Hindsight is always 20/20. There’s opportunity everywhere if you know how to look for it, recognise and grasp it. This is the key lesson that Kong field CTO, Brad Drysdale quickly learnt while building his career. With a strong focus on family and the opportunity to mentor young professionals, Drysdale also delves into what’s in store for Kong in the months ahead.
What was your first job?
I grew up in Port Macquarie and my first job was a milk run, after school a couple of days a week. Back then, I was saving up to buy either a drum kit or a dirt bike: it was 50:50 which way it would go.
My parents said if I came up with half the money, they’d chip in the other half. They were hoping and praying it would be the motorbike, not the drum kit, and so it turned out to be!
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
When I was in second year university I did a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) at Macquarie University.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work part time, as a software engineer slash tester at AT&T Bell Labs (later Lucent).
The entree came courtesy of one of my lecturers. I was doing a lot of extra-curricular activities at the time – running a computer club, getting involved in research projects and that helped me to get noticed amongst the department.
From there, I moved into Unix Systems Admin and Unix software engineering, before scoring my first real career job: a pre-sales role with Netscape in 1996, back when the company was in the rock star phase.
That hands-on technical experience has really helped propel my career. Being able to understand the technology and articulate its value to business leaders calls for a surprisingly rare combination of skills.
Being someone who can do both those things has enabled me to navigate the IT industry successfully and I learnt a lot as I progressed.
What has been your biggest business mistake and the lessons you’ve learnt from that experience?
It’s not so much a mistake; more of a missed opportunity. I had a couple of chances to move to the US in the late nineties and early 2000s when the dot com boom was happening. Had I taken them up, my career level may have ended up being a lot higher.
People land VP roles very early over there because it’s such an immersive environment. Why didn’t I go? I’m Australian, I love it here, my family is here and I was fairly newly married at the time.
The idea of living in California appealed to me but the broader US; not so much. Having said, I later moved to the UK for seven years and loved it, so perhaps I was just too young at the time.
There are three lessons I’ve taken from this. Hindsight will absolutely always be 20/20. There’s opportunity everywhere if you know how to look for it, recognise it and grasp it. And, most importantly, if you always turn up early, ready to learn, and ready to try something new, opportunities will come your way.
What are some of your plans for Kong in the coming months?
Our goal for the next couple of years is to push for acceleration, to define and own a category.
So, for us, it’s all about growth. We’ll have a big push on some products that feed into the digital transformation trend that is accelerating, here in Australia and globally.
Historically, Kong enjoyed a lot of its early success in the Australian market in the financial services sector but we’re now seeing an appetite for our products from new markets such as government, logistics and retail. The time is ripe for Kong to do exceptionally well and everyone on the team will be working 110 percent to ensure our customers are successful and that Kong is successful.
What are some of your biggest ambitions, personally and professionally?
Personally, it’s all about family. I have two young kids and I want to be the right dad; to be present, active and engaged, like my parents were for me.
To do the right things by them and set them up with the right mindset and attitudes – that desire to dig deep and always be present. Keeping myself fit and healthy is also a priority. In the last three months, I’ve lost a lot of weight and started going back to the gym, and I’m committed to keeping up the good habits.
Professionally, it might sound a bit dull but I’m not the kind of guy who seeks a lot of fame or status. Having a good team, trying to elevate the people in it as much as I can and working with customers to help them achieve success does it for me.
As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable in my own professional skin, I’ve realised how satisfying it can be to mentor and coach people who are earlier on in their careers and looking to climb the ladder.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not from a professional perspective. Live for the day, because ‘the days are long, but years are short’, is a simple piece of advice that has really resonated with me since becoming a father.
Working in a high-pressure industry like IT, it’s easy for the days to feel long and stressful but, if you don’t make an effort to live in the moment, they can whisk by so fast and you can’t get them back.
So, I try to focus on family and longevity and on amassing skills that I can pass on to the people who come behind me.