In this edition of the 'One-on-One' interview series, we speak to Michael Cross, Asia Pacific and Japan VP of alliances and channels at Software AG, who went from the Australian Army into the IT industry and never looked back.
What was your first job?
Aside from working some part-time jobs in hospitality during high school, my first real job was when I joined the Australian Army after I was selected to attend the Australian Defence Force Academy to train as an Army officer.
This experience provided me with the leadership and discipline skills in a team environment that I have built my career upon. It also allowed me to develop long-lasting relationships with individuals across various industries.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
My first foray into the industry was working in IT support at the Australian War Memorial after leaving the Army. This was an interesting experience as I was able to better understand what goes on in the background at the Memorial. It was also my first experience with desktop automation and configuration.
I then went on to work in several government departments in Canberra learning the impacts of IT in organisations and the difference technology can make.
In the early 2000s, I began working for software vendors in various roles, including consulting, pre-sales, advisory through to management. Doing this allowed me to appreciate the intricacies of the value chain from initial product development through to working with partners to provide a positive end-customer outcome.
Most recently I moved from being the field CTO for A/NZ and Japan at Software AG to taking on a new challenge to launch and grow Software AG’s new Partner Connect program in APAC. In my new role, I’ll be using my knowledge and connections to contribute to the transformation and growth of Software AG’s partner ecosystem.
What are some of your plans for the company in the coming months?
We have now completed the migration of indirect channels to the new Partner Connect program and will be consolidating our existing partner relationships and continuing to build more. Since the launch of the program earlier this year, there has been a lot of interest from organisations across the region to come on the journey of growth with Software AG.
The team is working on strengthening existing strategic partner relationships to expand across different geographies, business units and move away from a country centric approach. The ability to leverage these relationships will allow us to scale regionally and provide our customers with ultimately better service.
We are also focused on bringing onboard new partner relationships to expand our reach into emerging geographies throughout Asia. We are now focussing on the right sized partners where we can both share a common strategy and add value to each other’s business.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
In my early career working in government departments, I was contracting before it was recommended I take up a full-time role. I did this but the full-time role only lasted nine months before I went back to contracting. I always had a gut feel that the full-time option back then wasn’t for me but I didn’t take time to assess what these changes meant beyond an employment status.
The two key things I learnt from this experience is generally if things don’t seem right, trust your gut feel. Also, make sure you research your options before coming to a clear conclusion of what direction and action you need to take.
What are some of your ambitions - personally and professionally?
From a professional perspective, I would like to fully implement Software AG’s alliances and channels strategy in APAC while helping our ecosystem and customers achieve success through these difficult times. A big wish is to be able to fly both interstate and internationally for in-person meetings and to thank people personally for their contributions. I believe a small thank you can go a long way in a fast-changing and challenging world.
From a more personal perspective, I don’t want to stop learning or giving back to the world we live in. I’m a strong believer in supporting and giving back to our local communities. As such, I volunteer my time with surf lifesaving to help educate and bring together the young and old, for a common cause of creating a safe coastal environment for all to enjoy.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Throughout my life, career and many years playing the Australian Football League (AFL), one of the best pieces of advice I have been given is, 'It is not the team with the best players that win, but it is the best team that wins'.
This saying has rung true many times, where I have bought a group of diverse people together with a common purpose and used their individual skills and capabilities to achieve mutual success.