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He started by chance, but stayed by choice

He started by chance, but stayed by choice

John O'Brien talks about his plans to grow FrontRange's footprint in the region

From his office desk in Brisbane, John O'Brien oversees the entire FrontRage Solutions business in the Asia Pacific region, including all of the company's dealings with the New Zealand channel.

As the APAC vice president for the company, O'Brien is responsible for the maintenance of strategic alliances as well as development of channel opportunities for the company. He joined the company back in 2004, when he already had over 20 years' experience in the IT industry, as well as three years in the alternative energy sector, having been managing director of Green Electric, a company specialising in the commercialisation of Australian developed technology from renewable sources.

Prior to that, he was managing director for Genesys Laboratories Australasia between 1997 and 2001. During that time he was responsible for establishing the company's operations in Sydney, as well as launching research and development facilities and an Asia Pacific support centre in Brisbane, while overseeing company growth in Asia, including Japan.

By then, O'Brien had already spent 17 years with Hewlett-Packard, working in a variety of roles, from technical support and systems engineering to marketing functions. He spent three years in Grenoble as European marketing manager, before moving to Silicon Valley in a marketing role for the company's early adopter and distributed object computing programmes.

O'Brien was born in Melbourne and while his career has taken him all over the world he is happy to have finally settled back in Australia, where he is now focused on growing the FrontRage business. The company is expanding its sales and partner organisations to cover its product portfolio, including its Heat and GoldMine solutions, infrastructure management solutions, and the newer low-end contact centre products.

O'Brien says he chose computers "as an additional subject that I didn't really understand".

"Like a lot of things – chance brought me to a field that I have really enjoyed tremendously - the IT industry," he adds. He says that if he wasn't in technology, he'd be "earth moving". "I own a 24 tonne excavator and a Bobcat," he explains.

But for now and until quieter times come along, the focus is on IT. He says New Zealand has a much better risk profile than other countries. "While the market is smaller, they have great customers there who are very straightforward. I really like interacting with customers in New Zealand."

He says business success relies on always being upfront and honest to customers and to always have "an open dialogue" with them. Business is all about relationships and those are key to a good business deal. "My typical day consists of phone calls but most of the fun is the results achieved through people," he says.

O'Brien says that business in New Zealand is "quiet at the moment" but adds that "even though projects are smaller, New Zealand competes extremelly well globally". For the next few months, O'Brien says the focus in the country will be on strengthening ties with existing customers as well as expanding the company's footprint (a goal in line with the rest of the Asia Pacific region).

Q+A

Where do you live now and where did you grow up and have lived before?

I currently live in Brisbane, however I was born in Melbourne, and have worked in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. I also lived in France for three years and the United States for six and a half years before coming back to Melbourne and finally Brisbane – a great circle tour!

Are you married? Kids? 

I have been happily married for 28 years to the same wife and have three boys.

What are you currently reading? 

Blink – How To Trust Your Gut.

Who is your mentor or someone you admire professionally? 

I admire Frank Lowy, the founder of the Lowy Foundation.

When you were little, what did you think you would be when you grew up? 

I still ask myself that same question.

Do you have any favourite sports? 

I used to windsurf and play rugby – I want to get back into touch football and try kite surfing.

What's your favourite gadget? 

My Honda Repsol 1000

And your favourite website? 

Vrbo.com – vacation rentals by owner.

What's your drink of choice? 

Alcoholic – Hendricks gin/tonic with cucumber; Non-alcoholic – water!

What do you think has been the single most important advance in technology? 

The wheel.

What do you like about the IT industry?

It’s continually changing.

What do you love the most about your job? 

The people I work with.

What do you consider to be your major strengths or skills? 

I’m a good story-teller and I like people and believe in them.

How do you keep the work/leisure balance? 

When I see this question it makes me laugh – if you discuss this it usually means that this does not exist. I have made the mistake of travelling around and not spending enough time with my family. Unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of driven men and women do - work hard, play hard!


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