Trading a chef’s kitchen for a career in the hustle and bustle of IT sales and storage was an easy decision for CA’s Wellington-based channel account director Cory Grant 19 years ago.
Grant, who also toyed with becoming an electrical engineer, says a chef apprenticeship in the Bay of Plenty got him his foot in the door.
“I figured out that the long hours and demanding customers were a bit too much for me. So I got into IT — which is a bit weird as it’s also got long hours and demanding customers,” he jokes.
Grant “tolerated” being a chef for one year, but has now been in IT for nearly two decades.
He was born in Palmerston, a town near Dunedin. As his father was a Ministry of Works engineer, the family moved around a lot. They lived in the Chatham Islands, Cheviot in North Canterbury, followed by the Bay of Plenty.
Grant’s varied IT career began with mainframe operations for a now defunct company called Operating Services in the Bay of Plenty in 1990, running Tasman Pulp and Paper’s mainframe.
He furthered his mainframe work with a move to Datamail in Wellington in 1990, running Fujitsu’s mainframe. From there he crossed to Datacom in late 1991.
“I was quite young and excited about technology, but I saw that mainframes were slowing down. I saw the job market picking up around networks, especially Novell.”
Grant stayed with Datacom until 1994, at which time he moved to Unisys. “I put Unix on my CV and suddenly I was [Unisys’] Wellington-based Unix engineer. I also looked after Telecom and their Sun boxes.”
In 1996, Grant wanted a lifestyle change and shifted to Perth in Western Australia.
“I got married and decided to concentrate on what is important to me and I wanted to go overseas. I worked for a company called McDonald Douglas Information Systems.”
He was the firm’s only employee for two weeks before it was acquired by Computer Sciences Corporation.
“Perth is an absolutely stunning city, but there is one thing wrong with it. It’s in the middle of nowhere. There were two of us working in the area I looked after, as there were some financial institutions we looked after that needed 24/7 online support.”
When Grant’s wife became pregnant in 1998, the pair decided to return home for parental support. After a stint at CSC, he moved to Auldhouse in a bid to do more Microsoft work. At Auldhouse he provided IT systems training for four years, before making the move to contracting during the dotcom boom.
The decision proved to be unfortunate, as it was made just prior to the dotcom collapse.
He created a contracting company called Push F1, which carried out training and consulting for CA and HP. “Being a contractor and consultant, I went to anyone who would pay me.”
A consulting job at Gen-i turned full-time in 2004 and Grant found himself working on projects for IAG and Corrections at the time.
This led to a pre-sales job at CA five years ago. “I’d been begging CA for a job for years because I liked the technology. They finally gave me a job in storage pre-sales.”
Grant adds that he also wanted to work at CA as he finds storage exciting, and he became a Storage Networking Industry Association architect.
“I tried to convince everyone that storage was great, but at that point no one wanted to know and called it ‘snorage’. I tried to tell everyone about virtualisation, but they thought it was boring.”
Five years on, Grant says everyone wants to hear about storage.
He was subsequently shoulder tapped to run CA’s Southern region channel in New Zealand.
“They felt I worked with partners really well. But I didn’t want to get into sales because I was a technology guy. Then I got shown how much money I could make in sales.”
He says he met some great people, as well as some angry customers. Though Grant says he saw them as a good challenge.
“My concept on angry people is that they can’t get much lower. If they are already angry, then you can turn around that problematic deal and make it look good. I loved doing that.”
Following the departure late in 2008 of then CA New Zealand country manager Stuart Preston, Grant was promoted to head local sales and to manage the company’s partners.
“We went through some massive changes and that was before the recession,” says Grant.
“CA saw that we needed to change the way we did business. That opened up the opportunity for me to take up the role of channel account director.”
Grant is enjoying this role and says he works closely with the Australian side of the business.
“CA is 100 percent channel focused business in New Zealand. We have a good foundation now with our partners.
Some partners and end users have decided that they didn’t want to deal with CA [after the restructure] and we have acknowledged that.”
Although based in Wellington, he regularly comes to Auckland.
“We come to Auckland because of the commercial base and we want to make sure those partners know we are still committed to them.”
CA is also seeing much more consolidation in the market, adds Grant.
“People are now asking `what is IT returning for my business’? What we are saying is lean IT is going to deliver the value to the business, by making sure you are doing everything you can to sustain your business and minimise costs.”
When he gets away from work, Grant loves fishing.
“I’ve bought myself a boat so I can take my 12 and 10-year-old boys fishing.”