Clive Levido is the head of international security company Fortinet’s first New Zealand office, but he has ventured into the unknown many times before.
Leadership and change are recurring themes in the IT veteran’s quarter century in the industry, which has spanned technical and sales roles in both IT and telecommunications, and has covered the vendor, integrator, partner and end-user spaces.
“In some ways my career has been a series of assignments. If there’s the opportunity to mould things or be involved in change, that’s always attracted me.”
Although Fortinet is Levido's latest example of working in a changing environment, he was involved in Gen-i not long after Telecom bought it. He was also at TelstraSaturn during its merger with Clear Communications.
He has made a successful and award-winning transition from technical to sales roles.
At one stage there was also a secondary career sojourn as a ski instructor in Europe.
Levido describes himself as a Wellingtonian who lives in Auckland, having been schooled in the windy city and starting his IT career there.
He was set to go to university after secondary school, but was offered a job as a computer operator for Challenge Computers — the IT services arm of Fletcher Challenge in the early 1980s.
“The money and the on-the-job training was more attractive,” Levido says.
After working for Challenge Computers and the Reserve Bank he had seven years’ IT experience, which allowed him to set up as a consultant in Europe.
“There was a lot of change and a lot of growth in the market [in Europe] in the 1980s. New Zealanders were well sought after because of their work ethic.”
His time there involved an IBM mainframe project for a large dairy company, along with work for the Swiss Bank Corporation.
However, IT wasn’t his only employment while in the Northern Hemisphere. Having previously disliked skiing in New Zealand, he carved out an unlikely secondary niche as a ski instructor during four Austrian winters.
“I’d tried to ski in New Zealand and I hated the weather and the conditions, but [in Austria] the set up was great and I was hooked.”
On his return to New Zealand, Levido worked for IBM bureau Centron, continuing to develop mainframes.
From there he worked for Netway Communications, a telco services company that was bought by Telecom.
However, in the late 1990s his colleague at Netway, sales manager John Hawkins, moved on to become country manager at 3Com and persuaded Levido to follow him there as a network consultant in 1997.
Levido progressed to sales executive, working with end-users and partners, and says his technical experience proved valuable.
“That background prepared me well. When you’re working for networking or security companies you have to understand the fundamentals. It’s what partners and clients quite rightly expect.”
Although 3Com was performing well as a territory in the context of the wider Asia Pacific region in the early 2000s, Levido says an economic downturn forced a re-think by the vendor.
“When companies are looking to cut costs, they look at the remote locations and they chose to bow out of New Zealand and [go] back to Australia,” he says.
The move prompted Levido to join what was then TelstraSaturn as team leader for corporate sales, prior to the company’s merger with Clear Communications. Although his role wasn’t directly affected by the merger, he describes it as a clash of cultures. “There were lots of stresses, but also lots of opportunity.”
After three and a half years there, he swapped TelstraClear for Gen-i. When he joined, it was about five months after Telecom’s purchase of Gen-i and Computerland. Levido was charged with leading the Auckland public sector team that worked with councils, health boards and universities in the region.
“It was another change environment and I was used to that. There was great opportunity to effect change and take a leadership role.”
Once again his past experience came to the fore.
“I was involved in wide-ranging solutions across the whole of IT, so the background in both IT and T [telco] was critical to that.”
The combination of expertise in sales and technical roles could well be one reason behind his awards for sales performance earned at Gen-i, and previously at TelstraClear and TelstraSaturn.
Levido’s time as Gen-i’s client director lasted three years until he was appointed as security vendor Fortinet’s first local country manager late last year.
Implementing the FortiPartner programme here was his first priority and the biggest project he has had with the vendor to date.
“A good partner programme that creates value for clients and your partners is critical,” he says.
As well as regular trips to Wellington and quarterly trips to Sydney for sales planning, Levido’s territory includes the Pacific Islands. He will also attend an intensive sales workshop in California each year.
He’s confident about Fortinet’s future in the market, having researched the vendor before he took on the job. “That was one of the questions when I did my due diligence around the role and the organisation. The reality is we’ll acquire, not be acquired, and stay firmly on security.”
Levido’s home life is as hectic as it is at work, with five school-age children and a three hectare lifestyle block north of Auckland to maintain.
With most of the children playing soccer, he’s happy to watch their games these days rather than coach them as he previously did.