McAfee Asia-Pacifi c director for channels and operations, Gavin Struthers, first learnt leadership skills as a military offi cer in charge of a South African platoon. He talks to DAVID RAMLI about his love of the bush, his drive for success and his interest in building up a regional channel base.
What was your first job?
I was an usher in a movie house. That was a pretty cool time actually, because those were the days when you had people showing you to your seat with a torch. I had that job for a couple of years, part-time on the weekends. That was in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Which university did you go to?
I went to the University of the Witwatersrand and I studied a BA of Commerce with an IT major. Everyone calls it Vits.
What did you do after uni?
I studied systems design and systems development, but I ran a little side business as a student selling soiled clothing at fl ea markets. So I learned very early about selling and that you could buy something for $1 and sell it for $5. After finishing my degree, I was bound for the consulting and system development path but I opted to go sell.
How did you progress to where you are today?
My first proper job was as a sales rep in a systems integrator. I was working for a large integrator there called Joffe Associates. It would’ve been 1989. They offered me a sales management job and I was with that company for a couple of years and then moved on to being a director for a smaller integrator focusing on financial services. I spent two years with them before I was approached by Novell. They were looking for a sales director, so I thought a move into mainstream with a vendor was a good place to be. I ran Novell’s sales teams for four years then was given an opportunity to run a business out of South Africa. Once away, we continued to pursue that and made the decision to move to Australia. I started in this role at the beginning of the year.
Do you regret moving away from South Africa?
No regrets whatsoever. There are always aspects that you’ll miss, mostly that your family are there. What I probably miss the most is the wildlife – we used to spend a lot of time in the bush so we go back and we do that.
Did you have to perform national service in South Africa?
We were still in the era where you had to do two years mandatory service. I think it was phenomenal grounding for every young man so I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it in terms of self-discipline and just setting me up with some life skills. I became a training officer, so what I learnt there was how to lead people. I was able to lead a platoon and then a company of soldiers for a while. My management style was probably forged out of my military experience. I’ve learnt to tone it down and seek to have people express themselves, rather than tell them how they should express themselves.
Have you found any decent Biltong in Australia?
I’ve been quite impressed with my Biltong [cured meat] maker. The only thing is he doesn’t make game biltong. No kudu or impala but hey, we suffer in silence. It’s a company called Springbok Delights.
What do you like about your current job?
What I love about this role is that it’s just so broad. I wear three hats: One is channel and alliances, which is the bulk of the role. The other two are sales operations and I also run a bit of a S.W.A.T. team that looks after our product areas and works out our go-to-market strategy for our solutions. Of course the Asia-Pacific experience is what I stepped up for. I worked in the leadership team so I watched it from the sidelines but I wanted to get some hands-on Asia-Pacifi c experience, get into Asia and learn how this developing market operates.
What do you dislike about the IT industry?
The fact that I work as hard as I do and that I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like with the interesting and dynamic people I meet. If you get into IT and you want to be successful, you tend to have to go pretty hard and I do. I always remind myself I need to make more time for some of the people I meet and not necessarily in a business capacity.
What is the next big thing in the industry?
I really think the next big thing is this concept of IT as-a-service. Companies and people are seeing that – with the advent of virtualisation and cloud computing starting to take hold, there’s this real understanding of ‘we can require or request a service and somebody will be able to deliver that at any time. Plus, I can turn that off as I please and pay for it in creative and interesting ways’. When and how exactly, time will tell.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
Looking at the whole Asia-Pacifi c channel and where we need to be in the next two years, my role is about recruiting and enabling a channel for hyper growth. We’re experiencing some really strong growth in McAfee globally, relative to the market and in Asia-Pacific in particular. You’ve got to think ahead so that you’re recruiting partners who will see you through in two or three years time and train and enable them to serve that market and make them successful in doing it.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I’m a bit of a cycling enthusiast. I don’t do it enough, but I do get out on the weekends and enjoy that. I spend time with the family and we like to get out into the beautiful parts of Sydney, whether it’s the beach or the national parks.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be a game ranger. That was probably my first passion. I wanted to be one of those guys who protects the game from poachers and does the culling for the conservation of the bush.