Managing director of services company Optimation, Martin Butler, is a familiar face after 11 years in the IT and telco sectors.
If industry members don’t know him from dealing with Optimation, it is likely they will know him from Telecom, where he worked for about a decade, or for the IT consultancy he has provided in the past year and continues to do so.
He joined his brother Neil Butler, the Optimation owner and executive chairman, at the company last year.
Martin Butler has held several senior roles at Telecom, including general manager of business products, wholesale group manager and head of corporate marketing, and it was the game-changing nature of technology that drew him to the ICT world. He holds an MBA from Wellington’s Victoria University, which he completed in the 1990s with a focus on industrial economics.
“If you have an economics background, one of the key tenements that you believe in is that real wealth is all about increases in productivity. Everything else is about a wealth transfer. Technology can play a significant role in generating real wealth through improvements in productivity.”
Butler also gained key skills in his career prior to joining the tech industry, that he can apply today.
He started as a fitter and turner on the windy wharves of Wellington, and after finishing his apprenticeship he moved into mechanical engineering and marketing roles at Cable Price Downer.
“I didn’t start in the technology sector, but the metal bashing sector,” he jokes.
He stayed with Cable Price Downer until 1995 and went on to secure roles in business and commercial development, and marketing.
He says learning to relate to people at all levels was an invaluable skill he learned while working at Cable Price Downer.
“The ability to problem solve and deal with issues around teams are no different to those in ICT. The people I worked for in my apprenticeship days taught me how to conduct oneself and win credibility.”
Butler began at Telecom in 1997 and says the company provided one of his career highlights when he was the commercial architect of the W850 network, subsequently branded as XT after he left.
He says his years at the telco were exciting.
“In some respects it was a giddy time for mobile and telecommunications. It was the time that we were a serious bidder for Optus but pulled out of that.”
After serving as general manager of business products and wholesale group manager, he moved from Wellington to Auckland in 2005 to become its head of corporate marketing.
“Many of Telecom’s interconnection and wholesale agreements at some point would have had my signature on them.”
Today, he combines his role at Optimation with his own consultancy, Butler and Associates. As part of this, he works with fibre companies as part of the government broadband rollout.
Outside of the workplace, Butler is a self-described “wannabe guitarist.”
“I do make the distinction between guitar ownership and guitarist, because I’ve been progressing from one to the other all my life.”
Butler has four children aged between seven and 22, two of whom are keen musicians. He plays both electric and acoustic and has a passion for progressive and electric rock from the 1960s and 1970s.
“One of the things I really enjoy about [that music] is that I have always admired the creative genius of musicians. If you have ever attempted to emulate them than that is part of the satisfaction level.”
Butler is now passing on his appreciation for music.
“My seven year old son is getting to the point where he can recognise a tune through the mist. I’m teaching him Sunshine of Your Love by Eric Clapton. It is a pretty simple riff, but a good starting point.”
His sixteen-year-old son is also an accomplished guitarist. Butler doesn’t play in a band but does jam at home with friends and family.
When asked about Optimation’s outlook, he says it needs to be focused on the application layer.
“If you combine the decrease in cost function within server virtualisation with a huge R&D flywheel, that all adds up to fertile ground for businesses such as Optimation.”
He says the company has a strong history in the corporate and enterprise markets.
“The key for this company is ... leveraging the experience that we gain in helping them confront business problems, so we have our own scalable intellectual property.”
Butler says application layer innovation presents big opportunities for smaller companies doing business on the global stage.
“It is in Optimation’s reach and we are only limited by our imagination and ability to execute operationally. We’ve got a lot of talented and smart people within New Zealand and we aspire to be an iconic IT company. “
Optimation is investing in a number of areas including testing, project management, the Oracle Fusion toolset and business to business services and applications.
The company has hired 35 staff this year which will bring its total to 200 staff by the end of 2010.