Reseller News

Va’aelua plays the hi-tech server shots

Tovia Va’aelua had to accept a pay cut to join Microsoft as an intern three years ago, but says there is nowhere else he would rather be today.

Born in Samoa, but raised in Auckland, Va’aelua joined the vendor through its internship programme in 2004.

However, joining the programme from his team-leader role at Datacom meant taking a drop in salary, but his wife being offered a new higher paying job at the same time created the opportunity for Va’aelua to accept the internship. “A whole number of things had to align. My wife was offered a role in a different organisation, so that allowed for me to try something different.”

Today, Va’aelua is Server and Tools marketing manager at Microsoft New Zealand and says while the technology he represents is not the shiny “tapware” people notice everyday, it is the “plumbing” that makes everything else work. “We might not be the cool and funky stuff at the front-end that you boot up every morning but I know full well the technology I represent makes a lot of that able or capable.”

Moving from Datacom to Microsoft was a natural progression for Va’aelua. As team leader at Datacom Services’ Microsoft sales centre, he was already representing the vendor to end-users. “I was pretty much ‘Microsoft’ from when I walked into Datacom.”

Ending up in technology was not a natural progression for Va’aelua however.

His original intention was to become a teacher and he initially enrolled in a Bachelor in Education at University of Auckland.

But coming from a strict upbringing, Va’aelua enjoyed the freedom of student life, spending more time on the basketball court than in the classroom.

“It was the first time I did not have someone reminding me to run up to class. My first term I started off as an A-minus student, but by term three I was struggling to get a C, but my basketball improved considerably.”

Nevertheless, Va’aelua soldiered on and graduated in 1998. But on the advice of friends who had already started teaching, decided education was not his calling after all.

Instead he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and brother, and enter the police. “I thought why run from it, just join the ranks.”

While waiting to enter the police training programme, Va’aelua took a temporary position at Telecom’s international directory service.

A full-time people management role soon became available however, and Va’aelua decided policing was not his ultimate destiny either. “I spoke to a number of people; all of them agreed unanimously that they didn’t really see me as the kind of person to be baton wielding.”

From Telecom, he joined Datacom in 2001 and has been on a roll since.

“It has been great. I have been very fortunate to have the career progression I have had so far.”

Today Va’aelua says he is a big advocate for enterprise software and his job entails dealing with the price, promotion and perception of Microsoft’s server and tools products. “Constantly working to help customers do more with less using our technology to increase revenue and drive down costs – that’s my job.”

He enjoys simplifying technology that most people would find complex and translating it into terms people understand. “When I speak to business decision makers, bits and bytes will get me kicked out of the boardroom. I love being able to simply it so that the person who just wants to save money in their business can actually understand how it will work for them.”

Some technical knowledge is though useful in his role. “You can’t have an intelligent conversation around this technology without at least understanding the product,” he says.

With a raft of new product releases, such as Windows Server 2008 (previously codenamed Longhorn), on the horizon for next year, Va’aelua says he would not want to be in any other part of the organisation. “The next 12 months are going to be absolutely huge from a server and tools perspective.”

And Microsoft partners won’t be left behind. “The technology we are about to bring to market will definitely provide opportunities for our partners to add their services and grow their business,” Va’aelua says.

Out of the office, Va’aelua devotes much of his time “hanging out” with his wife and 19-month-old daughter. “I am a real family man.”

However, he also finds time to mentor young men, to help them break through the mental barriers that prevent them from achieving. “It is about making sure the next generation has a clear understanding of the potential they can achieve.”

Va’aelua’s other love is his place of birth, Samoa, which he regards as a second home. He is only half-joking when he says Microsoft should open an office there. “I try get back there twice a year.”

Even though he would like more technological advancements to reach the country, he hopes this does not come to its detriment. “I am very protective of the untouched feel of Samoa. But 95 percent of primary schools don’t have a telephone line and 60 percent don’t have electricity.”

Despite a sucessfull career to date, Va’aelua is not resting on his laurels and is halfway through a post-graduate diploma in business with the aim of continuing onto an MBA.