SAP’s Colleen McArthur has been in IT for most of her life apart from an OE spent in England.
During her 18-year career, she has worked for some of the well-known names like Tech Pacific (now Ingram Micro), Compaq/HP and Citrix. She has also had some inspiring mentors at these companies. But one of the most important things she has learned is to seize new opportunities.
Her first role in IT was as manager for Australasian Memory, based in Auckland in 1992.
“We distributed the Kingston memory products and the role was very focused on the channel partners in New Zealand. We had significant growth.”
However, she says the company didn’t respond quickly enough when prices “halved overnight”, and McArthur found herself out of work. But she says Kingston’s head office in the US supported her at the time.
“They gave me the opportunity to take the Kingston brand wherever I felt was suitable. From there I joined Tech Pacific as the value added reseller [VAR] sales manager. The VAR channel consisted of Axon, Datacom and Gen-i. The products we distributed included Cisco and Microsoft products.”
She worked under Tony Butler who she says was an inspirational leader.
“I think he had a great business model that was very efficient at that time at Tech Pacific. He was a real visionary.”
From Tech Pacific she joined Compaq in 2000 as enterprise Intel sales specialist. “I arrived just after they had acquired Digital, so they were going through that integration.”
She says the role was a real learning curve. “That was my first foray into selling directly to end customers, as previously I’d been managing the channel only. That was quite a shift for me.”
McArthur looked after servers and PCs for key accounts such as Fonterra, district health boards and telecommunications companies. She says it was a real mix of competitive and existing accounts.
“What I enjoyed about working with the end customers was some of the complexities of the organisations I dealt with.”
She stayed with Compaq for six years, during which time the company was acquired by HP.
“At that time Russell Hewitt was heading up Compaq New Zealand. He was one of those inspirational leaders that I’ve come across.”
She says Compaq and HP spent a lot of time taking staff through the change management process.
“Some of the messages we got early on were ‘you’re either on the bus or not’.”
She says these were strong messages, but believes in times of change it’s important to grasp the new situation and move forward.
“We live in a world that’s continuing to change so I think that’s important.”
McArthur left Compaq in 2005 and joined Citrix as an enterprise account manager.
“That was the first time I had worked for a company selling application delivery software. Citrix was doing quite a bit with virtualisation products.”
Citrix also provided a new experience for McArthur, as she was working from home.
“That was quite a different environment from being in the office. With the Blackberry, you’re always connected these days, but the line of delineation between work and home is very grey. I’m a disciplined person, but enjoy the social interaction within an office.”
The opportunity to join SAP came along so she decided to move on in 2008.
“What’s significant at SAP is that you have the ability to make a real difference with a company in terms of their efficiencies,” says McArthur.
“We’ve got some good case studies in New Zealand of companies who have implemented SAP, which have been able to quantify the efficiency gains that they’ve had from that implementation.”
The spontaneity and collaboration of working in an office is also something McArthur enjoys, and she is relishing the chance to work with channel partners.
“There’s a number of resellers based in Auckland and Wellington so they are predominately the two locations. I work very closely with them and their whole business is based on SAP, whether it’s the licence or implementation side.”
The biggest change McArthur has seen is the way people conduct business and she believes the level of transparency in business is more evident than in 1992, and holds greater significance.
“With the partners it is important we have the transparency across our partners’ businesses and within SAP. I think it’s a great sector to work in and there are some fantastic companies and inspirational people.”
She says 2009 was a year of learning because SAP was integrating the Business Objects partners into its programmes during last year.
“For our existing and new partners there was a lot of upskilling around product training. As we head into 2010, the product suites that we have for our partners has changed so we have a fantastic suite of products and solutions for companies.”
The economic recovery is an opportunity for SAP to continue to strengthen partners’ business in selling licences and implementation of enterprise software, she says.
When she’s not at work, McArthur likes to get on her motorbike and go trail bike riding with her family either at Woodhill Forest or on farms in the Auckland area, and she also enjoys spending time with her two teenage children.
In fact, it was her OE on a hop farm that stood her in good stead for her current hobby. She says during that time she became an expert in tractor driving.