Andrea Della Mattea is senior vice-president and managing director of Insight Enterprises Asia-Pacific. She is responsible for the long term growth and profitability of the $5B provider of IT solutions to private and public sector organisations across the spectrum. During 2006 and 2007, she served as the SVP of software for North America & Asia Pacific, based in Dallas, Texas. She is also a judge for ARN’s Women In ICT Awards, and one of the iconic female leaders in the Australian channel.
She sat down with ARN to discuss her career trajectory, projections for the Australian market, and diversity in what is a traditionally male dominated industry.
So how did you get into IT given your engineering background?
From an early age my ambition was always to do engineering. I thoroughly loved maths, science, physics and all those elements. Engineering was a good fit for me at the time. My ambition was eventually to go into engineering law, and move down the patent/trademark legal side of the industry.
I did computer systems and some electrical engineering at university and thoroughly enjoyed it. I first started out at an engineering firm, Trysoft, and along the way I ended up changing companies. I ended up working for an organisation, the Essentially Group, that was doing a startup here in Australia.
I was intrigued by working in a startup organisation and so made the move into IT early in my career – still at that point assuming I’d head back to do engineering law. I absolutely loved it. It got to the point a couple of years down the track where I never looked back.
I can't imagine it today, quite frankly. So if you’d asked me back then if I would’ve ended up in this part of the industry today, no absolutely not. But I’ve always been open to opportunities when they present themselves.
You spent quite a bit of time working for Insight in the USA, how did that come about?
The first time I went to the US was in 1999, when I went over to run the North American sales business for Software Spectrum. Then we came back a couple of years later when I took on the managing director role of the business here for APAC. Then I went back to the USA with my family – I had children by this time – to run the north American and APAC in 2002. Software Spectrum was acquired by Insight, and I became SVP North America and APAC, before we returned to Australia in 2008.
So why did you return to Australia when you had this great role with a leading IT services company?
It was tremendous having the opportunity to run a $3bn business across multiple geographies. The scale that you get, the engagements that you work on, the opportunities, the partner conversations and client engagements - it was all an incredible experience.
At the time I was asked to commit to a bigger role at Insight, for another 3-5 year period. We’d got to the point where my kids had already started school in the US, and I was really looking to bring them back to Australia. I wasn’t really ready to commit to another 3-5 years.
We came to an agreement, and I did stay for another year or so, but that was it.
So your kids now have American accents?
Not only American accents, but authentic Texas – the full southern drawl. They were little babies when we went, and they grew up speaking like Americans. Fortunately, after a couple of years back, they now sound like little Aussies.
How does the Australian market differ to the US one, what are the unique challenges here?
There are definitely some key differences. While I live in Australia, I do travel a lot for this role. Never mind the differences between the USA and APAC, there are huge differences within APAC. We do business differently in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, NZ and Australia. Even the A/NZ market compared to the Asia market is completely different.
The vision is obviously global, but one of the biggest differences, say in Australia versus China, is that in China its all about Guanxi – the relationship you have with people, before you start doing business with them. Here in Australia, while its certainly about relationships its more about what the client needs are, what the solution is, how you’re going to help them meet their needs. The criteria of doing business with someone certainly relies a lot less on how long you’ve known someone.
The obvious difference is scale. China and the US have opportunities of scale beyond anything you work on here.
Do you see ANZ as a testing ground for a lot of new technologies and strategies, that then get rolled out internationally?
Here in APAC we’ve built our brand and reputation around co-licensing and strategic sourcing solutions that we have in market. We’ve been doubling the business in terms of profitability every few years. So we’ve had a tremendous growth trajectory in this region, and we’re looking to double it again in the coming couple of years.
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We’re looking to transform our message and branding to be leading with the Cloud and looking more like a Cloud focused solutions provider in this market.
To your point, we are testing this all in this market, because it makes sense – the maturation of Cloud is very advanced here. Australia and New Zealand are two of the most virtualised countries in the world.
So Cloud is the big focus for Insight in FY15?
Without a doubt. A lot of our clients at the moment are really looking to come to terms with the disruptive forces that they see impacting their business.
So we’re helping our clients determine which Cloud, which workload, which scenarios, platform readiness, migration, managed services, application development and integration, and so on. The strategy around helping an organisation with its top level Cloud strategy whether they go completely public, private or hybrid, or just move a specific discipline or workload, there's absolutely a huge opportunity in the market to help clients.
I have a client here in Australia who we’re partnering with to deliver some Cloud solutions on the Microsoft Stack, and they’re opening branches or offices in other countries around the world. So time to market is incredibly important to them. By leveraging Azure technology they can actually enter another new market, and be up and running much faster than they could using legacy or on-premise solutions. You don’t need to send kilos of tin all around.
Across FY15 we’ll continue with heavy investment in this market. So I'll be looking to invest in more selling resources, more solution specialists - particularly around Cloud - and optimisation services. We also need more technical consultants to deliver upon the engagements that we see, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Australia – they’re our three main markets that the bulk of the investment will be going into.
What have you been most proud of during your time at Insight?
I think it's all about assembling a great time of leaders. For our organisation you really need to be focused on your value proposition and your differentiators, because we compete with so many great organisations in this market. Its our goal to be able to clearly articulate to the client why they should be able to trust us with their investments to meet or exceed their business needs.
So the people that you recruit and bring on board are just incredibly important. My business is successful when I have great people, who can take that message to market, and recruit strong people themselves, passionate people who are engaged. We have very good tenure, very good retention in our organisation.
Speaking of staffing, as a leading figure in the Australian IT industry, and a leading female figure, have you found that gender diversity has improved in your time?
My view is a bit different to most. Having come from engineering, which is very male dominated, I didn’t come to IT and focus on it. To me the balance of females in IT was much better. I don’t necessarily see it as others may have, but I can if you’ve come from another industry. Mostly it's about organisations. Some organisations are more balanced than others.
Having said that, over the last 20 years have I seen a positive change? Definitely. I was at an executive dinner last night, of say 30-40 people, and there were perhaps 3-4 women. Years ago, I would’ve probably been the only female. So it has certainly changed.
We certainly promote the right person for the right job, but as you willsee around our office, we’ve got a lot of females in technical roles, finance roles, males in marketing and partner management roles and so on. We’ve got a lot of great diversity.
We also bring in many people from other countries to bring in that cultural diversity too.
Finally, what are your key predictions for 2015?
I expect to see a lot more consolidation at all levels across the industry. Not just in our space, but in the distribution space and certainly with the software and hardware vendors. We’re already starting to see it in the Australian market – which ARN has covered a lot of already.
Cloud isn’t going anywhere – next year we’ll see more traction as Australian businesses move into local datacentres. Softlayer’s here, Azure’s launched, and you’ll have VMware’s vCloud going live in 2015 as well. Theres a big opportunity for the larger players and this is a big market.
Where I do get concerned is for some of the smaller players, where they might have a single instance, or a local datacentre, with a niche solution. They don’t have the billion dollar R&D investment funds, or the scale to be in other geographies for the redundancy, or expansion.
We want to see the local companies do well, but you’ve got to have a very well carved out niche and value prop differentiator to be able to survive in this market. I’d still like to see the blend between those multinational players, and the locals. Its so critical to our market to keep those profits and revenues local.
Mobility, security and Big Data will also be big next year too. It’s a great industry to be in and an incredibly exciting time.