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Get to know: Marcus McNamara, Head of APAC of Sana Commerce

Get to know: Marcus McNamara, Head of APAC of Sana Commerce

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On the lighter side of things, we ask Marcus McNamara, Head of APAC at Sana Commerce,  what makes him tick.

Marcus McNamara, Head of APAC at Sana Commerce

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Working in the Software-as-a-Service industry on five continents is up there. I’m an Aussie who’s spent two years in Europe, a year in North America and stretches in South East Asia and South Africa. Nothing’s come up in Antarctica yet but when we start selling software to penguins, I’m there! Having done business successfully all over the world – interacting with people professionally and navigating the various different cultures – is definitely something I’m proud of.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

Back in school, I was very passionate about computers and certain I wanted to become a software developer. I studied all the IT subjects, then did a Bachelor of Information Systems at university. It wasn’t until I graduated and got my first job that I discovered I wasn’t actually very good at developing software, even though I quite liked it. Despite that belated revelation, my technical background has served me immensely well over the years. I found my niche translating technical requirements to the rest of the business and that experience led me down the solutions consulting and pre-sales path. From there, I was able to move into sales and sales management, then on to regional leadership roles. Not quite the CIO career track I imagined I’d be on as a younger person, but it’s proved a better journey for me.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I’ve always been an advocate for openness and transparency and strive to maintain a highly communicative style, open door style of management. ‘Managerial mystique’ and keeping employees in the dark has never been my way; I’d rather involve my team in the decision-making process, whenever I can. That’s not always possible but I’m certainly not a dictator and have no aspirations to be one!

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

The practical use of Artificial Intelligence has come very much to the fore in recent times. The term AI is a buzz word that doesn’t really convey a lot of meaning; it’s more meaningful to talk in terms of highly complex algorithms that enable you to undertake predictive analytics that can be used to drive decision making. We’re seeing this technology being incorporated into SaaS products across the board. It’s exciting to observe the routine, real world application of a concept that was highly theoretical for such a long time.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

My two biggest hobbies – snow skiing in winter and scuba diving in summer – have been very rudely interrupted for the last couple of years. In lieu of pursuing them, I’ve gotten into keeping a very large tank of tropical fish at home: Nemo, Dory and the rest of the shoal! As a Melburnian, I could get out there in Port Phillip Bay on the weekend – there’s a couple of reefs and some really good diving – but you’ve got to be impervious to the cold water, or wear a super thick wetsuit. That’s not my idea of a great time – I much prefer it when the water is more like a bath! Aside from that, I have been known to play the odd computer game and I enjoy going to the movies and eating out.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

Ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything because I’ve come to learn that, in the long run, adversity can be the precursor to opportunity. Constant success doesn’t necessarily lead to growth and if I’d practised ‘perfect’ decision making all the way through my career I’m not sure I’d be where I am today.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

Across the SaaS world, globalization of product suites is a major focus. Companies like Sana have solutions that tend to be born out of a particular region or geography. Expanding internationally necessitates adapting those solutions to meet the needs of new markets and their various different ways of working. Being dynamic and responsive is essential.

What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?

The ICT landscape here is very fragmented. Major vendors don’t necessarily dominate the market, as they do in other parts of the world. There are lots of small to medium sized players and it’s far less common for organizations to have an ICT strategy that’s centered around a single vendor or solution. Best of breed approaches are more the norm and that means having to work with multiple third parties and ensure your solutions can integrate with theirs.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

Moving from another SaaS company to Sana in October 2021 was a massive change! My remit is to build a team and grow our capability in APAC. Prior to my joining, Sana had a couple of individual contributors whose success on the sales front was the catalyst for the company committing to invest heavily in the region. I came on as employee number three and I’m expecting there’ll be at least 12 of us by mid-2022. We’ll be developing support, implementation, marketing and specialized consulting functions over the next year – lots to do!

What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

You shouldn’t aspire to become a C-level executive just because it seems like a good idea to get to the top of the tree; don’t make that, in itself, your goal. Throughout your career, continue to validate that it’s the right choice for you because it does come at a price.
As you climb higher up the ladder, your responsibility and stress levels will increase and work life balance becomes harder to achieve, so it’s got to be something that gives you professional and personal satisfaction. Re-evaluate each time you take a step up, rather than pushing blindly ahead; that way you can manage your career in a healthy way and take it in a direction that will provide you with genuine fulfillment.

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