What was your first job, and how did you get into IT?
I first worked (and studied) as a quantity surveyor. I quickly discovered that a fixed monthly salary was not meeting my overheads, so I became an estate agent. The commission allowed me to earn more, and I could see my efforts tangibly rewarded.
I had several friends at IBM and a brother-in-law at BT, though, so I was something of an IT guru at my estate agency, becoming responsible for IT and PBX development decisions. This made the move to IT sales an easy decision when the opportunity arose.
Planes, trains or automobiles?
Sorry, but I always choose automobiles whenever I can. And the great news about working for a French company is that owning a left-hand-drive muscle car takes on new meaning when visiting the head office. I still find it interesting driving on the right-hand side of the road.
In my dreams…
…I would never get stuck in traffic jams and always arrive when and where I want. You could say we're always trying to help our customers forward the same way - never getting stuck, or in jams.
If you had to choose just one leisure activity, would you choose an art or a sport?
An art. I'm a musician, and I find it really motivating and enjoyable.
Oranges or bananas?
Bananas, every time. Try peeling oranges on the A3 on the way to work early in the morning.
Can politicians ever be trusted on IT?
I would say probably not. Many of the major IT disasters in the UK have been haunted by political input. The government's committee-led IT development tends to be very slow, and by installation date, the technology is already behind the curve.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema and what did you think?
Skyfall. What a great film, and the blend of old and new kept everyone happy. The producers clearly understood changing trends and new technology, helping to attract as wide an audience as possible. Going to see the latest Bond film is always an occasion in our house.
Are IT skills shortages best filled by on-the-job training or formal education (such as at a university)?
This is an interesting question and one close to my heart. IT should be a passion if you are to be successful, and I'm not sure that a formal education is best for everyone. Many of the best IT people I have worked with were introduced to it as teenagers.
I would encourage more technology companies to offer apprenticeships; they allow more focus on a specific technology area. We are seeing these far more in the industry.
How do you try to cheer yourself up when you're feeling down?
I live in Hampshire, not far from the coast. Nothing beats a bracing coastal walk followed by a leisurely pub lunch. This works every time for me.
If you had your time again, what would be your next choice of career?
I grew up in the West Country and still enjoy the occasional trip to the moors and forests. I think a career in land management would have been enjoyable. It would certainly be a contrast to the hectic world of IT.
Phil Smith is UK and Ireland channels director at Ipanema Technologies
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