An enduring interest in technology coincided with the rise of personal computing for the masses and that, in a nutshell, is how Simon Smith, Regional Manager, NZ and South Pacific at APC by Schneider Electric, came to be where he is today.
“I stepped into the industry just as personal computers for the home were becoming more readily available and PCs were being networked together, making for more collaborative team work – people were starting to be more connected and it was, and is, an exciting place to be,” he relates.
Growing up in England, Smith went to university just as the IT boom was taking hold in the late 80s and early 90s. “Studying French and IT I decided to look for work in France during my gap year. Europe was in the middle of a recession so opportunities were limited, but I was lucky to find work at Microsoft, which took me on as an intern for a year on its product support desk. It was an exciting time which really opened my eyes to what the IT industry could offer,” he remembers.
It was in 1993 that Smith made the move to New Zealand and landed a job at distributor Renaissance, again during a period of significant growth. “Trevor [Grey] is one of the fathers of the New Zealand IT industry; working with him taught me much about running a lean operation and motivating people to be the best they can be,” he notes.
Smith believes the technology industry is perhaps one of the more stimulating places in which to forge a career owing to the enormous impact it has on humanity in general. “IT allows us to do the things we have always been able to do, in a much faster and smarter fashion – it is a great enabler and extension of what we already do,” he explains.
But that all comes at a cost, which he says Schneider Electric describes as ‘the Energy Dilemma’.
“Demand for energy is set to double by 2050, yet we need to reduce our carbon emissions by half to avoid dramatic climate change. As significant users of energy – some sources put the figure at up to 8% of energy use globally - data centres have their part to play in balancing the equation. By being smarter about how we provide power and cooling to the data centre, and also how we manage those facilities, we can achieve significant efficiencies locally and globally.”
With a straightforward approach to doing business, Smith describes some of his closest held principles: “I believe in being fair and adding value to everything I do and the people I interact with. I also like to over-deliver against clients’ expectations, building trust based on success,” he says; and that leads to his definition of success, which is “Seeing my team be successful. I have a team of five and work alongside a much wider team as part of our channel-focussed organisation.”
With a keen interest in music, he says that if it wasn’t IT, his career may well have been in this part of the entertainment industry. “My iPod is my favourite gadget and it still amazes me just how much music you can carry around with you – it is a wonder of IT,” Smith says. Little wonder, too, that his words to live by come from a musician. “Rod Stewart had the right idea when he said that everyone should aim to build a career, have a hobby and play a sport. I like the simplicity of that.”
It’s not all work and Smith shares his enthusiasm for the country. Perspective is important: “Having grown up near London, I enjoy everything that New Zealand has to offer. I’ve never been much of a fisherman, but I recently took a trip to Great Barrier Island and came home with a good catch – now I understand why it’s such a popular sport!”