From being a paper boy around the streets of Canberra to selling opals and then finding his way into the IT industry after landing a cadetship with the Australian Department of Defence, ForgeRock A/NZ senior alliances director Chris Plewa takes us through his career highlights, key lessons learnt so far and focusing on his core strengths.
What was your first job?
I’ve had experience in a really interesting string of jobs before finding my way to ForgeRock. My first being a paperboy in Canberra, then moving on to work in a gaming store and also some modelling for TV advertisements.
All my jobs left an incredible mark on me but I think the most impactful one was selling opals. My grandfather was an opal dealer, and in my early years, I travelled across America with my family selling them. I travelled with dad for about six months, cold calling jewellery stores and navigating across different states. This was an awesome experience and taught me a lot about sales. Depending on how much we sold during the week would determine how good our accommodation was or what we were able to eat that night.
The broad range of experiences and roles I have had from a young age has given me a diverse skill set that has helped me understand how people engage in business and also taught me how hard work and persistence can bring great rewards.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
To be honest with you, I have always been a nerd. I used to build PCs from a very young age with my neighbour so working with computers was always a natural fit for me.
When my family and I came back from America, I landed a cadetship with the [Australian] Department of Defence. This meant working four days a week in different IT sections while also attending TAFE. The cadetship was an excellent experience as it rotated me through different tech teams and gave me broad exposure to different technologies and functions.
What are some of your plans for ForgeRock in the coming months?
I’m working closely with our partners, to ensure they’re prepared for the growing demand in identity management solutions amongst businesses and government bodies.
To help meet the growing need for security solutions, we’re also expanding and growing our partner ecosystem in Australia and New Zealand. Part of this means ensuring we invest time in strategic partnerships that support the businesses wider ambitions to simplify identity management.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
In a previous role, we had a focus on large system integrators to assist with projects. In one of the projects, we underestimated the requirements and skills to complete the engagement and the partner was missing deadlines. I was able to reach out to an SME [small- to medium-sized enterprise] that had the required skills and facilitate a conversation for them to augment the larger partner and deliver a successful outcome for the customer.
The end result was a great experience for the customer, and the two partners now have an ongoing business relationship and continue to work together in the marketplace. The takeaway is that a strong partner ecosystem works best with both the larger system integrators and more agile SMEs.
What are some of your ambitions -- personally and professionally?
At the moment, I am really excited to be working in a company with a startup culture that is on a great trajectory and has a lot of opportunities for growth. Last year was a record year for the ForgeRock team and we’re looking to have an even stronger year in 2021. I’m proud to be part of a team that is growing quickly and cleverly. Globally and locally there is a high demand for secure online services so it’s a good place to be.
In my role at ForgeRock, I am focusing on what needs to be done in our channels to ensure we maintain the momentum and help our partners provide a great solution for their customers.
Personally, I am working on getting out on my mountain bike more. It gives me time to clear my head and reset and I love going for rides on my lunch break.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
“Focus on your core strengths.”
This advice was given to me by one of my mentors early in my career when I was not happy with a role I had, and I was looking for new opportunities. It is such a simple statement, but it takes a lot of reflection and personal analysis of who you are.
The trick with the advice, I discovered, was not just to look at my strengths from a business skills perspective, but look at who I am as a person overall and what core strengths make me who I am. I am a social creature; I talk a lot and I absolutely love meeting and engaging with new people to build long-term relationships.
I also had many years within the IT industry and a good understanding of how rewarding and challenging sales can be, so I worked towards becoming an account manager then into partner and channel management, where I think relationship building, sales, an understanding of enterprise solutions and social connections are essential skills to have.