desk and back, it's challenging.
And I really feel for a lot of people that are going through it that aren't as fortunate as myself.
Yeah, so I'm actually interested with coming back to this one in a moment, just how you mobilise the team to react to this change, because it's not something that ever comes into planning.
I suspect that's very, very foreign to thinking about.
What if everyone has to work from home?
What do I do for the business there? So how did you start that process of trying to understand, well, how do I make systems available?
How do I continue to maintain productivity in my team?
How do I, not just in my team, across the business, how do you confront that?
Well, there's a whole lot of facets to that.
So we started, fortunately, in January, when the first news was coming out in late January and early February, we started saying, well, this is in China, and pretty much every one of our laptop suppliers is building them in China.
And we sort of realised it'd be a run on, I didn't realise it'd be a run on toilet paper, but I did realise there would be a run on laptops and computer equipment.
So we put in pretty much six month forward orders of laptops straight away.
And even though it did take longer to get them than normal, we got them in April.
So we suddenly went from having no stock or very little stock, as in running sort of one or two months ahead of time, to suddenly having almost a full year's supply, basically, sitting waiting, which has been interesting, because I didn't think we would be necessarily hiring, but we hired 112 new starters last month, which is our biggest month ever.
We only have 1,800 employees, and we hired 112 new people last month.
So that's in the middle of COVID. So it's been a very interesting journey in that regard.
The, from a planning point of view, we, as I said, we also were trying to work through the challenges of VPN.
We have nearly all of our core applications are on premise.
So most of our general use applications, such as Office 365, Outlook, etc, OneDrive, SharePoint, of course, are all in Azure, but everything else is in a little data centre in our office, Mount Waverly, in a data centre, which is under the stairs.
So pretty much, if you're accessing one of the three to 20 year old systems in our data centre, you need a VPN to get in there to do it.
And we were fortunately already testing and trialling some applications in AWS as well.
And we managed to spin up a trial environment, pretty much the day before the incident in Queensland.
And so we tested it on the entire Queensland office, which is about 300 people, and it was successful.
So we enabled people walking, working from home from essentially finding out at 5.15pm and at 10pm that night, they were all able to access the VPN.
And we were able to expand that obviously from 300 people to 2,000 to cover all of our employees.
Yeah, sorry, go on.
Yeah, I was just gonna say, so that's the technical nature of it. So my team really responded well to the challenges that were put there, because we were wanting to go through, you know, trialling a few small teams in multiple locations.
You know, having an incident like that thrust upon you forced us to be a little bit riskier in our approach, and fortunately, the technology stood up to it.
But in terms of my team, I think I'm building a new team at the same time. So I've had actually three of my direct reports have started in the last six months.
And so I've one of them started two weeks before this. And so his day one was pretty much spent sitting with an incident planning group, instead of sitting with an onboarding group to learn about the company or our technology and those sorts of things.
He was sitting with a mix of the HR and marketing, etc, people, the commerce people, as my representative to learn about our company and to go through essentially incident management planning.
And then the rest of the team, we've sort of moved to doing daily standups.
So 15 minutes standups every morning, 8.45.
So I have one right before this. And usually when you go into that type of thing in a project sense, you do it for a period of time and then you sort of hand it over and leave or you change the dynamics of it or you move it to different times.
In this case, we've actually found it to be really valuable. So it's our it's sort of bonded us as a team as we've all come together.
One of my direct reports who started, I think, two and a half months ago, I've only met him twice.
So yeah, it's been it's been very interesting. But those 15 minutes standups, Friday drinks, I'm sure a lot of people are having them the online drinks, it's, it's actually more enjoyable sometimes.
And, you know, for us, our local is a pub called The Knot out in Mount Waverley.
And it's, whilst it's a genuinely good pub, it's not the sort of place I want to go to and sit having a beer every Friday.
But apart from being able to drive home it's, it's much nicer. I can sit at home with my favourite bottle of wine, having a glass or a glass of champagne as my team's probably shouting at the TV right now, I did invite them to watch and talk to them for and we book it for half an hour, 430 to five, but we generally sitting there and at 630 or 730, you know, for two or three hours.
So it's really made a much more of a really good team environment.
So I think those types of things really make a difference.
And I've encouraged them, of course, to do that with all their teams as well.
Yeah, it's, it's, it's quite interesting how you sort of build a rapport.
It's similar to you. We've had five new starters in the ANZ business that I've never physically well, I can't say I've not physically met them all because a couple I've known before, but since they've started, the whole interview process has been remote.
So it's been very different to sort of change the dynamic around that.
I normally start this with some fun facts. I'm going to switch on to fun facts.
We're going to go backwards in your career. So, so let's see how we go from here.
And unfortunately, I probably know the answer to most of these, which is terrifying.
Coke or Pepsi? Neither. Wine or Coke? Wine.
That was an easy one. Mustang or Tesla? Ooh, I'd probably go with a Mustang, but it'd have to be like a 60s one.
I do like some of the old classic cars.
Yeah, I'll take that. That's okay. Lennon or McCartney? Lennon. Yeah. Trackies or jeans?
Jeans. Boxers or briefs? Boxers. iPhone or Android? iPhone. iPhone.
And my only religious question of the day, Star Trek or Star Wars? Ooh, I like them both actually.
I think probably most people like one of them, probably like both of them.
But I'd probably go with Star Wars based on the last, probably the last 10 or 15 years, I think has made the difference.
I think it was probably the TV series in Star Trek had made a big difference.
The quality of their production has been so much better than some of the original.
When you see the old movies playing, they really are quite dated.
I mean, watching original Captain Kirk, of course, is more historical.
But yeah, I think the production of the Star Wars out to the extra three movies and all of the supporting ones over the last few years has been incredible.
So I'd probably have to go Star Wars. I think that's a good answer.
I'm happy with those. So let's wind back all the way back. So Melbourne Uni, you actually did science degree, if I remember correctly, is that right?
No, chemical engineering. Chemical engineering. Yeah, it was something. It was close.
It's close. So what was it the start of? At that point, were you thinking technology was an area I wanted to go into?
Were you thinking that while you're at uni?
Clearly not the chemical engineering. No, I wasn't. I was thinking much more about a place called Jimmy Watson's, which was I consider to be one of the best wine bars in Australia.
Okay, let's start there for a moment.
So given the proximity of Jimmy Watson's to Melbourne Uni, is that where you started your love affair with wine?
Yes. I had tasted wine before, but I certainly wasn't that interested in it.
So yeah, Jimmy Watson's was the key, a pivotal moment of my love, I guess, for wine.
I do love that.
And Jimmy Watson's famous for its young wines, right? You want to just explain Jimmy Watson's to people other than it's a cool bar?
It's, well, it's one of the few bars in Australia, possibly, certainly in Melbourne, it's one of the few bars that hasn't been renovated.
So they have painted it from time to time, but they haven't turned it into a gastro bar or that type of thing.
They've stuck pretty true to their traditions.
I think that their biggest change was introducing beer in around about, oh gosh, I think it was about 1995.
And a lot of my friends who've been going there from the mid 80s actually stopped going there when they started serving beer, because they saw it as a travesty or against the religion of the place.
But it started, I think, I can't tell you exactly when, but Jimmy Watson was the pioneer of going out to vineyards and tasting barrel samples of wine and buying the barrels.
So he used to go out with a horse and cart around, certainly around Rutherglen and some of the Northern Victorian areas, as well as the Yarra Valley, with his horse and cart, and buy barrels of wine, bring them back to his establishment in Carlton and bottle them.
So he bottled his own, they're all clean skins, so it was the first place to do clean skins, but he would be buying the best barrel.
And through that, after he died, they passed the hat around in the, oh gosh, I think it was the 60s.
And with the money they got from the wake and some subsequent sort of meetings that they had, they put together what became known as the, I think it's at the Royal Melbourne Show, but it's a wine trophy and it's for the best drinking one-year-old red wine.
And it's become the biggest wine trophy in Australia by quite a considerable margin.
Back in the 90s and the noughties, if you won the Jimmy Watson trophy, you would basically sell out.
So it was like a million dollar gift because all the winners basically sold out and became wines that people would buy and store for 10 to 20 years.
Yes, but the only controversy was, originally it was for the young wines, and the point was to give you an insight into what it was going to be.
And then you had winemakers start to manufacture specifically for that purpose, right?
Well, certainly winemakers, the same as any type of competition, people try and make things for that purpose.
But I think that the wine industry has gone that way anyway.
So because of the fact that most, I think, I can't remember what it is, but something like 90% of all wines are drunk within 40 hours of purchase, and they're only being purchased when they're released from the vineyard.
So you finish making the wine, a few months later, you bottle it, a few months later, you put it into shops, and then two days later, it's drunk.
So, and people used to make wines, of course, to keep for 15 to 30 years. So no people, there's no point doing that if people are going to drink it within, you know, one to two years of it being picked.
So I think the direction in terms of making wines to drink well young was around already at that point.
And certainly today, it's far more prevalent.
I don't know what percentages are, but certainly more than 99% of all wines are drunk within a year of being bottled.
Yeah, it's, this is like a crossover episode for us, because you talk about legends of tech, and we've got a sommelier episode where we talk about wines.
So we're gonna, we're gonna mix them together.
Yes, we do. Aliza, Aliza Knox, who's my boss, who runs APAC, has been hosting them, which is, which has been quite interesting.
So we've had a couple of great winemakers in there. So we may have to, we may have to touch a bit more on the wine a bit later.
Let's get into the tech point of the career.
So, so Melbourne Uni, obviously found your passion with wine, which still exists today, and we expect to continue on for many, many years.
You leave Melbourne Uni and you end up at IBM. How did that happen?
Was that your first sort of move into tech or was something while you're at Melbourne Uni that got you thinking, maybe technology is where I want to end up?
No, that was the, that was the first time.
Obviously, I was around, I did watch last week with Wayne and I think similarly at school for me, doing pure and applied mathematics in the late 70s and early 80s was about punch cards and cards with the hexagons with the pencil.
So I had been involved in that type of thing before, but I'd sort of forgotten most of that.
I think it was in final year of university around about the middle, maybe it's the first term of the final year, you do all of the companies come into the university and you book in to have interviews with them.
It's sort of like the university catchment type interviews where they're sort of five to 10 minutes.
They're sort of more of a meet and greet and see if you're interested in a sort of pitch the company and talk about yourself.
So I booked into, I think, being a chemical engineer those days, I think, you know, 70 or 80% of all chemical engineers back in the late 80s went into the petrochemical industry.
So I had the standard meetings with BP and Shell. And then I had meetings with one of the girls the year before me that I knew well from chemical engineering had gone to work at Anderson Consulting.
And their first three years there was working programming with Cobol and they did a lot of work with IBM and other things.
So she talked to me about the fact that you could do other things other than going to a petrochemical company.
So I went along to the interviews for IBM and Hewlett Packard.
There was another moment, though, prior to that, which was they do a firefighting course in chemical engineering where you go to a petrochemical refinery and the first half of the day there you do a firefighting course and the second half of the day you do a tour of the whole facility.
And at lunchtime you go into this big lunch hall with around about 200 men sitting in this one big room all wearing grey overalls, all with steel metal trays, and they're all just eating lunch.
And all you can hear is this sort of tink tink. It was the most boring thing that I'd ever seen.
And the reason it was more boring was that little table tennis room in the far corner.
And there were two guys playing table tennis.
And I just thought, there's no way I'm ever going to work in a petrochemical company.
So that was, I still went along to the sort of information sessions, but I didn't push the interviews past that sort of first interview stage, whereas I did go all the way through the interviews with IBM and Hewlett Packard.
And that's your first sliding door moment, right? It was. It was my first sliding door moment.
And the reason I chose IBM was because they offered a company car as part of the package for starting, which as a university student, you know, having a company car was, yeah, it's a great bonus.
It was pretty glam back then.
And IBM were in their heyday. That was where the phrase no one got fired for buying IBM was at their peak, right?
Right. And the other comment that was quite often associated with them, especially with the graduate program was they like to paint you blue.
So they spent minimum of six months with every graduate was training.
So when you started, you did essentially six months to another whole year of training to before you actually started to make customers and work on solutions.
And the training was based on, you know, these big audio and video discs.
So you would do three weeks of preparation, reading through large folders of information, looking at these video discs.
And then after the three weeks, you'd fly up to Sydney, you'd do a multiple choice test in the first 15 minutes you got in the room.
If you got less than 70 percent, they took you straight back to the airport and flew you home.
Oh, really? Yeah. So and then you did those, you did about five or six of these courses.
So it was your five or six months.
And then you started to feed customers. So you can imagine doing six months.
If you if you associate closely with your school or with your university and the colleagues you meet there when you're going and spending, you know, three weeks, you know, a full week in Sydney with a whole group of people who have just joined a company.
And it's you're training and learning hard. And of course, you're going out in Sydney pretty much every night and training harder.
Not just a close affiliation with the people, but you also with the company.
And so it was a very was a very successful strategy.
The biggest issue, of course, back then was they thought they were too big to fail.
Yeah, that was I joined them. I think it was two years before the biggest failure, which was General Motors on the order.
There was like three failures in a row.
There was one that was around about a billion dollar loss.
There was an IBM one, which was, I think, five billion, which was seen as being ridiculously big.
And then I think General Motors came out with an eight billion.
And it's sort of like the big turnaround of a lot of those large American companies.
So a little bit of time at IBM, what what caused the the reflection to say, okay, I want to move this is this is not the path for me.
What was that?
Well, that was probably more fortuitous than anything else I went to on they had a another program because I wanted to be a technical person being a being an engineer at heart because I like to solve problems.
My this is one of my first learnings about myself and also business was that I believe that to be able to sell IBM I needed to understand the products.
Whereas, of course, what I found out very soon afterwards was that it wasn't about the products or sellings about relationships with your customers.
And I did see quite a few technical sales people lose sales because they reached the point where the customer was ready to buy and they kept telling them about the product over and over again until the customer said, okay, come back in a couple of weeks and I'll think about it.
And of course, never got anywhere. But the the reason so as part of that, I was totally focused on technology areas and looked after education and got into multimedia at a very early stage where it was all based on 286 and 38 very early 386 machines and a bit of Unix.
And so I went and did a research and development sort of fellowship with IBM in the United States.
And I was working and doing some design work around digital audio and video cards, I sort of the big cars used to put into your PC slots.
And when I completed doing that work, I came back to Australia and I'd signed a non release type form that I wouldn't leave the company within a year of completing this research fellowship.
And so I came back and that's when the big failure had happened.
And they put together what they call a voluntary separation package, which was the very first form of redundancies, but it was called the VSP, the voluntary separation package.
And because I'd signed this thing, I wasn't allowed to apply for it. So I just sort of sat there and listened to the conversations about everybody talking about whether they'd take the package or not.
And I wasn't allowed to take it.
Anyway, then there's another fellow in Melbourne, who actually took them to court and said he was one of the managers and he took them to court because he was on the board of a company and he wanted to leave to stay on the board of the company that he was on for IBM, but not be working for IBM.
And because they'd called it the voluntary separation package, that had to be voluntary.
So even if you'd signed a non disclosure, sorry, a non-release form, you could leave.
And I had a job offer from Data General.
So I left, I took the opportunity to be paid more and take the package as well.
Yeah, so nice little feature. And at the time Data General were, well, they were okay.
But I guess the cracks were in the works as far as DG was concerned, because that was the era of mainframe starting to come into the mid range systems.
Yeah, that's right. They failed in that in holding on to that mid range space, but they grew.
I had a very successful storage solution and set of products.
So they, they grew in that regard. And they had hired me because they wanted to build out their professional services group.
So I came on sensibly to build a professional services team.
They never had one before, they just had a technical services support.
So you buy your mid range computer with or without the storage, and you would get a techie to come and install it.
And that's it.
So once it's up and running, leave, there is no solutions, no building it in with, you know, optical character recognition, or any type of application suites, which is the reason you're buying the computer.
So I helped them build a professional services group to to chase some of those solutions with their equipment as part of it.
So you weren't at DG very long. How long? How long was that? It was nearly nearly two years was just over a year and a half.
And then, and then how did how was this the point of where you start your where we met at BHP, but how was the transition from DG?
What what got you to look at BHP? Well, well, once as he's talking about before the the writing was on the wall within the company with DG, they were going to have to restructure because they were losing their core business and they weren't an Australian small outpost for them.
They weren't transitioning to the professional services and the storage solutions as quickly as I was it was tough.
It's tough for a company to lose its core business and start that migration.
So you can imagine that there's all sorts of politics going on.
Anyway, so I put my CV out in the marketplace and there was the multimedia work that I'd been doing at IBM and had I and I'd done some of at Data General.
There was a great role where Telstra was building a multimedia center and they wanted somebody to lead it.
So I put my hand up, I got the interview, took the day off work and I was sitting in my suit and I got the phone call to say that the head of general manager of that area who was going to be interviewing me was sick.
And so I said, well, I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go and the, you know, what can I do?
And the recruiter said to me, well, there's this other job that you could go for at BHP.
And so I said, well, what it's about? He told me a couple of details and he said, I'll call you back.
So he rang the general manager of information systems for BHP Steel, a guy called Peter McClure and Peter was available that morning.
So I changed my destination from being Exhibition Street in Melbourne to being down at the corner of King Street and Burke Street, I think it was.
And went and met Peter McClure for a job interview that I wasn't prepared for in any way, shape or form, which is probably a good thing because I was completely relaxed.
And as I found out later, Peter was pretty quite scary in his own way, because I wasn't prepared for the interview.
I was just going along just to have a look basically to make use of my day.
Another incredible sliding door moment because, you know, BHP at the time, as we'll talk about, became a great innovator in technology.
And, you know, Peter McClure certainly, you know, one last week with Gus Ferguson being one of the legends of tech that Wayne talked about, Peter McClure is certainly one of those guys for you in this regards as far as BHP is concerned.
Incredibly fortuitous to not be having gone down the Telstra path to go down the BHP path to open up a different part of Korea.
So talk to me about the BHP because at the time, you know, it was before they became more of the mining company that were known for being the steel company and you're joining the steel business.
And you've had IBM go through, you joined IBM and IBM have their little bit of a meltdown.
You have joined DG and DG have their little bit of a meltdown and you joined steel.
And what's happening with steel at the time? Well, yeah, exactly.
It was about to go through its meltdown. I think when I joined BHP, steel group was 70% of BHP.
So it's one of the biggest miners in the world and 70% of its entire company is based around steel.
Oh, thank you. Hi Jen. Jen's saying hello. My coffee.
Thank you for my morning coffee. Oh, very nice. I asked her to bring it in a dress down and she said no.
Oh dear. She's your wife. So we'll let that go.
No, it's interesting. I was having drinks with my team a week or two weeks ago and she was having her team drinks and they actually, there are companies now that do organise Zoom meetings with trivia and games and those types of things.
And while I was having my team meeting, my wife was running up and down the house.
She came past in a dressing gown at one stage and it was this whole, it was like around the world or something was one of the themes.
And so she was running places, she was dressing up and things.
She was, yeah, it's amazing that the change is in the way that we interact with our businesses and from home.
Yeah, quite incredible. Sorry, what was the question? Well, you've just gone through, you know, IBM to DG to Steele.
Is this nature of following you around of joining companies or going through restructure?
No, looking back in retrospect, it seems that way, but no, this was the first time I actually went to a customer.
So having been at IBM and Data General, when you're on the vendor side, all you do is think about customers and how you're going to either help them or sell them something.
And so finally going to one, and, you know, of course, when you're with a vendor as you are now, you have anywhere between five and 50 customers and you're trying to keep all of them engaged and happy.
Going to just one customer to make a difference was like a very big eye-opener for me because it just seems so easy.
It's like it's going from having lots of projects to keep all running in parallel context, switching all the time to just having one focus.
And of course, you know, and Peter McClure was a great advocate of having the discussion with your boss and you agree on the one thing that he has to be successful in.
And if you can help him be successful in that, then you will be successful too.
Yeah. So, and here's one thing, which was the reason he was looking for somebody and the reason he hired me was the Steel Group had been, even though the 70% of the company were all on Apple's.
And Gus Ferguson, as you mentioned before, and his boss, Peter Littlejohn, who was the CIO at the time, had made the decision to go down Windows 95.
And this was in 1995. So it was about moving the Steel Group from Apple's to Windows 95.
So having come from IBM and being involved with IBM computers and obviously OS2, along with Microsoft Windows, it was right in my sort of wheelhouse of experience to be able to take a large group and plan through large change of a group from using one type of system to another and the components of data migration and people change.
And my role specifically, apart from helping plan out a lot of that activity was to really be the executive support.
So I think Steel Group had a number of what were called group general managers, I think they had seven or eight of them.
And they had probably 30 to 40 general managers, and then all of the other support staff that go with them in the head office.
And of course, they saw themselves as and they were pretty important people and important to expensive resources that if you couldn't migrate the daily use of a computer from the way they currently do it to the new way, then that would cost the business a lot of money and pain.
Yeah, it was a real, it was the first iteration of transformation, digital transformation.
And it wasn't system transformational, but it was operational transformation as far as making the workforce productive, I guess.
And yeah, this is the time where the three guests in a row for the three weeks, Wayne, yourself, myself, and Todd meet in coming together as, as this big, enormous project that BHP was an enormous undertaking back then when you consider the disparity between all the groups.
And I guess the thing that people don't realise, or wouldn't realise, they always assume BHP was one company, but that BHP was multiple companies running very individual systems.
So mining systems had its own one.
And I was at BHP Minerals at the time, or BHP Coal, Euritsteel, Petroleum, running very different systems and very different needs.
And all very different.
So, you know, when this decision came in to make it all one, it was very confronting at the time, but also innovative.
And this is where I think, you know, part of the innovation drive that BHP had in the 90s, really came from the 80s and 90s about being able to be the leading edge for a big steel manufacturer or a big mining company.
Doesn't sound like it was, but this is where a lot of the innovation was born off in the Australian market.
Oh, absolutely. I think I had a couple of major learnings at BHP, and one of them was obviously around that supporting executive and people change, because they were expensive resources.
They got a lot thrown at them, but I learned a lot about that.
But the key learning I had was probably more the, so I referred to before, Peter Littlejohn.
His role in engaging with the executive management team of BHP and the board resulted in him getting support for a decision.
So he actually set a sunset clause around moving to Windows and Office 95, essentially by putting it around our email.
I think it came out, he used, as you should, as all technology people should, you use issues or incidents as the opportunity to invest.
And I think it was the CEO at the time had been in London where we had a major office and tried to send an email back to the board.
And one of the email servers somewhere between London and Melbourne, the email conversion between probably an Apple and a Windows email service.
Lotus Notes it was at the time, because we were on notes. Yeah. Something failed and email never arrived and he cracked it.
And Pet Littlejohn basically said, right, we're all moving to the same mail server.
And that turned into from just the same mail servers globally to being the same operating system and the same, you know, office products.
And I think that the way he did that, because of course he couldn't, as much as he could say we should do that, as you said before, every one of the different business units ran as its own business.
And so you couldn't make them do it unless you could cause some other thing, which basically he put a cost on it.
So he said, I think it was prior to the decision he said before that it was, I think it was maybe, let's say it was $10,000 per year per email server.
And he said, if you haven't moved by September of 1995, in October, you'll be charged, you know, $50,000 for the old servers.
And if you move to the new one, you can stay at $10,000.
So essentially, it became a financial decision. And everybody moved basically on the same day.
None of them wanted to pay the extra fees around supporting their email servers.
Yeah, it's a fascinating time of transformation and change and, and a great insight into I think what, you know, one of the attributes that I think you have is seeing complexities in businesses and then finding a path forward for change for them.
You spent a few years at BHP, moved into ANZ, again, another technology, strong technology company and an organisation itself going through quite dramatic change as well.
What was your role at ANZ?
And, and, you know, what were the key things that you focused on while you were there?
Okay, so there's a couple of learnings here, because the role was leading that were part of the technology architecture team.
And I sort of went into that.
I don't know what it was, I can't remember what it was called, but it's sort of around the desktop and mid-range type technical architecture.
I was in the effectively infrastructure architecture team.
And so this was going to where I thought I needed to be.
Because having been at BHP, seeing the way that, and Wayne Dell was part of that sort of core team way that they did technology strategy and architecture gave me an insight into what I wanted to do.
And I made the I incorrectly assumed that ANZ being a bank where everything they do is technology-based, as in every transaction and all the information that they use, that technology would be a key part of their business.
I mean, it's just something that they have to have, versus BHP being a minor.
So I took I thought going from BHP to ANZ to be a major technology have more influence on the business decisions as well.
And of course, once I got to ANZ, I looked around and went, these guys are five to 10 years behind BHP.
I was, I didn't even stop to check that before I made the decision to move.
I sort of moved there and got there and looked around and went, Oh my God, I was able to get all of my original PowerPoint packs from BHP and do global with BHP to ANZ and say, here's your architecture and strategy like this is, it was because they were so far behind and people were like, you've only been here for like a week and you've already written like a whole year's strategy.
It was like, it made me look good. But I was really a bit disappointed because I'd made the incorrect assumption that the banks were technologically advanced and they were so far behind BHP.
It was not funny, especially at the at the technology and the decision-making and the benefit that they were bringing and engaging with the business.
The banks were all about sales and basically how to drive, not the profit, but how to drive the percentages around the different components of their business to make the difference in interest, calculating interest.
I mean, there's not a lot more that they do. They calculate risk and then they put interest factors onto that and make a profit.
While you were there though, ANZ Bank had the big American, David Boyles is the CIO at the time, who had come from Amex and I'm going to be the change agent and was pushing the boundaries around some of the mainframe pieces and moving into more of the new Windows service base.
Did it actually lead to driving transformation? Is this where you really get to sink your teeth in because they were behind from where you were?
A little bit. So, I got promoted very quickly and I got put onto an executive management program.
So, I got a lot of insights into being an executive and also being involved in a lot of the change planning from the top.
So, obviously, being a technology architect back then, I had to sit down on David Boyle's behalf.
Funnily enough, he didn't want to be in the room with the CFO and the head of HR, which was Elizabeth Proust and I'm trying to remember who the CFO was, Peter Marriott, I think.
Alma Funky Cooper. No, that was later. I think it was a guy called Peter Marriott who was voted the number one CFO for like five or 10 years in a row and he'd been at the bank for like more than 20 years.
He knew more about the details of each of some of these 30 and 40-year-old systems because he'd been an auditor for KPMG before.
So, he'd been auditing these systems and the processes and then he became a finance major and then the CFO.
And so, he knew more about them than any of his thousands of employees because, of course, he had thousands of finance employees that didn't really use systems to do the calculations.
They just rolled spreadsheets up.
But yeah, anyway, you had to get him and the head of HR, Elizabeth Proust, in a room and get them to agree on a single suite ERP solution.
That was my role. So, I had to do a significant amount of work because, of course, fact-based decision -making, you've got to get the data so that you can actually have the discussion so it doesn't become an argument with these people who want to be able to make a decision.
And of course, HR wants to do their own thing and finance wants to do their own thing and they've got different times they want to do them in and different drivers, all those sort of things.
So, that's where I learned a lot about that. So, there was a lot of transformation around that type of area.
But the bigger transformation that I got value out of in that era was they had McKinsey come in and run a program.
I'm just trying to remember what it was called.
But essentially, it was a line your personal values with company values program.
And they basically ran it from the top.
So, they did it for the first, the top, I think it was the top 30 executives.
And basically, what came out of that was apparently three or four of the executive general managers broke down and cried when they stood there and said, I don't really want to be a banker.
When I went through the whole, the days of like, who am I and what am I passionate about?
And then I looked at what the banks and what the direction the bank's going in, which they've been part of, obviously, forming the strategy and they went, these two things are different.
They broke down and resigned, right?
What happened after that was, that was talked about, of course, the next layer of management down and they all went, wow, I don't want to lose my job.
And they all changed their personal values to like, I didn't realize that executives were such great actors.
They all suddenly lined up their personal values completely in line with the strategic direction and values of the bank in an instant.
And none of the, so that same type of thing didn't quite flow on. But they, I got involved in that second running of the program and I was passionate about it.
Like, this to me was revolutionary to actually align your personal values with your business.
And so, I put my hand up to run this program for the rest of the bank because of course, McKinsey just does it for the top couple of levels and then they wanted to roll it out across what was another 48,000 people, I think at the time.
And of course, it goes from being a full week program for the executive management team to being a three-day program for the, so the general manager level to being a, like probably a one-hour program for the tellers eventually when it gets down there.
But in applying for the role, the head of HR said to me, I can't understand why you're interested in this.
You're a technology person.
I said, well, yes, I'm coming from a technology background, but I'm passionate about people and change and about people knowing why they come to work.
I think somebody at one stage said to me, which I've carried all through my life is that if you're at the bank, if you're in technology, imagine yourself in a queue and the customers at the front of the queue and you're part of this whole queue of you that you're in is helping that customer.
If you can't look out and look at the customer and know what it is in your position in the queue that you're doing that's adding value to that customer, then you shouldn't be there.
And so for me, this was like, this was a way to help people to find out the reason why they were getting out of bed and coming to work.
So I was driven by this. So when they sort of said to me, yeah, but you're a technology person, what would you know about people and change?
I was like, yeah, so that was my real slide. If I look back on a whole career, that was my true sliding door moment because at that point I quit and went to work at a winery.
Yes, I think it's a great story.
But for me, having known you for many years, for me, that's an obvious part of you.
That is something you're incredibly passionate about, it's that change agent actually aligning people's values and helping them find a path.
I think that problem solving and the people part of who you are has really driven the next chapter of your career or the next chapters of your career.
But explain, how do you sort of pick that up and say, you know what, I'm just going to go spend some time in a winery?
How do you actually have that subject?
We saw a lovely Jen come give you a coffee before and have that conversation with her.
Oh, that's, we'll just probably go there. Look, for me, the learning out of the simple metric is if you've got people who are passionate about what they do, you don't have to worry about productivity, efficiency, motivation and all those type of things.
It's just about helping them to agree on what the best future state is and then they just go that you're looking for then in team building is alignment.
So anyway, having had that conversation with HR, I went back to doing technology project type leadership and I was doing that five days a week.
I had invested in a friend's vineyard and I was going down and working there on the weekends and Jen, my wife would come down with me a lot.
And so I'd have five days in the office and two days in the vineyard.
And it got to the point where I was looking, so looking forward to every weekend and so not looking forward to every week that it got to that point of just saying, what am I doing?
Anyway, so I was lucky enough to be able to up my investment in the vineyard in personal time.
And it was at a time where we were expanding the vineyard, the amount of vines that were planted and putting new trellising and vines and then building the actual winery.
So we had an old shed which had a few tanks and old barrels in it, but we were building a brand new one with a barrel room and a restaurant and a cellar door and a cafe and it's in a traditional dairy farming and onion potato farming sort of growing district.
So it used to be quite common vineyards. I think not many people would know, but there used to be vineyards that went all the way from, let's say the Barossa and the Adelaide Hills all the way through to Geelong.
So this area where the vineyard that I was involved with is, it's called Red Rock Winery and it's on the side of Red Rock Volcano.
And there's this whole lakes and craters of volcanic district, which goes all the way from basically Geelong all the way through the more famous areas around, just trying to think what's the name of that big blue lake and the volcano near the South Australian border, Mount Gambier.
Anyway, so it's actually an old volcanic region and the soil is fantastic. So there's vines, there used to be vines planted all the way through.
And when Phylloxera came out from France in the late 1850s, the government at the time paid the local farmers, of course, the Western District Farmers of Victoria were paying themselves to pull out vines and the payment was one pound per vine.
So the, you know, pretty much a pound back in the 1860s and 1870s was a lot of money and every vine was pulled out.
If you could pull out a vine and get paid a pound for it, everybody did it basically.
So there are no vines left between the port of Geelong and South Australia.
Anyway, so the vineyard's down there and I had a great time building it out and around about September, my wife Jenny, who as you said, you met before, well everybody saw before, was pregnant and we got to the point where, close to giving birth and she said, it's time to come back and, you know, get a real job.
Well, one thing that most people would have heard is the vineyards don't make money, they cost money.
So basically the entire time I was down there, which was about nine or ten months, it was basically money flowing out and nothing flowing in.
So, but we did our first vintage, I was part of South Distribution Channels with a number of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne.
Yeah, look, the value of those days of hard labour, of doing the building of an actual building, as well as putting in the trellising and planting vines, going through all the things where you go and debud the vines, you pick the grapes, you make the wine.
We were using old farming equipment, so it was very engineering oriented, where we're using old big milk storage devices where I'd have to get into my Speedos or Undies and climb into tanks and move the wine around, basically, because we didn't have special, you know, plunging or mixing devices to mix the skins when they're in the grapes going through fermentation.
So, yes, as I know you're aware, there's some funny photos that were around of me coming out of big tanks covered in grape skin.
Yes, yes. You're the only person I know who has their own Pinot, so, and I'm unfortunate enough to still have a couple of bottles left.
So, coming back and getting a real job, I mean, it's still enjoyable for me to see the passion when you talk about this.
So, I know it's a passion of ours, wine and the enjoyment, but certainly one for you.
Coming back into the theoretical real world, but you're taking, you know, something that's very obvious to you now around being that transformational change agent, you know, aligning business priorities and bringing all those elements together.
You start going through some consultancy roles and leading these projects for customers.
The next sort of big one that you move into is Australia Post, where on the outside, you're looking and thinking, oh my goodness, geez, you got to, you got to pushing it uphill.
How was the time of leading into what we would have thought as one of the most bureaucratic, slow moving organisations in the country?
It was actually, I went into, the first time I went in there, I went in to do a specific six month piece of work to help bring together multiple business units, projects into one programme of work.
And that was really good. It was a really specific piece of work. And I really developed some good relationships with people in there.
I got a call a year later after that, where they said, we've got this project.
It doesn't really fit any type of project manager.
We think you're the only sort of person, you know, I'm the right unusual person for the job.
I'm not a traditional programme manager. I'm not the, the sergeant at arms, you know, hard as nails, scary project manager, but some of them are.
Much more of the, how do we find a solution and bring people together and move them in that direction.
So, they had this one where they'd been selected by the, by DHS and the Australian government to be part of a consortium along with IBM, Microsoft and SAP to build a new e-marketplace for the NDIA.
And so, the thing for me was, it was a really great purpose, right, to build an e-marketplace where instead of people with disabilities being told you must use this service provider for these types of services, they were suddenly going to put this in the hands of the, the people with disabilities and they could choose their own and go to an e -marketplace and say, well, I'm going to put, pit these two or three vendors up against each other to choose a service.
And so, it was a great idea.
I mean, the technologies sort of exists. There are other e-marketplaces there and, and the, the issue for Australia, of course, is you needed to have a real bricks and clicks, so to speak, business model, which, of course, Australia Post has with the nice number of sort of outlets that are government-owned, that are all around the countryside and to mix that with the e -marketplace enables people with disabilities all over Australia to engage with the service.
So, it was a really great value proposition. Of course, getting vendors like IBM, Microsoft and SAP to all play together along with, you know, Australia Post and, and come up with a solution that works and that if people aren't finger pointing, they'd tell it was a massive, a massive thing to try and run.
At the end of the day, we actually ended up knocking out all of them because essentially, you've got to have one owner, if you like, of this type of service that brings in vendors and other things to provide the services.
But if you don't have one throat to choke in this type of thing, so we became that throat to choke.
Of course, the issue we ran into was the election and when Malcolm Turnbull wasn't fully voted in initially, all of the projects the government were running with DHS and others went on hold.
So, we essentially built the MVP of the e -marketplace and assembled an unbelievable team, which was, I just love bringing great people together.
It's six months of heartache, but once you've got the team together, it just starts moving by itself.
So, I think, yeah, Australia Post actually had some good people.
I think the only place I've worked where I've had really, the politics have been the worst I've ever seen.
I don't know whether I should be saying, but it was toll.
I worked at toll over there and you'd be surprised. I think Australia Post's culture was very similar to Telstra.
It was actually not as archaic government as you might think, and it was certainly very caring and interested in its people.
Still going through a lot of change, obviously. Well, we've got a couple of minutes left and I remember speaking to you last night.
There's no way we're going to fill an hour.
We haven't even got back to where we started, where you're at now.
So, let's jump forward now, taking over a CIO role at Metricon. As you mentioned before, a big building company, very traditional in they build homes, you build buildings.
It's all about construction. How do you bring in all the things that you've learned and experienced and your passion to work every day?
Well, the first and most important thing that my role was to do was to build a new team.
Metricon has been investing in technology for over 20 years, but most of the investment they put in was between 10 and 20 years ago.
So, one of the metrics I looked at before I started in the role, because I was there consulting initially, okay, I decided that I wanted to build a new team.
I love it, Matty. That was awesome.