Hitachi Data Systems channel sales manager Kerry Simms has had several ‘I was there’ moments in his varied working career.
Simms experienced the early stages of computer generated images when he worked at UK company Alias, whose 3D animation software was used for the film Jurassic Park, the ascent of network attached storage in 1998 and he was on site when Rover’s Birmingham factory closed in 2005.
However, he didn’t start out in IT. Simms was an engineering apprentice in Manchester and worked as a fitter and turner. Although his upbringing in the UK has left him with a north English accent, the 52-year-old was actually born in Lyttelton.
“At the time most people were coming out to New Zealand I went back to the UK,” he jokes.
“In the late 1970s in the UK, the government was putting a huge amount of money into getting big manufacturing to start using technology,” explains Simms. “The big companies got computer aided design [CAD] systems. By than I was working as a draughtsman designing bits of power stations. I started using CAD instead of a drawing board.”
When Simms decided to come back to New Zealand in 1982, he worked for a reseller company called Walter Scientific, a local partner for Computer Vision.
“At the time they [Computer Vision] had 60 percent of the world market. I worked for their reseller for six years locally and than I went back to the UK and worked over there [at Computer Vision] for another five years.”
Simms than worked “all over the place” in the UK.
“I went out of traditional manufacturing in the UK to work with a company called Alias, which sold the 3D animation software that’s used in all the special effects for films. That was just at the time their software was used for [Steven Spielberg’s] Jurassic Park [in 1993]. That exploded and so did the games industry as [companies] like Sony and Nintendo started to build their own [animation] software.”
He then moved from that company to the software group Silicon Graphics.
“The great thing was at the time a lot of the special effects industry was based out of the UK. A lot of expertise was down in Soho, where companies would spend a million pounds on an advertisement.”
Simms then went to what was an unknown company at the time, called Net App, in 1998.
“I was the seventh employee in the UK for them at a time when no one had heard of network attached storage.”
He switched from special effects to storage because “it had the look of something that was different and was going to take off. We then got to sell into companies like the Formula One team, so I got to work in some quite sexy environments.”
Simms was at the company for two years and after time out returned to the working world in 2001, just as the dot com bubble burst in the early 2000s.
He than had a couple of years with Hitachi in the UK from 2001.
“We had to do a lot of work over there moving out beyond the traditional markets that Hitachi was operating in at the time, which were around financial services.”
In 2003, Simms changed careers again and worked on virtual design software in the UK automotive industry.
He drew on his previous experience selling for Silicon Graphics, during which time he had to sell into the UK automotive sector to technical people who were using super computers to design cars.
“Years later a bunch of [Silicon Graphics] people went out and started their own company as a small integrator in the automotive sector. We’d kept in touch and they shoulder tapped me so I went to work for them.”
The virtual design software was used for car manufacturers such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Rover and the BMW Mini. But in 2005 came a sad moment for Firth.
“I was literally on the site in Birmingham when they shut the gates at Rover in 2005. [Owner] BMW had poured billions of pounds into Rover/Land Rover and they needed an investment from the UK government. But the government didn’t want to put its hand in its pocket.”
So after many years away, Simms and his family returned to New Zealand in 2005. He got a sales role with Unisys working in outsourcing before joining Hitachi Data Systems’ local office.
He says he enjoys the interaction with resellers.
“The sales model for New Zealand is all done through the channel. My job is driving sales in Auckland and I go out there and find new business. It’s also delivering sales through the partners. I cover Auckland, Northland and all the way down to Taupo.”
Simms is a keen Ironman competitor and beat his personal best time last year, completing a local event in less than 13 hours.
For six months of the year he trains 30 hours a week. The Ironman competition is held every March.
“One of the reasons for coming back to Auckland was [to] do the training and still work. When you get into summer and the long days you can get up early in the morning and do the running and its nice and light. Then I can go and do a full day’s work. I can still hit the pool in the evening or get out on the bike.”
Simms also finds training a good way to switch off from work. “When you’re out on a bike for seven hours training you go into a completely different world.”