On this episode of the NewyTechPeople Podcast we interview Ben Lamb Principal at Cyber Industrial Networks about his experience working all over the world, starting a new business in the middle of a pandemic and advice he would give to professionals wanting to start a career in technology.
Hope you enjoy the interview!
Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the newcastle tech scene.
Tell us a bit about your career in technology to date and your role as Principle at Cyber Industrial Networks.
What was your experience working around the world and how does that compare to working in Newcastle, NSW?
What was the motivation behind your new business?
Can you tell us the name of your new business?
Can you tell us about your experience working in West Africa?
Why did you start a career in tech?
Do you use any productivity tools?
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Welcome to the NewyTechPeople podcast today is a great day as we’re interviewing ben lam ben has had a really interesting career just taken him all over the world working in industrial automation and cyber security he’s here today to talk about his new business cyber industrial networks
so hi ben welcome to the new tech people podcast thank you great to see you today thanks for coming in well thanks for having me no worries so can you give the audience a bit of a rundown in terms of your career to date and how you’ve come about starting this new company of yours i’d love to it’s a bit of a hard career to describe i guess most people in the newcastle area will have come across systems integrators in the industrial space so that’s really my bread and brother i started whilst doing a uni degree with a company called advanced systems integration in newcastle okay they made their own radio telemetry equipment they did a lot of work with the mining industries are they still around no they’re unfortunately not i’ve got a lot of respect for the gen sat around that business they’re um they taught me a lot they uh they became part of the map tech brand along the way um but yeah i went through those guys and learned a lot about electronics and circuit board design and radio antenna design and a lot of sort of really nitty gritty old-school now technology i guess um has stood me in good stead even to this day you know i think a lot of that grounding the some of the newer generations don’t get to get down to that level they don’t have to anymore so it was it was a great grounding and i i learned so much through my my time there um when i left those guys i joined the old hunter water tech business i had cardiff um and i was worked with them for about five years and then during that time i was lucky enough to um i guess do a stint in the middle east for those guys in aberdeen for about three years wow that was in the early 2000s so yeah it was um it was a really interesting time there was still conflict bubbling in iraq and all of those sorts of things wow what was it like living over there i i loved it um i i had a bit of a love-hate relationship to be fair to the place you miss a lot of the simple things that we take for granted particularly here in newcastle um the ease of getting out going to the beach you know the outside lifestyle we have here um you know over there during summer it’s nudging 50 degrees you don’t really want to be outside yeah there’s some great beaches but they’re normally associated with hotels but you have to pay money to get access to so there’s a lot to like about living over there proximity to europe was great travel was great money was good but um yeah some of the simple stuff have just been able to unsit in your backyard is what i missed over there yeah definitely a really good expat community ah fabulous yeah that was when you were working for hunter water then underwater tech yeah and during that time they took on the um the uk business cert controls and took their name here in newcastle so most people probably know cert controls more than the old hunter water tech sticker so yeah so i was there during that brand change so when i came back it was controls here and i worked for about another 12 months here on water and wastewater projects that they had going on and the um they were it was a great business and a great experience and i i very very appreciative of the opportunities that business gave me to i guess take on my first international travel for work i think i think i’m pretty fortunate as a kid from newcastle to have been given those opportunities and go and have those experiences um yeah anyone who’s um gets those opportunities waived in front of them in this tech industry coming out of newcastle just grab it with both ends and go yeah you’ll never regret it it’ll be hard it’ll be challenging but yeah it’s um it’s certainly something that i look back on um look back at the trepidation i guess i had at the time and question the validity of my thinking a bit i guess at the time it was um daunting but very much worthwhile so yeah so i came back from those guys with again a lot of water and wastewater and experience a bit of petrochemical experience over there and the gas plants and stuff okay which was interesting a lot of i guess experience in dealing with other cultures and other ways of doing business and security clearances for oil fields and just working in a different country gives you a healthy respect for i guess how easy a lot of business that we do in australia is how easily we relate to australians doing business as an aussie but it taught me a lot about not to have those assumptions and preconceived ideas i guess so yeah it was it was really good and made lifelong friends through that experience and the expat community over there is pretty strong so yeah and i can imagine over there doing business would be their way yes yes and it is it is very different um there’s a lot that is negotiated and you know it taught me a lot about keeping an eye on scope of projects and timelines of projects and don’t let death by a thousand cuts creep in the place definitely works on i think the word was worse not what you know but who you know um so there’s a lot of that over there which is fine that’s how the place works and they get plenty of stuff done as a result so but it was um it was an eye opener for me understanding all of that yeah great so i came back from those guys and and did a bit more with um the circ business and then um i was fortunate enough to to join a fledgling uh systems integrator called primatech i know them well yeah i thought you might primertech which became primatech qda so i i joined the business as employee number one what did the qda stand for it was quality data australia that’s right so that was through some mergers of quality data and rang systems that came in well i guess about five years into its life amalgamated the name into primetech qda we talked earlier we know quite a few people there’s quite a few people out of that era i had on the podcast earlier yeah yeah yeah clint bruin john watson plenty of guys out of that era that are now scattered around the industry still at amp control yeah he’s also doing some work with the melt i think as well yeah so that was a great uh emerging business i guess early on we were a very small tight knit team the beauty of a small agile little business is there’s no place for b graders everyone has to carry their weight and get it done i have a lot of respect for the general manager of that business sean smith he taught me a lot he’s um renowned for being direct and i’m sure he wouldn’t care that i said that but it’s certainly taught me a lot about owning your work owning the outcome of your work don’t shy away from the responsibility of having a problem put your hand up early and talk about it and get it resolved yeah absolutely it was a great business for that that tenure lasted for about um about nine years well i didn’t know that they were around for that long before they were bought yeah i was trying to think it’s eight nine year mark somewhere aim control acquired them back in the days when they didn’t call them startups that’s right they were just new businesses i guess yeah so then went through the amp control acquisition and became part of the amp control automation team um so by the time i from when i joined i joined as a senior control systems engineer and when i departed i had held the roles of principal engineer and engineering manager and through that period we tackled everything from coal washers to train loaders to stackers and reclaimers to cotton seed plants to you name it we would we would tackle it um and the beauty of the the amp control uh acquisition was it got us exposure into again back into the international market so we had colleagues out of uh the uk out of hong kong um so we took on projects with our uk counterparts delivering mining machinery control systems into russia so we needed to get to russia and have a look around in russia and what’s that like it was fabulous i’d love to go back and have a proper a holiday style look around and winter maybe no well yeah i always always joke when i went to russia i left here in late october i guess so you know mid-20s you know shorts and t-shirts sort of weather 40-something hours later i walked out of an airport at the other end after flying around the world and back again and it was -15. wow and as i’ll never forget there’s an old mig fighter on the stand in the car park and i thought well i’m not in newcastle any longer but yeah it those those sorts of experiences are the highlights of my career and what this it’s amazing to have those experiences working and traveling around the world yeah it’s it’s been fascinating to be able to get that far and see places like central russia with siberia to the north and you know the heart of russia’s manufacturing facilities so yeah it’s been a been a pretty wild ride on some of those things so yes that was the beauty of the amp control era i was fortunate enough to leave amp control to join rockwell automation i spent about three years with those guys and really what what they came looking to me for up until that point i guess i was the generalist control systems engineer had had plc scada reporting systems all that sort of stuff under my belt but what i’d i guess growing a bit of a liking to and a bit of a reputation for was dealing with the networking side of things okay um so during my time at am controls dealing a lot with the guys at rockwell and at cisco and rockwell approached me to look after their networking and cyber security team for australia and new zealand so i jumped at that after a lot of consideration it was pretty hard to leave so you want to just then specialise i guess go down that specialisation route i hadn’t had the option to do it prior i guess and i guess that role was a little bit um more sales driven as well rather than engineering driven so i was curious to explore that a bit and see what that meant and it was a great company for the the breadth of clients and you know rockwell automation you know there’s rockwell there schneider there’s siemens in our corner of the world you know most sites have got one of those systems on there so yeah with that rockwall sticker there’s not too many places you can’t go and look at so um it got me traveling from one end of australia to the other end of new zealand looking at everything from again mines to mars bar factories to um to hydro power stations to all sorts of to logging mills in new zealand about different a lot of different businesses and yeah and i think that’s that’s something that i sort of really woke up to late in my career was the power of a good engineer in this game isn’t how good an engineer you are attack well you can understand your customers business and what they want for the money they’re spending and if you roll that down the hill then that comes into understanding the equipment you’re controlling or making work and how much money they’ve got to get out of it yeah and that’s where the value is yeah so i sort of pride myself on that and i’d sort of nag that into anyone i come across in this game is you can teach people to write code but what you’ve got to learn is what the machine’s doing what the customer needs what’s making them money and then make sure you align to that within the bounds of your scope and you’ll have a happy customer so yeah so that was that era so rockwell had me traveling around the world i got to mongolia with rockwell to look at a big copper mine in mongolia and also over into south america into chile and in north america some of the technical events so so that again was a lot of consulting engineering work on networks and cyber security and design and architecture and i guess really what proved in my mind the the value of the work that the new business which i’ll get to in a minute is here to do everywhere i i went and saw there was so many people with such massive investment in manufacturing and processing facilities and there was a common thread the thing that always let them down was the communications and the networks and the security and the architecture so yeah so that was rockwell and i i met a lot of very smart people there all the way through their you know product teams and development teams and their roadmaps and those guys they know their stuff and and i had a lot of fun being a proper nerd talking to those guys and and picking their brains about what they’re thinking and and learn to learn a lot so yeah so i left there and i’ve just just completed a two-year stint with uh safe group they offered me a job to run new south wales state engineering team which i was happy to do and actually it felt a little bit like coming home back to the si community after being i guess on the um on the evil side of the fence as a vendor trying to hock hardware so yeah so i i’ve really enjoyed that experience working with the safe group team they’re a small integrator here well good size integrator here in newcastle to be exact and they do a lot of walk water and wastewater work so a lot of telemetry networks a lot of radio stuff so again very similar to where i started in the industry and a lot of the guys that i am was working again with at safe group were through that hunter water tech cert control zero so a lot of familiar faces which was nice good so that’s really my career and what i’ve been doing but yeah now we’re on to the next exciting chapter i guess you’re your own business which you stood up in may only in may very new business yeah very new business what what sort of was the motivation behind that well the motivation was really reflecting on what i was seeing in my time at rockwell around the problems so many industries were facing in the current landscape with reliability of their systems being impacted by their networks and communication systems and again we hear it daily on the news cyber security cyber security and cyber security the hard part for a lot of these guys and part of the reason i want to start this business is they don’t know where to start to apply cyber security to their production systems without breaking them at the end of the day the order of value is different in a it system versus an operational system you know operation operations is king i.t typically confidentiality and availability come up the food chain on on their order but um yeah in the operational systems if that plan’s not not running it’s not making money so that’s it’s a real challenge for a lot of people and i think why i want to start this business is is there’s a good tight-knit little community which which i hope to to foster and grow and bring capability to the market of people who have got solid control systems experience i always joke about it can also speak i.t it’s pretty common in that in those plants to see a gap in the technology teams which is odd because you know we all we here at new e-tech people there is some divisions in the it and the ot worlds control systems engineers and then the it departments they don’t always see eye to eye and really what it comes down to is that difference in drivers for their performance yeah um so i’ve spent a lot of effort i guess over the years in working with it and ot teams i guess to span that divide try and get the teams together try and get a solution that everybody’s happy with and then then you get to do the fun part of rolling the solution out and seeing the proof in the pudding so so that’s really i guess the primary focus of the new business and can you tell us the name of your new business it’s cyber industrial networks which is a real mouthful anyone who started a business try registering a business name and and do better for me it’s hard so hard to come up with a business name yeah it is as a good friend of mine said he said yeah just abbreviate it to sign it i said well it sort of sounds a bit like skynet out of terminator and we can run with that um so yeah so sign it for short but it does perfectly describe what your business is it does and at the end of the day i’m an engineer i’m not going to proclaim to be a wordsmith so we’ll just um we’ll just roll with uh the blunt title for this for the time being there’s a couple of good apps actually i am i’m currently mentoring a couple of student groups for um challenge they’re doing for university so there’s groups of students from international so mainly australian universities but as international students as well and they’ve all come up with this idea and they’ve got to think of a name so i’ll just send them all these links to these apps so really yeah i’m not here to create the name for your wish i’d spoken to a couple months ago no there’s some pretty good apps that come up with um you can put in a few keywords that describes your business and it’ll just spit out all these names yeah we had a we had a great nice short succinct business name and procrastinated in registering and someone else took it so yeah it is what it is yeah very exciting so it’s yourself and another one of those partners partner yeah um and where did did you work together obviously yeah we have so jess brings a lot of business management and project management experience okay so um so she’s um brings that knowledge and experience of all the fun stuff under the covers that engineers like me typically don’t want to have to think about in running a business administering the books in the finances so she’s keeping us on the straight and narrow from from that point of view and my my roommate i guess is to get out there and and um talk to people and see what problems they’ve got that i can help them solve and what can you tell us about some of the customers that you’re working with at the moment so we’ve got existing clients that we’re working with that are coming out of um the mining industry so we’ve got an oddly enough here in newcastle the mining clients i’ve got at the moment aren’t heavily coal i’ve got a bit of a mixed bag i’ve got a one of the mining clients here is in the hunter valley i won’t name them of course and another one is a um a gold miner out of um out of australia that operates an operation in west africa okay and you recently went to west africa during these times which would have been an eye-opener and quite did you would have been i guess nervous of the current situation that’s going on so tell us tell us about that tree yeah so so last october it’s an australian-owned mining company they operate a operation in west africa had problems on their site with their communication system stopping their plant so we were asked whether we could do an audit of their system so i guess a bit like anyone who’s an it guy or a network dude listening to this you know we do you do network audits all day every day but we had to have a bit of a look at the control system and how old it was you know if something died could they get a replacement a bit of a life cycle analysis on it but what made it fun was the fact that it was in mali in africa and in the middle of covert so we went through a lot of discussions with those guys about logistics whether it was possible uh dfat paperwork would have to go through all of those mechanisms plus the constantly shifting landscape of airlines shutting down air routes and all of that sort of stuff so yeah we had to go through a pretty extensive medical process to go over there because once you go to one of these remote sites the client has to accept you and your all of your medical conditions if you have any a very heavy vaccination process to get over there i was a pin cushion for a while um yeah i i joke with my kids now i think i’m fire proof now for vaccines yeah that’s right i’m good i’m right yeah it was a it was a big logistical challenge to get over there did you like how long did it take to get there did you have to go via other places to get flights and we we flew from sydney to singapore to from singapore then to just think there heathrow heathrow to paris and then paris into the mali into bamako and then a charter flight out to the site wow and it was amazing for anyone who’s been through those airports they’re all busy airports they’re all ghost towns like shops shut lights out dark yeah except for paris oddly when we were there it was business as usual wow so very interesting experience obviously africa comes with its own security challenges that the the site deal with and deal with well their own private security they they take their management of things like covert very very seriously and i have a pretty competent medical team on site and they’re australian owned australian-owned and that’s why they’ve asked an australian to come over which is great yeah which is which is again it’s a fabulous experience to have but also a little bit uh daunting in the fact that you know you can’t help but think surely there’s someone closer who’s can do what i can do that can go and do this stuff so lots of pressure yeah yeah no pressure that’s great yeah so it was a really good experience a big guy was my first adventure into west northwest africa the people were warm and friendly but the security landscape and living conditions that the general population live in are very different to what we have here made me very appreciative to to come home and and i had the joy of two weeks in quarantine in adelaide on the way home so i know we talked about that earlier how lucky we have it here and you’ve obviously experienced lots of different countries and cultures and seeing how other people live and they’ve got nothing to complain about do we no we’re going pretty good we really are we really are yeah it’s um it’s a big wide world out there and yeah i’m never disappointed to get off a plane in sydney or melbourne and be home well you’ve obviously you know been to a lot of different countries and tell us about that experience with africa africa and that was just recently obviously so last october i was fortunate enough to head towards africa um yeah the story i tell is about on the way out of africa we had to have copper tests done um most of the airlines wanted to see proof of a cover test before they would board you yeah you’d imagine what the airline’s system’s like in the middle of a pandemic it’s masks and separation and yeah everything else going on um but yeah they um were you nervous about flying in a full plane was it the plane the planes were empty really empty yeah yeah i i don’t know how they’re making money yep i really really don’t but yeah um i mean it’s a nice time to fly like you weren’t crowded and food services were prompt and the plane was empty so it was it actually was a good time to fly yeah um apart from you know the global pandemic risk element but on the way out of of mali we as i said we had to stop for our cover test in bamako city so we we arrived at the airport and got into a minibus and were you know shuttled into the hotel and got to have a really good look at the city and other countries and um again that whole healthy appreciation for it for here at home um you know that capital bamaco there’s a lot of tin sheds you know the main roads are tired and north side streets aren’t um you know all the basics that we have here you know sanitation and garbage collection it’s there but it struggles yeah um yeah choked roadways with people and scooters and you know people sitting in the backseats to get where they’re going and all that sort of stuff but um they put us into a hotel for a couple of days um it’s in the nice part of town in the in the embassy district um all hard roads everywhere there um with it and i’ll never forget came around the corner and there’s this little concrete bridge over a muddy looking creek and the bus pulled up on that as the as the gates in front of the bridge open and they had razor wire on top of them and the gates opened and out came an armed guard and at that point you sort of realized there was another armed guard sitting in a hut off to the side and then out came another two one with a mirror on a stick looking under the car and another one with a bomb sniffer dog who did a lap of the car um so yeah even if you’re not guilty of anything needs to be that’s right exactly right i haven’t got any sunscreen that smells like explosives um and at that point we’re rattling from the amount of medication we’d had for any malarias and stuff as well but um yeah so they they circled the car and that was okay and they drove the car and shut the gate behind there was an inner gate in front of it um they got us all out and the sniffer dog snipped us all over and then we all walked into a like an airport security hut so x-ray machine wands and then the bag x-ray and they would have had quite big machine guns i imagine yeah they weren’t planned
yeah they weren’t playing um so yeah so then we you get through that you put your bag through and then you walk out of all of that and you’re into this courtyard of a hotel with flowers and fountains and music playing and you’ve stepped into a different way parallel universe yeah um you walk into the hotel and it’s a lovely you know four-star hotel and everyone’s friendly and your room’s waiting for you smiling no one’s pointing a gun at you no that’s right no sniffer dogs any longer um a bit of beautiful hotel with a courtyard in the middle and swimming pools and fountains and you go to your room and you open it and it’s you know it’s lovely you know nice modern room everything you’d expect pay tv and free wi-fi yeah and then you realise that there’s no windows on the outside of your room the windows only face the center of the courtyard and maintain the image yeah well and it’s actually um we actually made some enquiries and it was deliberately built to be um attack proof from the outside of course yeah so yeah so that’s where you know foreign dignitaries and people would stay for security reasons so that’s that’s the thing that always strikes me outside of australia is the stark contrast between um parts of society i guess different people in society and the security and the wealth and the lack of wealth and um yeah it’s very very confronting so yeah so we’re there for a couple of days and had the pleasure of bamako’s main hospital for a covered swab test and um i think i’m going to put my um covered result it was a paper handwritten sheet with official stamps or everything that’s going to go on a frame for the the office wall yeah for later and that then then we got to the airport and and flew out and on the way back it was via ethiopia heathrow singapore and then in adelaide for quarantine for two weeks wow you’ve certainly traveled to some dangerous places interesting places interesting places yeah i think the most dangerous place i ever went to was the morning stars broke out i flew into hong kong oh really yeah that was like you know i think i was 26 at the time when i was working for disney and um i didn’t care i didn’t have any kids i just wasn’t bothered i was bulletproof that’s right i went to the ladies markets you had 11 handbags nice it was only really towards the end of the stay i just probably started taking it a bit starting to get a little bit more concerned i had to get my handbags first yes that’s right you could have priorities
yeah absolutely yes it’s all part of the fun of traveling isn’t it yeah yeah i just hope we uh get to get this current pandemic kind of under control and i can get back to it i know more travel so tell us about the plans for your business and what you want to you guys want to achieve yeah well i guess the objective is to to grow a business that has the capability i spoke of been able to plug that gap between it and ot where people are wrestling with it in their businesses and i’m really aiming at the industrial market i mean my background is industry i’m not not going to wade into a enterprise environment and try and tell an enterprise architect how to how to suck eggs however in the industrial space i think i’ve got some value to add on what the systems underneath need i’ve got i’ve done a lot of work with with cisco and all the tier one network vendors so i think i bring a perspective to that landscape that maybe sometimes the operational guys don’t bring they’re not been exposed to those enterprise grade solutions and scale solutions so they’re not really aware of the complications that they can bring to an it department through making design choices in their operational systems so i guess that’s where i like to get involved i like to ensure that neither party makes pain for either side that way it is comfortable with the platforms that are there and helping manage them is obviously what the operational guys would probably even they might not admit it would actually probably like some help like someone they can trust on the other side of the fence and the ot guys obviously just need a plant that continues to run and they don’t want it to stop because someone’s running a backup at two o’clock in the morning and taking out their control system so so that’s sort of the the space i want to play in and i think really at the moment the cyber security implications for control systems is is just getting more and more serious yes um he had the colonial pipeline event in north america recently when a gas pipeline was shut down through ransomware now yes it’s under the sky the security bucket was it a you know we have to start talking about whether it was deliberate attacks inadvertent attacks you know this all has to come back to risk in the industrial world you know we talk about what’s the likelihood what’s the risk what’s the consequence but the problem we’ve got is um most people just don’t know where to start they just they’re not sure what their posture is it’s going to happen to them and i think the day is coming where critical infrastructure is loosely defined at the moment as you know power and water and those sorts of things it’s going to have to encompass our manufacturing capabilities our food production capabilities they they’ll become critical pieces of infrastructure for the country’s economy and i think sooner or later legislation is going to force some changes in this space that a lot of people a lot of industries are going to wrestle to tackle so i guess that’s that’s where we want to posture ourselves to try and be ahead of that curve and and make that palatable yeah as that journey unfolds because i think it’s gonna unfold over the next few years and i’ll be interested to see where it all ends up but um so there’s definitely gonna be enough work for you to do here in australia then and to sort of expand further overseas would you like to or yeah i mean obviously with my background of doing work overseas it’s it’s not something i’m particularly scared of taking on i guess um you know we use the term as a startup we’ve got to crawl before we walk and build some mass and and build the team out but um yeah i certainly wouldn’t shy away from from taking on work internationally if it came looking or if we’re able to secure it it’s been a valuable part of my career so far so i certainly wouldn’t shy away from it so can you talk to us about why you started a career in technology what was your interest yeah and you know sort of what advice you’d give to the younger generation studying today definitely and i think i don’t really think i ever started a career in this game i think that sort of fell into it i was always that kid that wanted to understand how stuff worked um i had a tub of old circuit boards out of tv’s in the bottom of the cupboard that i pulled apart and to be honest at that stage had no idea how they worked yeah um and i guess early on in sort of my teen years you know playing with computers at home i was a commodore 64 kid and then you know i started those two show my age now the same thing yeah so i started there and and um i remember really clearly as a late teenager breaking mum and dad’s shiny new computer i don’t even know what they know about this um formatted the hard drive inadvertently and had to reinstall it and i remember getting it up and running and putting it all back together and i sort of had this moment of realization that there’s some pretty smart people in this planet who build these very complex clever bits of equipment but they are human and if they can figure it out you should have a go too what was your favorite commodore 64 game oh very good question i think i had ghostbusters on a cartridge which i loved mine was clowns oh clowns there you go and there was also a cassette tape that you could plug into it yes but it never worked i don’t know whether you got yours to it yeah it was temperamental at best i remember i remember as you have to turn upside down i hold set deck upside down and then it would work
i didn’t try that my kids will never know that pain
spoiled yeah yeah with their ipads and 4k tvs so yeah so that was what sort of got me interested in technology i guess i went through high school as most kids do and and had aspirations of moving off to uni which i did and did a bit of computer engineering but i was fortunate enough to secure an industrial electronics trade with the asi business i mentioned earlier which made technology all of a sudden very very real and very very hands-on and um the gentleman over there steve mancinelli and glenn baptista taught me a lot but they taught me i know glenn yeah yeah another name he’s great yeah yeah it’s great these days i haven’t crossed his path for a long time i was only thinking the other day i should track him down was it peabody for a little while steve was i think steve mancinelli was over there yeah yeah but they made the technology real and you had to understand a circuit and diagnose it and chop chips off boards and solder them and burn your fingers in the process of course and so that really made the technology real for me and it taught me that if you’re willing to have a go and willing to put your hand up when you make a mistake people will teach you um so i guess my advice to everybody you’ve heard me speak of of traveling overseas and taking those risks and those opportunities if if you’ve got a if you’re working wherever you are and you’ve been in an industry and someone’s willing to back you for something that you think is a little bit bigger than you then have a bit of faith in yourself someone else can see it in you so have a go put your hand up when you don’t know put your hand up if you make a mistake but get out there and have a go um because you’ll you’ll never regret it and you obviously started you know very much with the foundations first and you mentioned before you very much were a generalist and then later in your career specialised do you yeah people are sort of specializing a bit sort of earlier in their careers these days i think so um i guess yeah i think you’re quite right i think um to be a good specialist you can’t be a blinkered specialist i think the value that our business offers is the fact that we come from a very generalist industrial control system and automation background we understand those systems we could take them on if we wanted to do them ourselves but our speciality is making them work from a communications and security point of view and i think that’s our strength and i think that’s our value for clients that we we do have that understanding and we’re not going to push them down a route that’s going to cause them pain yeah good i think the only other bit of advice i give to everyone coming up particularly in an industry technology game is something one someone said to me a long time ago said this game’s full of smart people and if you’ve got smart people you can teach them lots of things there’s one thing that’s really hard to teach and it’s attitude yes you need to be coachable don’t you yes you do it doesn’t matter it makes it very hard you need to you need to uh yeah we want to learn new skills and have a go but attitude and personality are some some of the hardest things to teach or change in a person so be mindful of it and that’s certainly something that i had to learn along the way be thinking about what you’re doing thinking about how you’re going to bolt in with that team how how you’re going to bring value to that company at the end of the day that’s why you’re there yeah you’re there to make the money if if they’re making money you’ll make money so so yes um yeah attitude goes a big way in this game particularly in the industry arena yeah and in newcastle and you know you’ve had a really exciting career to date and i’ve no doubt you know sort of built some really strong networks that will you know you’ll probably still continue to work with these people for the rest of your career i would certainly hope so some of the some of the customers we’ve been dealing with now i’ve been dealing with since the very early days back in the primatech era i’m still working with them today and as they take on upgrade projects and bits and pieces so yeah very much pride myself on that and i hope that continues good and what about sort of any do you guys use any productivity tools to help you manage the projects yeah i mean uh me and my business partner jess we’re both project managers at heart so we’ll run home to gantt charts pretty quickly for planning out our our workload and cash flows and everything else so yeah we run home to those sorts of classical project management tools i’ve seen in other businesses that i’ve managed when you need to get to a uh you know a pool of people delivering billable hours you need to have a pretty solid handle on what those hours are for they’re getting billed to any gaps in those schedules so um we’ve used plenty of cloud hosted resource management tools my e-resource scheduler is one we’ve used a lot nice simple interface just shows you where people are booked and you can summarize your data and all that sort of stuff so i guess at the end of the day the engineer and me wants numbers to back up what i know so i like those tools yeah good and i like being able to model them out and forecast and that sort of stuff so and what’s been the most challenging part about starting a business um taking the leap taking the leap to have a go particularly you know i think you said earlier hey you’re in the middle of a pandemic how you going um yeah um that’s that’s probably the most daunting part um yeah as well as getting uh obviously jess brings a wealth of experience around the financial side and the erp management side which is fabulous um but yeah just taking that leap i guess um it’s very real like i thought about it for many years and i always use the excuse that i was a single mother and that it was too daunting yep um but again did it in the middle of a pandemic when i just never would have thought i would do that years ago yeah exactly right have you ever regretted it no but you’ve had some sleepless nights but never again yeah it’s challenging but yeah love it yeah it’s the best decision ever made ever made yeah yeah i guess that’s what i hope for a new business is is to um enjoy the challenge um enjoy the enjoy the chaos of it a little bit um enjoy getting out there and delivering work and hopefully get the growth out of it and grow into a business that people want to work in and have fun in the challenge too yeah and when you’re sort of thinking about sort of hiring well really what we’ve got to do is grow our workload a little bit we um we are effectively not seeking venture capital or anything to get us going we’re self-funded so that obviously comes with i guess a slower growth curve so we’d be looking to recruit probably or grow within the next three to six months i guess we’ll probably forecasting now so i don’t think we’ll stay this size for very long um and obviously the uh you know keep keep the work coming in and keep the team having the capacity to make sure we’re not dropping the ball for anybody very exciting i hope so anyway and what about um personal life what do you do outside of work well outside of work we’re we’re a bit of a blended family we have four kids when we’re at full complement um two boys two girls from nine through fourteen but yeah we do a fair bit of stuff outside we’re we’re pretty lucky we’re we’re based over in stockton so we’ve got beaches and rivers and all that sort of stuff at our disposal um i’m an old dirt bike rider at heart so so unfortunately the bulk of the children have now been tarred with that brush so that normally keeps me spinning spanners and maintaining motorbikes on weekends when i’m
yeah you take the motorbikes out we’ve normally have to get out in the private property with the kids being yeah and the age they are so thankful i grew up in the hunter valley originally so i’ve still got some uh connections i grew up in mussel rook originally okay don’t hold that against me no i don’t want it you’d be justified
um so yeah so we’ve still got access to acreage up there and a few other places around the traps which is nice get out and go camping and all that sort of stuff get out of town unplug from the technology for a little while and do you sort of listen to any podcasts or do you like to read i i like to listen to podcasts and i like to read unfortunately the bulk of my um downtime cycle time is reading technical literature or you know white papers and that sort of stuff so i guess yes to that that sort of ticks that box um i’ve been keeping on new tech people for a while and the podcast you chuck up so i do enjoy watching them it’s very interesting to see the breadth of industries and technologies and businesses that are in this very easy time in newcastle yeah yeah so it’s a lot of businesses i’d like to have more time just for general podcasts but unfortunately they’re just not quite fitting into the gantt chart at the moment and we’re seeing we’re actually seeing a lot of businesses that the founders were from here and moved away and now wanting to set up technical teams here which is really exciting it’s a great news story for newcastle and i mean if nothing else i mean i’m i’m amazed that i’m fortunate enough to come back and live in do you think yeah one of the companies that we’re working with at the moment they’re from the hunter valley too not really hmm yeah so autopilot yeah okay yeah so they’re a um marketing automation platform nice there you go yeah newcastle’s a pretty good place if you managed to end up back here and set your base up here it’s not a bad part of the world no i’m very lucky yeah very much so i won’t ever leave no it’s not terrible is it no well it was really interesting to hear you’ve had such an exciting career and worked in many interesting places so yeah it was really great to hear your story today and i wish you all the success for your business and if i hear of anyone needing your services i’ll definitely point them out refer them on yeah so yeah i’m looking forward to seeing your business grow yeah and i hope you keep an eye out for people that might fit the brief of what we’re doing i will sure you know a lot of people as well thank you very much for having me today it’s been good you’re welcome thank you
Tell us a bit about your career to date
What was your experience working around the world?
What was the motivation behind your new business?
Can you tell us the name of your new business?
Can you tell us about your experience working in West Africa?
What are the plans for your new business?
Why did you start a career in technology?
Do you use any productivity tools?
What do you do outside of work?