Gary Cullen wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.
But when the born-and-raised son of Napier applied for a spot in the New Zealand Air Force, his answer to a physics question was a lot more stellar than his eyesight, making him unfit to fly, but more than suited to what developed into a career in avionics, and later, in civilian IT.
“My last job in the air force is what pointed me to IT,” says Cullen, these days working as a futurist of sorts for the distributor, Westcon. “I was responsible for a piece of automatic testing equipment that had a 64bit bus running at 2 MHz, which was pretty smart for the time.”
This was in 1987, the year Cullen finished his air force career. He had planned to take some time off after his retirement, but three days after leaving the service, he was back at work again, and he’s been working in IT ever since. Cullen was among the first ten hires at Datastor, where he continued to work following its merger with Westcon.
“We didn’t have BDMs back then,” he says. “I was probably the first technically focused pre-sales guy, if you want to put a label to it.”
“And one of my jobs at Datastor was to look five years out to see what was coming along. Now I look one to three years out. Change has accelerated.”
These days, Cullen carries the title of BDM for new storage and backup technologies. It’s scouting for the next best innovation that keeps him ticking, even if Cullen has reached the age when other people think about exiting the workforce.
“God no,” he says, when asked if he is thinking of retiring any time soon. “It’s too exciting, what I’m doing at the moment.”
This kind of business development starts with a lot of research.
“I constantly read, I travel to trade shows and I sit through demonstrations,” he says. “And some of those are terrible. The bad ones just don’t test the presenter before they let them loose on the public.”
When Westcon does decide on a new storage technology, it is up to Cullen to develop the market in New Zealand for it. He looks after the SANsymphony virtual storage solutions from DataCore, and he is preparing other solutions from Xio to be turned over to standard product management.
“We have a process for onboarding new technology,” he says. “Xio is one of my greenfields products which I’ll be handing over to standard management in the next six months.”
Storage technologies have always piqued Cullen’s interest, from the first RAID stacks to the storage hypervisors from DataCore, and to Xio, which sells storage systems built on data packs (as opposed to drives) on virtual volumes in virtual RAIDs.
“That’s what I’m excited about and the reason I’m still in the industry,” he says.
Cullen says the path he took from high school into the air force, which he joined in 1966, prepared him for the career he enjoys today, starting from extensive training with handtools, to working on what was then state of the art avionics.
“A lot of people left the air force and ended in industry, and they have been some of the best trained guys out there,” he says. “That career path isn’t there anyomore.”