Think big, says MS sales head

Microsoft sales and marketing director Ross Peat says New Zealanders have to be "aspirational and think big dreams" to make it big in the IT industry.

Microsoft sales and marketing director Ross Peat says New Zealanders have to be “aspirational and think big dreams” to make it big in the IT industry.

This is something most Kiwis don’t know, he says. Peat says he has some understanding of this from having worked for for two large US-owned corporates.

Working your way up the corporate ladder depends on persistence, enthusiasm and communication skills, he says.

However, first of all, the Nelson-born former teacher says you have to decide what sort of person you are - whether you prefer dealing with people or things - look at what you enjoy in life and where your strengths are.

You also need to decide how you want to enter a certain profession - either a low level and work your way up, or study and enter at a higher level.

Nelson-born Peat aimed to be a doctor and studied biological sciences at Otago University, but decided to go into teaching. However, after a year, he quit for Australia, Europe and the US doing odd jobs and after three years, realised business was more his scene. He joined an IBM New Zealand graduate-training scheme and spent nine years with the firm. Sales suited his business interests and communication skills. But, in the early 90s, Big Blue restructured; he took voluntary redundancy and soon ended up in Microsoft, working his way up in business development and corporate sales.

Peat says Microsoft looks for people who work hard and get things done. “We are looking for high-IQ intellectual people, who have demonstrated a strong work ethic. We look at their education, other workplace qualifications, sport and cultural interests. We look for people who get things done, are goal-orientated and achievement-orientated,” he says.

Once accepted by a company, you have to "go for it", he says. “You have to take every opportunity that comes up and probably create opportunities. Have a game plan,” he says. People should think about where they want to be three to five years from now, he says, and discuss future prospects with their employer.

And as you go up the corporate ladder, build up your personal and team leadership skills, seeking advice from a mentor, if necessary, he says.

You also need to take chances, either inside or outside your employer, but it needs to fit your career. “If you see a CV with people shifting every six to nine months, that’s a cause for concern,’ he says.

Higher up, in "front line management",“You need to build up your broad business skills, to understand business models, the role of government, the legal framework, the total business ecosystem. Seek out opportunities or mentors to build that business understanding,” Peat advises.

Large corporates, he says, are more structured, which is often better for training, structured career paths, etc, while a smaller firm may leave you more self-reliant, though opportunities may come first.

Looking ahead, Peat says he wants to be a company general manager, saying there are opportunities both inside and outside Microsoft.

“To get it, I will go back to fundamentals. Plan for it, continue that training regime, maintain my passion and enthusiasm, engage successfully with those up and down the career chain and I have to persist. That opportunity will come over time and I will grab it when it comes,” he says.

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