Tim Dacombe-Bird’s enthusiasm for his role as regional manager at VMware is obvious.
“If you find a job you love you’ll never work again - that is how I feel about VMware. There have been some challenging times, but you feel that you’re part of a team. The passion, focus and can-do attitude are something I haven’t seen before.”
He started with the vendor in 2006 as the local senior corporate account manager, at a time when he was one of only two staff here.
The IT companies he worked for prior to VMware will be well known to most - Computerland, Compaq, BMC Software and Citrix - but it’s VMware where he has clearly found his niche.
However, work has got so busy it is detracting from his avid golf habit, and he is also kept busy with his two daughters.
“I’ve got a 13 [handicap] in golf at the moment, although at one point it was down to three.”
He is also a past chairman of the Midlands Cricket Club in Wellington, involved in playing the sport and administration.
Dacombe-Bird unknowingly made his first steps into the IT area when he joined the New Zealand Post Office as a trainee telephone technician in 1981.
“It was a really good first job and gave me a lot of formal training towards the [telephone technician] national certificate. It honed my problem solving skills too.”
Dacombe-Bird stayed with the New Zealand Post Office for just over five years, working in the Porirua telephone exchange. The government department became Telecom following privatisation in 1987.
However, when he was talked by a work colleague into doing an Outward Bound course, his perspective and career direction changed.
“It was at Anakiwa in the Queen Charlotte Sound during the middle of winter. It was a big learning experience for me and changed my perspective on my working life.”
After doing the course, he opted to resign from Telecom and go into the private sector to seek new challenges.
“I started working for an Australian-headquarted technical organisation called Delairco Electronics as a field service agent, wandering around the lower half of the country servicing office equipment such as fax machines.”
He held a number of associated technical servicing roles before moving into sales.
In 1990, Dacombe-Bird moved to Computerland as a corporate account manager.
“Computerland was a relatively small company in Wellington in those days, as Christchurch was the head office. It wasn’t until they moved their headquarters back to Wellington that there was growth [in the city] as more investment was made.”
It was this role he learned the most from.
“There were some pretty influential people at Computerland in those days, such as Russell Hewitt. I learned a lot about sales management from the likes of Nigel Blair and Chris McKay, who went on to be the CEO of Computerland. They were all really important facets of not just the Computerland business, but business in general.”
He adds Computerland was his first chance to learn how IT could benefit business. “There were some massive changes in technology during those early 1990s. Things like email started to appear. There were also local area networks and the proliferation of PCs. We were changing our value proposition to our customers during that time.”
Dacombe-Bird moved to Compaq in 1995 after being head hunted by Mike Hill, now Dell’s country manager.
“That was really interesting because up until that time Compaq had largely been a PC and laptop vendor, but then the company went into the x86 server market. We very quickly assumed a dominant position in the x86 market.”
As well, the merger and acquisition of companies such as Tandem and Digital led to some “interesting times”, he says.
“Tandem was an interesting business because they had sales cycles that were 12 to 18 months long and Compaq’s were 12 to 18 days. There were some vast cultural differences in the business. The digital business was more closely aligned to Compaq, but they had some legacy culture too.”
In 2000, Dacombe-Bird joined the local branch of a US internet company called Sara Nova. Unfortunately for him, the dot com bust brought about its closure here.
However, this led to an enterprise account manager role at BMC Software in Wellington.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Paul Williams who was a true entrepreneur. He was very motivational and had grown a strong business called OTL, which was acquired by BMC.”
He says BMC was a difficult organisation to understand due to the amount of products it offered.
“They had 400 products at that time, but my focus was on their mainframe and management software. This was a good exposure for me, as it helped me to understand that marketplace a little bit better.”
After three years, he was approached by Citrix to work for the company as an enterprise account manager.
“It was a difficult time for Citrix, because their technology hadn’t evolved as quickly as user demand. A large number of the Citrix rollouts were viewed as unsuccessful by the user community.”
But as Dacombe-Bird was to discover, these two jobs provided a foundation for his role at VMware.
“Two of VMware’s focuses are on the virtualisation of the desktop, something I cut my teeth on at Citrix, and also the system management space for virtual environments, which I learnt about at BMC Software.”
He says the call from VMware ANZ regional vice president Paul Harrison in 2006 came “out of the blue”.
After more than three years in the regional manager role at the company, he says customers are changing their views on IT expenditure and activity levels are back to the numbers seen before the recession.
The people in the IT industry are the main reason he has stayed within the sector.
“Being in the industry a long time, I have got to work with some great people; not just the motivational leaders but also the foot soldiers. I am dealing with customers that I have dealt with for close to 20 years.”