However, as regional manger for both New Zealand and Australia, Nankivell’s job involves overseeing the company’s operations on both sides of the Tasman.
He was personally selected for the role by Kingston president and cofounder John Tu, after managing the brand at distributor Ingram Micro for more than three years.
“I went up to Kingston in the US in January, and John said he would like to me come into this [role].”
Nankivell was also told that Kingston was planning to appoint a second distributor in New Zealand, Synnex.
This left him the unenviable task of returning home and informing Ingram Micro that he was leaving and that it was no longer going to be the sole Kingston distributor, as it had been for nine years. “I said: Well that is going to be good when I get back to New Zealand, now isn’t it?”
However, Nankivell says he has managed to maintain strong ties with Ingram Micro, while establishing a relationship with Synnex. “It was a big change and I think perhaps there were some suspicions – was I going to be favourable to Ingram? I think that is fair and over a period people have seen it has been treated equally with no favours.”
Both distributors are doing very well with the brand, says Nankivell adding Synnex’s appointment was not a reflection on Ingram Micro’s performance. “The reason Synnex was appointed was [because of] a global relationship. If Ingram wasn’t performing I don’t think I would have been asked to move into this role.”
Nankivell’s role was created after Kingston decided to change the way it operated in Australia and New Zealand. “Half of the region reported to Taiwan and the other half to the US. It was fractionated with two VPs and just didn’t make sense. John decided to relook at how we managed the New Zealand and Australian business, and what was needed to take it to the next stage.”
Since Nankivell took on the role Kingston’s business in both Australia and New Zealand has grown by 30 percent, he says. “July was a great boom month – government deals were going down and they had to spend the money.”
The company boasts a strong reseller community, says Nankivell, adding he aims to strengthen these relationships, while revamping some of Kingston’s channel programmes. “We had some great channel programmes introduced a few years ago, which died from lack of focus so we want to introduce those again.”
This includes a corporate-partner programme that links resellers and end-users with Kingston, as well as the portal-based Kingston Care service programme launched in July.
Although coming under some initial pressure to relocate to Australia, Nankivell managed to convince Kingston he was able to perform his role from New Zealand as he did not wish to uproot his family. “It was an interesting discussion about where we would be based, but I’m glad they supported me.”
But being based here does mean a fair amount of travel. “I think I spend more time in an Air New Zealand aircraft than at home.”
One of the challenges of the job for Nankivell has been to understand the subtle differences of doing business across the Tasman and to build his reputation there. “It has been a huge learning curve. Probably the biggest challenge has been understanding the Australian market. There are some similarities, but also some prejudices – what does this little Kiwi know about us. The challenge was to drive some confidence that I have been around for a bit.”
Working across both countries is also a highlight for Nankivell. “I treasure the trans-Tasman vision. Seeing it work as a region is the rewarding part – to bring consistency instead of having a divergent strategy.”
Although he has spent much of his career in New Zealand, Nankivell is no stranger to overseas markets, having launched his IT career in the US. “As most Kiwis do, I did the OE and left for the US when I was 21 and returned 10 years later.”
Nankivell moved to Los Angeles while working for Air New Zealand, where he got the “IT fever playing around with Novell networks”.
He completed engineering certifications and started working in systems integration, but soon realised it was sales people, not engineers, who made all the money. “I figured I better get into sales.”
He then became a field sales rep for two Los Angeles IT distributors, Hallmark Electronics and Arrow Electronics, where he started working with Kingston, before relocating to Tennessee to work for a document management firm.
Eventually Nankivell was enticed back home in 1996 to join a small document management company, Imaging New Zealand (today known as eCom), as it fourth employee. “They’re doing pretty well now with about 40 staff.”
Nankivell then consulted back in the US for a year, after which he worked for IBM software reseller Convergence before joining Tech Pacific.
Although saying he did not carefully map out his career over the years, Nankivell says his progression has been due to good management and planning, as well as some good fortune. “Working at Ingram and growing that business over three years certainly set a precedent where Kingston said ‘this guy we can believe in’.”
A commitment to personal development has also helped, with Nankivell returning to university five years ago to enrol in a Masters in Management from which he graduates this month. “It has been a long journey. It was hard to maintain a very busy worklife and personal life, and then still go and study again.”
In his spare time Nankivell is a passionate golfer, which he plays with his wife and two sons, aged 14 and 15.”If I am not in a hotel or on a plane, you will find me on a golf course.”
Q + A
I have started getting into YouTube just to figure out what’s going on there. It is quite fascinating and has changed my view of the internet – it is no longer about downloading, it is about uploading and people interacting.
I couldn’t live without my iPod. It is a lifesaver when you travel.
Golf and basketball.
It would have to be a classic margarita – I have a secret recipe that has taken me years to perfect.
If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Tiger Woods – just so I could say: How do you do it?
What’s been the most important technological advance in IT?
The PC revolution – I don’t think anything else has really changed the face of IT as much. It sparked a series of developments that created an industry.
What book is on your bedside table?
What is your corporate IQ by Jim Underwood. It is a review of the top 10 smartest companies in America – the likes of Microsoft and Costco, and Kingston was fortunate enough to be named. I was interested to see why this academic picked our company.
Who is/was your mentor?
There have been a few people. But in the last few years, someone I have come to really respect is John Tu. I don’t think I have met another person of that character. He is someone who has taught me a lot on patience and how to make things happen.