Even after two decades in the industry Lynn Harden, general manager BDT electronics division, says she remains as passionate about technology as ever.
“The fact I can get on my computer and talk to people all around the world still blows me away,” she says.
This year BDT — which changed its name from Melco in 2002 — celebrates its 25th anniversary.
In 1986 Harden joined Melco’s electronic division in a sales role where she remembers selling 8-inch floppy drives and giant 13-inch hard drives.
Those were the days, Harden recalls, when monitor screens came in either green or amber.
“I remember buying a computer in 1996 and I specifically wanted something with 512k memory. The computer I bought last year has the same memory plus 200GB storage.”
She credits the longevity of Melco/BDT to founder Ron Woodrow.
“Ron is a true visionary. Melco was one of the first companies to deliver an online option in the 1990s and he was pushing to get computer products into retail stores well before anyone else.”
Harden left the company in 1996 but returned earlier this year, refreshed after a six-month backpacking sojourn.
She says it’s astounding the number of people who have remained with the company and puts it down to great culture.
“The company does work close to the bone. We’re always flat out but that means that people are given the opportunity to do things outside their job title. The nice thing is that even if you can’t rise to the challenge the company doesn’t blame you.”
When she left Harden says the electronics division was putting a greater emphasis on commodity items but is now ready to refocus on high-end products.
“We will absolutely continue with commodity but my real interest is in products that require strong sales skills. Selling hard drives or memory is about current pricing but it takes a lot more product knowledge to sell a high-end graphics card.”
BDT has never tried to market on price alone and Harden believes there has to be other compelling reasons to buy.
While Harden says it is hard to compete with parallel import prices she admits that challenge has forced the industry to tighten up its act.
“If you have a niche brand there is the tendency to become complacent but competition forces you to make sure you provide professional service and meet customer needs.”
Harden says the computer industry 20 years ago was full of fresh-faced youngsters — many of whom are still around.
“In those days if you were over 24 you were old. Now I go into board meetings and we’re all whipping out our glasses.”
Harden admits her job is all consuming but says even though it’s hard work she loves it.
“If you are going to work for eight hours a day then it’s very sad if you don’t enjoy it.”