This month we interviewed Steve Cannard, GCOMM’s Infrastructure Deployment Manager. Steve has been with the company since the early days and has been involved with defining GCOMM’s offering and providing the best possible service to the clients.
Tell me a bit more about the early days at GCOMM. How were the things back then?
In 1999 I was working in Surfers Paradise for a Canon dealership for 6 years as their IT department. Through a mutual acquaintance I was introduced to Data FX (GCOMM’s original name) and they asked me to join the team. I was pretty intimidated by the challenge because Data FX had a great reputation for innovation in technology and they were putting solutions together that a sole operator like myself had no hope of matching. However, I was promised to be given all the support I needed in order to learn their systems – they certainly delivered.
At that time, Peter Thompson had burnt himself out after three years to build the business from basically nothing but his credit card and some very capable staff. He exhausted himself after 3 years of working 24/7, running the business, doing all the sales, the financials, the product development – he was literally doing everything.
He decided to hire his brother Dan Thompson to run the business. Michael Bellears and Matt Thompson also joined at that time, Adam Tessieri and Craig Deutsher were already on board and I was asked to take care of the sales role (these people are all still with the business). This meant that Peter was able to step back from daily operations and focus on other things.
When I started off, it was very tough and at times we were losing money. Everyone was busily preparing for the year 2000 bug and it drove a lot of business but after it was done, we realised companies had already spent their IT budgets, so 2000 was actually a really tough year. The spending didn’t pick up for a long time. It was an insecure period, but we did a lot of good projects, worked really hard to please our clients and gradually started building the business again.
I thought I went from a place of having a lot of job security to not so much. However, we really stuck together and had a ball. We’d have BBQs, train together down at the beach a few times a week. It was just a very tight bunch of people; we spent a lot of time together and got to know each other really well.
What is your IT background?
I never actually saw myself going into IT. When I was 19, I got a job at a technology company in Brisbane as a freight boy. My very first technical job was installing memory in HP printers. That then evolved into engineer’s job assembling PCs. After about 6 months I was promoted to a field technician. I ended up being trained as an on-site engineer and that is how I got my grounding in technology. While I am not tertiary qualified, I have done endless industry and vendor training and ongoing technical training is a habit that I will never let go.
When I moved to the Gold Coast, I was involved in both sales and engineering. I would not only architect the solution, but also be the person to acquire, install and maintain it. It’s not the most efficient way to do things but it is a fantastic way to learn how to run business. I’ve had a solid grounding in design, maintenance and sales. GCOMM itself was the best school I could ever get. I brought a solid grounding in technology here with me and have been constantly challenged to learn and get better every year.
What was your role when you first started working at GCOMM? Has it changed over the years?
The primary role has never really changed; it has always been about sales and service. The core focus of maintaining customer relationships has been the most rewarding part of the job. As I’ve been here longer, I’ve also had the opportunity to branch out into product development, management, and business processes.
What are the main reasons you’ve stayed in the company since 1999?
It’s something that you revisit from time to time; asking yourself is your career on track, where do you want to be, and so on. GCOMM has always innovated so one year is never the same as the last. It’s also a lot about family and lifestyle. I love the Gold Coast, my kids are here. I have genuine regard and respect for the people I work with because we’ve shared a lot over the years. I think this company has an amazing pool of talent. As long as we can continue to evolve and grow I can see myself spending another 10 years at GCOMM.
What would you say are the main strengths of GCOMM?
At the risk of being clichéd, it’s the people. I think GCOMM’s main asset is the staff. We know each other well, respect each other, and work well together. There has very seldom been any internal politics or discord in the business. It makes it a very harmonious work environment. People are consistent; you can trust them and depend upon the outcome. The relationships both internally with the staff and externally with the customers are our main strengths. At the end of the day, people buy from people that they like and we’re a likeable bunch.
What are your favourite aspects of working at GCOMM?
I’ve always said that working at GCOMM is kind of like being a member of a relatively exclusive club. Everyone’s trying to reach the same goals; we’re here for a reason. We are trying to have a meaningful existence while here. We have always had things to do and customers to serve. From a personal level, I think that having a challenging and meaningful work is an important part of having a balanced life and GCOMM certainly provides that.
Most memorable experience at the company over the years?
There has been some great wins for the business that stand out, but also the times like our Fraser Island Management retreat in 2007 or the trip to Canada with Adam and Craig in 2011. These were fantastic, creative times.
What work-related accomplishment makes you the most proud and why?
I don’t know if I would call it proud, but what gives me the most satisfaction is when I hear people say kind things about me and the services that I’ve provided. Having integrity in our business dealings is very important to me.
I have also very much enjoyed being involved in bringing new products to market for the company, such as re-building our services offering from the ground up. It is very satisfying to be involved in creating new things.
What are some of your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?
Surfing, rowing, camping, fishing, Ironman triathlon, marathon, tennis – I have put a significant amount of time into all of these. I love snowboarding; I’ve done skydiving, bungee jumping & adrenaline sports. There are some things that I haven’t yet tried; I want to do hang-gliding. Every few years, I try to pick up something new.
Surfing is my first love though; I’ve done it for 30 years and recently got back from a trip to Sumatra where I enjoyed the sport more than ever. Having these activities outside of work keeps you fit and rounds you out as a person.
Nowadays I also like to get involved in community groups like the P&C and Chamber of Commerce, these are places you can participate in the local community and make a contribution. I find that’s important to me as I get a bit…older.
Where do you see GCOMM in 5 years?
I think the biggest market development that will affect GCOMM in the next 5 years will be the NBN and cloud technologies. I was very concerned that our aggregation model would suffer under the NBN, but have changed my mind since. GCOMM will have more opportunity to add value to NBN than I previously thought. However, we will have to continue to develop new products and value adds to our national network. Fortunately, we are very well positioned to build on a great platform. As long as we get our strategy right, the future looks great.♦ End