Les Williamson, Managing Director – Australia and New Zealand, Check Point Software Technologies, once made a career defining call by landline… back when the web wasn’t mainstream… imagine…
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Helping rebuild, realign and re-energise teams so they have a sense of purpose and are growth focused. This was my remit when I joined Citrix back in 2017. At that time, its revenue in this part of the world was static and team morale was in decline. Sharper focus on customer outcomes saw us reverse that and quite quickly too, without having to increase operating expenses in the process. Within 18 months we were recording exponential year on year growth and had secured a clutch of new accounts. On the personal front, navigating the world of having a child with special needs, alongside my wife Monique, has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
Like many people who joined the high-tech workforce back in the eighties, I stumbled into it! After majoring in maths and physics at university I was heading down an academic path, expecting to become a teacher or lecturer, when I came across a fabulous graduate program with Ericsson. Having been lucky enough to be accepted onto it, I entered the ICT industry right when mobile technology was becoming a reality and I’ve been here ever since. It’s been a fantastic ride and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I have always believed that when teams self-define a purpose and vision for their activities and actions, high performance and success follow. Smart, Driven people are over-represented in the ICT industry and they don’t need to be micro-managed. Trust and empower the people who work with you and, more often than not, they’ll reward that trust and exceed your expectations – as well as their own.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
One of the many things I love about the technology sector is its frenetic, ceaseless change and innovation cycles. They’ve always been fast and, in today’s digital first world, their speed is almost bewildering. For that reason, I tend to steer away from the Zoolander style, ‘that’s so hot right now’ discussion – it’s a sure bet something else will be hitting the top of its hype cycle in six or 12 months’ time. There’s more to be gained from trying to understand what it is your customers want to create, change or solve for. Doing so allows you to advise on the technology options that will enable that change to take place successfully.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I am an avid night sky photographer and spend at least one long night a month out in the Victorian countryside, staring up for hours, trying to capture the Milky Way and our universe. There’s nothing like it for putting life down here on planet Earth in perspective! Listening to music – Joy Division and Stone Roses are long time favorites but I also enjoy some of the newer stuff like Dry Cleaning and bDrmm – and cooking for family and friends are my other destressing activities. Having said that, I have learnt not to get terribly stressed about too many things – life really is too short, as the old saying has it.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
Not jumping out of legacy TDM technology into the world of networking and IP (Internet Protocols) early enough! Having ridden the global wave of Mobile technology and digital GSM and TDM switching with Ericsson, the networking world turned on a dime with the advent of IP, with Cisco switches and routers leading the way by disrupting traditional TDM networks. I decided to switch to that area when customers repeatedly started telling me that ATM and Frame Relay were relics of a bygone era and it was all about the Internet – I remember going back to the office and calling our Sweden-based research and development team on a landline asking them if they were across this IP protocol thing (the WWW wasn’t mainstreamed at this stage in 1993). Once I entered that world of customers disrupting and changing business models based upon the use of the Internet and IP, I not only learnt the power of disruption, but I also learnt the virtue of being rather technology agnostic and stay focussed on solving customer problems and objectives through the use of technology, process change and people.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
With regard to IT spending in Australia, Gartner expects it to exceed AU$133 billion in 2024, an increase of 7.8% from 2023. Indeed, the analyst firm expects CIOs to funnel the lion’s share of new or additional funding next year towards specific areas, including cybersecurity, cloud platform data and analytics, and application modernisation – that makes ours a great industry to be in!
The cybersecurity sector is particularly vibrant. Long gone are the days when spending on solutions and services to secure infrastructure and assets was viewed as a grudge purchase. These days, business leaders are aware of the existential threat a significant incident can pose to reputation, profitability and even the viability of their enterprise. Consequently, we’re seeing businesses devote a larger proportion of their ICT budgets to the important aspects of cybersecurity, to prevent value chain, system network and data breaches.
What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?
My particular area of focus at this time is Australia and New Zealand and customers in this part of the world have always been early adopters of new technology.
Along with that, though, comes a high level of scrutiny and benefit analysis. We work in a very competitive, outcome-focused commercial and sourcing environment so technology vendors and service providers need to be on their game. If you’re not hyper-focused on delivering demonstrable value to clients, you’ll be left behind.
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?
More and more, technology and vendor leadership positions, my own at Check Point Software included, are evolving beyond a sales focus. They’re becoming less about ‘box Dropping’ and more about holistic business and team management. It’s a reflection of what customers want – partners that are attuned with their operations and the business challenges they face, rather than suppliers that are narrowly focused on the technology piece alone. I think we’ll see that trend continue and I’m looking forward to taking more of a big picture approach to our operations and customer relationships over the next 12 months.
What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C level position in your industry?
My advice would be to never focus on a job title. Think about the value you can generate – not what’s written on your business card or email signature.
Over perform and over deliver in whatever your current role happens to be. People will notice and opportunities will start to open up.
Put the team first and yourself second and always act with integrity, transparency and honesty. If you do all those things, your career progression will look after itself.Click below to share this article