The number of Kiwi firms walking the unified communications road is a huge but enjoyable challenge for Cisco’s product specialist in the category, Alan Register.
As the New Zealand member of a global team specialising in unified communications, he deals with customers of all sizes trying to make old systems work, others who are at the cutting edge and “everything in between”.
But Register says he is in a position to effect real and positive change among clients, if he can help them cut through the perception of complexity.
“I’ve moved into a very exciting space, which has the capability to change the way people work, but there’s so much confusion out there. You’ve got the older world solutions trying to remain viable and the new solutions, and everything in between.
“That swamps me but it’s hugely exciting.”
Register has been an engineer and account manager during his eight years at Cisco, saying this blend of skills landed him the unified communications’ specialist role.
“I’d always been very cynical about sales people and called them sales weasels, so for me to jump ship and go to the dark side, I copped a fair bit of flak over it.
“But [account management] gave me a whole new respect for working in the sales arena. It’s a whole different level of responsibility from an engineer, that I didn’t realise beforehand.”
His combined skills means Register can have conversations with customers from high level strategy down to technical detail, though he calls on technical staff for very granular discussions.
“The role is around how people can get value around unified communications with respect to the business issues they have. I can talk about the technology from ‘60,000 to 20,000 feet,’ but I can’t go under that, so I call in the engineering resources.”
A technology career wasn’t always on the horizon for Register – he says as an active and sports-minded person (an interest put to good use during Cisco’s entries into charity races for CureKids) he wanted a job that was both hands-on and stimulating. Becoming an engineering cadet for the New Zealand Police in 1986 provided this mix.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left school. I wanted to do something that was mentally challenging because I’m so active.
“The opportunity to be a radio engineer where you’re understanding how the technology works is a very nice combination of hands-on and a mental challenge.”
After 10 years and a move to working on the police’s telecommunications network, Register joined Telecom as a data engineer.
“I hadn’t done a lot on data networking and I could see that was the way it was going to go. The police weren’t going to give me that opportunity because they outsourced a lot of their Incis [Integrated National Crime Information System] stuff to IBM. That was the best move I ever made. Telecom was a big organisation and the world was your oyster in terms of opportunities.”
Register went on to become Telecom’s first Cisco certified inter-networking expert. The certification was the result of a two-day lab at a Sydney test centre, which Register recalls had about an 80 percent failure rate for people doing it for the first time.
From there it was a natural progression to join Cisco in 2000 says Register, as he’d been selling the vendor’s solutions into customers such as banks, getting an insight into the work of his peers at Cisco.
On moving into sales in 2003, he looked after the South Island and some Wellington enterprise and government accounts.
“We had three account managers and we picked the accounts based on existing relationships.”
However, in his current role the team is global and Register is supported by six engineers here and some in Asia.
He says the biggest challenge now is covering all the opportunities in unified communications, particularly in the midmarket.
“I’m trying to ignite the mid-space just because of the size of the opportunities and we have a huge issue with coverage in that part of the market.
“There’s a great opportunity for the channel, with consolidation of integrators and channel partners that has resulted in a vacuum with a lot of partners focusing on the top end of town. This part of the market has been left unloved.”
The unified communications role has also resulted in more national travel, but Register makes sure he gets time to coach his children, aged six and seven, in sports.
Also, the nature of the technology he and Cisco specialise in means he can create time for his family.
“Cisco has always allowed flexible work hours. I work from home too, so if I need to I just log on from there.”
Q + A
What is your favourite gadget?
My skill saw
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If you could have coffee with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Sir Edmund Hillary
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The internet protocol
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Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thriller collection
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Farming or building