From waiting tables to cold-calling from the Yellow Pages, John McCloskey learnt a few things about people skills and customer service early into his career. Now managing director of Lenovo's ISG unit in A/NZ, McCloskey reflects on the values and lessons that have steered him for the past 30 years.
What was your first job?
My journey into the professional world began at a young age when I worked as a part-time waiter in a local bar in my hometown of Sandyford, Dublin. I continued this job through weekends and school breaks until I turned 25. Looking back, the idea of owning my bar was enticing. As I've grown older, I realise that this experience played a significant role in shaping my values and life skills. A bartender in Ireland becomes a confidant, a listener, a rock of judgment, and a friend to all. This exposure to all walks of life and friends made was the start of my career in sales, even though I did not know it at the time.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
In 1990, I took on a role as a tele sales representative for a third-party maintainer of IT equipment. This was the same year that the World Wide Web was introduced, and my task involved flipping through the Yellow Pages and cold-calling companies.
In August of 1992, I received an offer to become an inside sales representative at Dell, a company I knew little about at the time. The entire interview process took place over the phone, and a few weeks later, I joined thirty other young individuals in Windsor, UK, for a comprehensive three-month training and induction program.
This marked the beginning of an incredible journey that led me to the UK from 1994 to 1999 and eventually to Australia. I dedicated 25 years to Dell, holding various sales and managerial roles. The last five years of my journey were spent at Veeam Software, where I led the enterprise sales teams across A/NZ. Today, I am at Lenovo, surrounded by exceptional people and groundbreaking technology, with a vast opportunity for growth.
What has been your most significant business lesson learned from a mistake?
While I've encountered my fair share of mistakes throughout my career, there isn't a single colossal blunder that stands out. Most of my mistakes can be traced back to not taking enough calculated risks. I have a deep appreciation for data and the incredible access we have to vast amounts of information today. Over my thirty-five years in the industry, I've learned valuable lessons, such as the importance of trusting your instincts, pushing your boundaries, and understanding that you don't always need every piece of data to make decisions.
Tough decisions will always be part of the journey, but I'm someone who thrives on learning and growing from my mistakes.
What are your upcoming plans for the company in the coming months?
First and foremost, I am here to listen—to our customers, our partners, and our workforce. Those early days as a bartender are proving to be invaluable. Lenovo is a great place to work, and its product capabilities and reliability are reshaping our digital landscape.
My vision is clear: we can expand our market share through our partners by leveraging the best technology, from the pocket to the cloud and edge. Back in 1992, we saw the advent of text messaging, and look at how far we've come since then. The world's ability to communicate through multiple mediums, coupled with the wealth of data available, has driven significant advances in research and science.
My role is to empower our employees and partners to tell the Lenovo story and share our vision of smarter technology for all.
What are your most significant ambitions, both personally and professionally?
My primary ambition is family – ensuring that my loved ones lead safe and healthy lives and that we actively contribute to our communities. On a professional level, my goal is to give back.
I aspire to build and nurture the best technical and sales organisation. Empowering individuals to take risks and fostering an entrepreneurial culture are key facets of this endeavour.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
When I assumed my first senior position, one of my senior managers noticed that I was feeling overwhelmed and took me aside. He said, 'John, it's just a title. You've been doing the role for the past three years; it's just official now.' This advice has stayed with me, reminding me to always be my most authentic self. It has taught me that when I stay true to who I am, everything else falls into place.