On the lighter side of things we ask Daniel Harding, Director, Australia Operations, MaxContact, about what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Introducing MaxContact to the APAC region while juggling the challenges of emigrating to a new country felt like quite a feat! We arrived from the UK in 2016, with a four-year-old and a baby and all our worldly goods in a container ship, and I had a busy couple of years after that, setting up the company’s Down Under arm and settling the family in.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I came at it from a sideways direction. After finishing school, I did an engineering apprenticeship with Shell and spent a few years working as a refinery control room operator – friends used to joke that I was the North of England’s answer to Homer Simpson! I wasn’t in the technology industry per se but the job itself was highly automated. We used technology to monitor and manage a stack of complex systems and processes. When the opportunity arose to make the shift to ICT, it didn’t feel like a huge leap.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
Treating people as equals and encouraging them to express their opinions freely has always been the way I roll. We’re a small team so duties aren’t as demarcated as they would be in a larger organization. Everyone has to chip in and do whatever needs to be done. It helps that I work with people who are invested in the success of the company and can be trusted to get on with the job.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Business Continuity! To say it’s the hot topic for contact centers in 2020 would be an understatement. No one could have imagined the events of this year and the impact they would have on companies around the globe. People who’ve never really planned for Business Continuity have either gotten lucky – or really unlucky. It’s created a huge opportunity for vendors like us that can help companies switch over seamlessly to a work-from-home or hybrid model. We’re also seeing big businesses moving their call centers back to Australia to mitigate the risks associated with an offshore model. That’s likely to be a long term trend, not a flash in the pan.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I’ve always been a keen golfer and where I live on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to courses. I’m a member at the Headland Golf Club in Buderim and I really enjoy getting out there for a round with different members, quite a few of whom are, like myself, newcomers to the area. The habit has rubbed off on my elder son. He’s now eight and plays in junior competitions, so I have the privilege of caddying for him – and being told off when I pull out the wrong club! As a family, we also enjoy discovering new walks. Along the coast to Point Cartwright is our current favorite.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
That’s a hard one to answer because both of the careers I’ve had have been challenging and fulfilling. The oil and gas industry had lots to recommend it although it wasn’t especially family friendly – lots of fly-in, fly-out work or living in remote locations – and so does ICT. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people over the years and I have some great memories. Of course, we all make the odd dubious decision but it’s best to try to learn from mistakes rather than stew over them.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
We’re seeing smaller companies as well as large ones looking to upgrade their legacy voice-centric contact centers, to take advantage of sophisticated platforms that have become accessible and affordable. Technologies that allow businesses to save money and boost productivity – automation, self-service and digital channels like web chat and live chat – are where it’s at. All these things can help organizations resolve straightforward enquiries more efficiently and improve their customer experience. Given the challenging economic times we now find ourselves in, that’s likely to remain a focus.
What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?
Most vendors would agree that the geographic scale of the APAC region is a challenge, particularly if you don’t have a network of branch offices or strong partnership arrangements. Although we offer a cloud-based product, customers still want that face to face interaction, and the assurance that you’re local and will have their back if issues arise. Pre-COVID, that meant a pretty solid travel schedule but of course the pandemic has put paid to that for now. It will be interesting to see if clients and vendors are happy to continue interacting virtually once international travel resumes or whether we’ll return to business as usual.
What changes to your role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
When we entered the Australian market a couple of years back, I was the business – decisions, operations, communications…you name it! As we’ve built up a presence in the region and made some strategic hires, I’ve assumed a more traditional management role, stepping back and delegating some key functions and activities. I’ll continue to do that over the next year as we expand geographically – we established a presence in New Zealand last year and are looking to explore further opportunities across the region – and grow our partner network.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?
Get ready for a rough ride. Being responsible for the direction of a company can involve long days and nights, challenging conversations and hard decisions. That’s the downside but on the upside is the satisfaction you get from helping other businesses expand and prosper through the use of your technology. It’s also vital to keep learning from those around you. No one knows everything or has all the answers and everyone has something to contribute.Click below to share this article