In this edition of ARN's 'One-on-One' interview series, we speak to Chris Marshall, founder and managing director of blueAPACHE, discussing how his interest in microwave communications led him to his passion for IT and eventually establishing blueAPACHE, the importance of building the right fit company culture, and ambitions to invest in its business globally this year.
What was your first job?
At the age of 12 I started a lawn mowing round, which I continued to run until my first job in the IT sector.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to establishing blueAPACHE?
I was undertaking a project in my Year 12 physics class on Microwave communications. At the time my physics teacher, who also happened to be head of the information systems faculty, was working with a systems integrator called Viking Technology on a microwave network connecting our school facilities across the campus. He connected me with the director to gain a practical understanding of microwave communications. My passion for technology was recognised and I was offered a summer job helping to roll out the new server and storage infrastructure.
During my first year of university, where I was studying computer science, I was completely underwhelmed and when the call came with an offer of a full-time position at Viking, I jumped at the opportunity. I started out in a field technician role and over the following two years I had the opportunity to work across many aspects of the business. I thoroughly enjoyed the commercial aspects, and my passion for technology was now partnered with a passion for business. With the internet age approaching, I saw a great opportunity which wasn’t aligned to the core business of Viking and by July 1998 I took the plunge to found blueAPACHE.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
As a relatively young leadership team at the time, we were cognisant of the fact we didn’t have all the answers. This led us to engage a highly regarded consultant to review our operational framework, and we were very impressed with the report that was prepared and were keen to accelerate the adoption of the recommendations. We managed to convince the consultant, who was in the twilight years of her career and winding down to join the organisation in a transformational leadership role – albeit in a part-time capacity.
There was a cultural misalignment from day one, introducing the politicking you expect within an enterprise into blueAPACHE. Although only in the role for four months, it took far longer to repair our damaged culture. What I have learned, is that if it doesn’t feel right then it isn’t and deal with it quickly.
What are some of your plans for blueAPACHE in the coming months?
2020 is a big year for blueAPACHE, particularly for our service provider business, where we have a significant program of work in place to bring new capabilities and accelerate the time to value for our customers. Key customer wins will see further investment in our global business, with a particular focus on Singapore and the U.S.
What are some of your biggest ambitions - personally and professionally?
Professionally I am ambitious to see blueAPACHE continue to grow our global business, allowing us to export the capabilities of our incredible team. Personally, I would love to spend a year living abroad – ideally the French Riviera!
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
It was from Meg Whitman, when talking about building high performance teams. She said that if someone isn’t working out you should action it immediately – no one ever regrets doing it too quickly, only ever taking too long.