It’s an interest that has served him well in his role as IBM product manager at Cellnet, and can still be blamed for the computer parts he continues to have scattered around his home.
“My mum and dad were always buying me the latest new technology which I’d proceeded to pull apart and find parts to replace. I’ve just always been interested in how technology works, especially hardware wise – it’s just in me.”
When at primary school, Billings’ father bought him an Atari 800 XL, which he still has. “That was when I first saw the potential of technology not just as an entertainment device but to do other things.”
In his current role, his desire to make things work better often pays off when he and other staff put their minds to finding new ways to use existing products.
However, Billings is also skilled in improving business practises, as a result of his university training.
Although he began a computer sciences degree at Auckland University, he decided after a year that it was “very, very boring”. Switching to operations management, he learned the art of making companies more efficient.
“It’s not a career in itself but it’s a foundation depending on where you go. In account management I’ve found ways in operations to streamline processes, make process improvements and project management.”
The role at Cellnet presented a new challenge for Billings 14 months ago, when he was retail account manager at Legend’s local office.
He admits to being daunted at first by the prospect of managing IBM products for the distributor. “I wondered what I had got myself into. I was cautious and hoping I could represent the brand in the way it should be represented."
However, he says the transition wasn’t too difficult, as Legend gave him the grounding in bare-bones technology. “This [IBM] is more a progression to the finished product.”
The change to Cellnet marked his fourth year in account management and meant dealing less with retailers and one man bands and more work among organisations with a corporate culture, including large integrators. Billings also appreciates changing from a price-driven to a solutions-driven role.
In the months after he started at Cellnet, he was one of a number of newly-appointed staff there. He could have taken the IBM business development role advertised at the same time as his, now occupied by Nigel Stone, but he wanted to be more hands on with the technology. Billings says he and Stone run the IBM business almost as a separate division of Cellnet.
In just over 12 months, the pair has been joined by marketing manager Dave Clark, sales manager Peter Young and others.
The influx of fresh talent has come with a growing culture of fun at the company, instigated by Clark, Billings says. Evidence of this is a new dartboard and office darts championship, as well as events such as movie nights and a recent harbour sailing expedition.
Reseller training is often accompanied by drinks and a tie ban and the recent Cellnet re-brand with new corporate green colours saw Clark dress as Kermit the Frog, Young as Shrek, and lolly giveaways.
“One of the things I like about Cellnet is there’s no us and them. It’s a really good team and people will help out where necessary.
“There’s also people to bounce ideas off. People like Dave and Pete and even [general manager John Dunbar] are always happy to impart things.”
In the meantime, Billings is content with his current situation and doesn’t want to look too far ahead. “I talk to people in the industry who are always looking for somewhere to jump for another grand a year or to be another 400 metres closer to home. From my point of view it’s good as long as I’m happy.”