After following advice from a surprising source – a part-time gardener, who had been the CEO of a major corporate in a former life – Kal Watson scored her first IT job as a telesales rep. After running a small IT consulting business and a franchise, Watson also gained international experience through an expat stint in the United Arab Emirates.
All of these roles and experiences in various industries have led to her becoming A/NZ channel manager at Jamf.
What was your first job?
Like most people, I had a lot of part-time gigs in bars and cafes while I was at Deakin University. After graduating with a degree in Bioscience, I struggled to get a job in that field, and a careers counsellor suggested I look at sales and marketing instead. I baulked at that, but I knew I wanted to be in an industry with guaranteed employment, so I did a management and marketing diploma at night and worked part-time in retail.
I also sold life insurance door-to-door during the day; that was certainly challenging and gets you out of your shell! I acquired a lot of discipline and resilience during that time, resulting in many more opportunities coming my way.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
Way back when Telstra was embarking on a new customer service strategy centred around a cutting edge development – call centres. I really wanted to get in on the action, and with help and advice from a surprising source – a part-time gardener, who had been the CEO of a major corporate in a former life, I scored my first IT job as a telesales rep. It was a great training ground.
I’ve explored and gained business and market dynamics experiences by taking an idea to market, for example, an Australian candy that was exported to the US. I’ve also run my own small IT consulting business for some time and a franchise.
I also gained international experience through an expat stint in the United Arab Emirates, which opened my eyes to cultural factors in the workplace. I did a lot of direct selling through a series of business development management and senior account management roles with systems integrators and telcos and gained channel experience through different companies.
All of these roles and experiences in various industries have helped me amass the skills, knowledge and creativity that I bring to the table in my current channel role at Jamf. It provides me with insight and empathy on how a business runs, investment required, the risks and alignment our partners need to increase market share, grow revenue and profit. Through a robust channel program at Jamf, I hope to provide the support partners need and let them know that we are in this together.
What’s been your biggest business mistake and the lessons you’ve learnt from it?
It’s hard to narrow it down to “the biggest”, as I don’t dwell on it so much and think of it as an opportunity to learn and work on it. Understanding and learning how to manage politics in the workplace is something I’ve struggled with at various times over the years. When you begin your career, you’re quite naïve and idealistic. You think a good work ethic and attitude will suffice, but like it or not, politics creeps in, in its various guises, in businesses of all shapes and sizes.
What have my missteps taught me? If you’re sailing into uncharted waters, trust your instinct, read the environment and ask others for advice, insight and support. Keep an open mindset and be true to yourself – your moral compass.
What are some of your plans for the company in the coming months?
Jamf is a clear leader in Apple Enterprise Management (AEM) for Apple devices. Our global headcount has increased to over 2000 employees, and we are opening up new regions. We are also enhancing our product portfolio through product development and acquisition, most recently with Wandera, a zero-trust security and access provider.
Our resellers are just as important to us as our end users, and we are focused on supporting our channel. Here in A/NZ, I’ll continue developing and refining a robust program that helps partners grow their businesses by delivering stand-out device management, security solutions and services for the Apple environment. My role was a newly created one when I came on board in 2020 – prior to that, our country manager and broader team shouldered the bulk of the workload – and so, there’s plenty to do!
What are some of your biggest ambitions, personally and professionally?
Personally, my chief ambitions are to navigate life with as much grace as I can muster and to provide love and support to those in need. I’m concerned about the changes COVID-19 has brought about for my two young adult children and others in their demographic – the isolation and anxiety it’s causing are matters of real concern. I try to encourage them to take on new hobbies and interests, to laugh and to be grateful.
Professionally, I want to develop an amazing channel ecosystem at Jamf A/NZ, step up into a larger regional leadership role and continue to share my skills and knowledge via mentoring in the workplace. Our Women@Jamf program provides lots of opportunities to do just that.
What’s been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
One that comes immediately to mind because it’s been relevant to many facets of my life came from my mother. My parents immigrated to Australia from India, and we faced the challenges that most newcomers to this country face.
My mother and I were having quite a deep discussion one day about work and relationships and living in a multicultural environment – I was 20 at the time and still remember it clearly – and she said to me: "The way to navigate this life is to remain flexible in thoughts and actions. Being rigid is limiting and, as time goes by, your understanding changes. Just look to nature and see how it adapts." That advice has served me so well, personally and professionally, because change is pretty much a constant in every life. And if you work in IT, it happens extremely fast.