When Sun Microsystems partner manager David Tse started his IT career in February 1988, it was only a few months after the worldwide stockmarket crash. Since then Tse has made many career moves, most during a period of economic uncertainty.
Growing up in Wellington Tse wanted to be an architect, and it wasn’t until he finished university that IT became an option.
“All my brothers and my father were engineers. I was going to do architecture when I came out of seventh form, [Year 13] but I changed at the last minute to marketing. Some lightning bolt happened to me. I got my major in marketing and I thought I’d stay on and do an accounting degree as well.”
Tse says he got halfway through the accounting degree, but “it just bored me stupid”.
In his last year at Victoria University, IBM came knocking during a recruitment drive.
“I interviewed with them and thought it sounded interesting. I got hired into the data processing system area and went into 10 months of training in Petone.”
At the end of the training, Tse got the choice of taking up a marketing representative role or a system engineer role. “Rather than jump straight into sales I went for the technical role.”
IBM liked to move its employees around at the time, says Tse. Accordingly he was shifted to a pre-sales/accounts role. His IBM career is notable for specialisation in two now defunct technologies.
The first was Token Ring, a rival to Ethernet in the networking space. “It had some very good technology against Ethernet but it didn’t get the wider market recognition,” says Tse.
The second was the OS\2 operating system that rivalled MS-DOS. “As you can tell from my career, I can really back [technology] winners,” he jokes.
The first period of economic uncertainty to hit Tse’s career was the 1990-93 downturn, and IBM responded with voluntary severance in 1991. “They couldn’t do selective redundancies so they had to offer it to everyone. I applied because this was the ticket to my OE. It was a fairly healthy cheque for a guy of my age.”
Tse used the money to go travelling for four years around the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Nepal.
After working for publishing company Dorling Kindersley in the UK, Tse decided to get back into IT when he returned to New Zealand in 1994.
He jumped into a sales role at Eagle Technology. “I was selling their GIS [geographic information] software to the Auckland market and specialising in a few areas like forestry.”
Tse had an urge to get out of what he calls “mainstream IT” and joined Citibank in 1996, selling technology used in the banking industry.
He finished with Citibank in July 1998, when a financial crisis was hitting Japan and most of Southeast Asia.
“That [time] stands out for me as well, because I joined a company called Aniet Networks as an account manager. I was than moved into the marketing role. That was not only a return to the IT industry, but a defining point as I moved away from technical pre-sales into marketing.”
Aniet Networks became Logical CSI and IBM acquired the company in 2002.
Redundancy came knocking again that year, but Tse found work again as managing director for IT marketing company Voltage.
“The idea behind Voltage was that most IT companies used to have a sales and marketing coordinator. We did outsourced tactical marketing, [such as] case studies and websites. Most companies couldn’t justify a full-time marketing director, so Voltage would come in and do it.”
After three years, Tse says Voltage had grown as large as it could.
“It struggled to get out of that consulting model and that was the point where I got headhunted by Storagetech at the beginning of 2005.”
Hired as country manager, he had been in the role only nine months when the firm was acquired by Sun Microsystems.”
Tse than managed Sun’s storage group for a year. “The existing partner manager left and I moved into that role. That was two-and-a-half years ago.”
He enjoys meeting with partners in his current role as partner manager. “I have seven dedicated Sun staff at Express Data to be my hands and feet in the market.”
Tse regularly meets with the management of Sun’s local partners including Eagle Technologies, Gen-i and Axon, to discuss business plans for Sun.
He is looking forward to seeing how the Oracle/Sun Microsystems merger plays out.
“What has impressed me about Oracle is how transparent they are. Anyone can go on to the Sun or Oracle websites and there are video clips of [Sun chairman] Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison chatting.”
When the news of the merger first broke, Tse says he went to key partners to reassure them their investment with Sun was going to be safe. “Oracle has ticked off all the concerns that my partners were telling me.”
When Tse gets time away from work he is busy with four children aged three, five, seven and nine and is a keen sportsman.
“I try to go cycling on a Sunday morning or during the week.”