Andrew Winlaw, Vice President and General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Amelia, shares what lawnmowing means to his mindfulness – amongst other insights.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
My move into sales occurred quite a long time ago, while I was with IBM. Back in 2003, I helped the division I was working in develop a sales function. We identified a massive opportunity which culminated in IBM scoring an eight-figure deal with a household name grocery company. Seeing the contract signed was exhilarating and it was at that moment I realised that what I really wanted to do in life was to go out and sell. It was a big leap for me but, having made it, I’ve never looked back.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
In common with many people in the nineties, I stumbled into the sector by accident, when I was offered the opportunity to be part of an IT project team at the insurance company NRMA, my employer at the time. They wanted to computerise some of their systems and needed a subject matter expert. Off the back of that experience, I scored a management role at IBM and ended up spending 13 years there. During that time, I had about five different ‘careers’. If you were looking for an all-round education in IT, there was nothing better than working for Big Blue back then – getting that initial opening really was the bee’s knees.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
We’re a thousand-person company but there are only 10 of us in Australia. In that setting, I believe you need to channel your inner Greg Chappell or Ian Botham because what’s needed is a fast-paced all-rounder – someone who can confidently have a crack at doing whatever the team needs to succeed. So, for me, effective management is a balance between diving in and helping where needed and knowing when to hold back, so we develop our people and their competency.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Artificial Intelligence. Amelia is at the heart of it right now, which is exciting. We’d been waiting for something to ignite the AI wave in Australia and then Chat GPT was launched. Since then, we’ve seen an extraordinary surge of interest. When it’s harnessed and deployed by people who understand how it works best, AI can be a gamer changer.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I suspect I need to do more of everything in that area! There’s the odd round of golf, I enjoy socialising with friends and I find gardening is very therapeutic. I know it sounds strange but I don’t mind getting behind a lawn mower because when I do, I completely shut off – I’m not thinking about other things, I can just be focused on that one particular thing. Family is also a huge part of my life. We have two girls, one doing her HSC and the other at university. Watching them grow up has been a joy. Whatever your job entails, you can’t allow yourself to think about work all the time. It’s important you have an off switch and you’ve got to find the right button for you.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
I’m not sure there’s been a career decision, per se, that I’d like to wind back the clock on. I’ve really enjoyed my journey, working with companies both large and small. Shifting into the start-up space has given me more opportunity to influence the direction and trajectory of the organisation I work for and that’s incredibly rewarding. One thing I might do differently though, if I had a Back to the Future moment, would be to become more forthright, at a younger age. Feeling comfortable speaking up and saying things others may be thinking but aren’t game to say tends to be something that comes with age and experience but it would have been good to accelerate the process!
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Many companies in our region are getting a lot of traction via their digital channels – adoption has really surged especially since Covid – but their understanding of how that technology can be harnessed to maximum effect is yet to catch up. There are lots of opportunities for enterprise and government organisations to derive some incredible benefits and I think that’s where we’ll see upcoming spend directed.
What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?
We see a lack of awareness about what’s available, technology wise, here in Australia, compared with the US and Europe. Because of the isolation factor, many companies focus on becoming the best in the local market, instead of striving to be world class. Skills shortages are a perennial issue too – it’s tough to find people who are specialists in cutting edge solutions. Currently, an AI engineer is one of the highest paid IT professionals in the US and so finding those skills in our part of the world is a massive challenge.
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?
Since I joined, Amelia’s Australian office has expanded its reach to encompass more of the APAC region. For us, the SE Asian market is relatively untapped – but we plan to change that, and fast! We’re seeing huge interest in our technology from companies in Singapore, China, Korea… There are some challenges around language which we need to work through but there are also some great opportunities. I’m looking forward to Driving that growth over the next 12 months.
What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C level position in your industry?
Try to gain some experience in all the different operational competencies. You also need to be able to talk to customers at all levels and develop a genuine understanding of their problems and challenges. If that’s not your Driving focus, if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes and appreciate the impact that not solving an issue will have on their business, it’s likely you’ll get bogged down in the minutiae. Developing a solid network is critical too – you should aim to amass an eco-system of people you can work with to get the right outcomes.Click below to share this article