Gary O’Connell is the Director of Technical Support EMEA at SimpliVity, a cutting-edge tech company that offers hyperconvergence platforms and software to simplify modern data centres and deliver big savings in capital and operational costs.
Unsurprisingly, Gary is a tech geek who credits his love for computers as the reason for his problem-solving skills and the inspiration for a career that culminated in setting up SimpliVity’s EMEA tech support offices in Cork, Ireland, from scratch last year. But he’s also a dedicated family man, who values honesty, trust and happiness above all else – which makes a big difference in the world of tech support.
How did you get into the IT industry?
Back in 1999 I was in a position where I’d finished college and was working as an instrumentation technician. Similarly, my wife had finished electronics at college and was working for Turnkey, based in Cork. One of the passions we both had was an interest in IT and computers – it was the hardware and the technical side that we were passionate about. So together we made the decision to leave our jobs and we did a course providing four MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) exams, and we were among a handful that qualified as an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). That was step one.
And what led you to SimpliVity?
We made the decision in the middle of 2000 to apply for positions in Dell, and we were successful. We started in technical support, and as our analytical and resolution skills developed we began taking on more and more responsibility. After three or four years, we moved into management, and that was a key moment for us. We had worked at the sharp end of the spear, as my boss would say, we knew the types of issues the customers were calling with, we knew the types of challenges the employees had in addressing those, so our job was trying to leverage that experience to create an environment where both the customer and the employee were happy.
You recruited a whole new team for SimpliVity. What tips can you share from the experience?
First and foremost, be absolutely disciplined with regards to the job specifications. There’s a tendency to have a very broad job specification with the intention of increasing your candidate pool, but it takes time to sift through applications to find that diamond in the rough. Then, if you do compromise, the time to try and improve an individual may not appear when you have so many other business requirements to attend to. So have a very clear idea in your mind of the kind of individual and the profile that you’re looking for.
What about the office space?
When you start off and the company is so small, simple tasks like ordering stationery, making sure you have sufficient IT and telecoms, security at the door, maintenance, all of these only take from your ability to incubate your business and distract from getting your brand out there and recruiting top talent. You really do need a self-contained, professional office environment with all the features of a large multinational. That’s why we chose Regus. It allows you to come in to all of those functions: it’s a one-stop shop.
Can you identify a way that your passion for IT and computers has affected your philosophy?
When you’re dealing with something that’s broken, you are very pragmatic in your troubleshooting. Because I’ve been doing it for so many years, if someone comes to me with a problem, whether it’s personal or business or anything at all, I always go through the same methodology. I subconsciously just start analysing the core elements of the problem, what we’re trying to achieve, what sort of risks there are with any course of action. I think that’s by far the single biggest influence.
Do you have any business goals?
There are really only three business goals I aspire to. First and foremost is best-in-class customer service. It’s something I’ve spent my whole life developing the skills for, and actually we just found out yesterday that we won a TSIA Award, a prestigious global award with contenders including HP, VMWare and other very established multinationals, so we’re doing well!
The second goal is to support continuous growth that ensures our shareholders, customers and the business all benefit. The final goal is to create a culture based on trust, transparency and honesty. I believe in sharing information with our employees, telling people what’s going on and involving them in the conversation.
What about outside work?
The first year with SimpliVity was a roller coaster. Now I have such a strong team, I’m getting a little bit more time, and I'm filling that with networking events related to IT that I would attend even if I wasn’t in my position in SimpliVity. And from time to time I still game! I used to be an avid gamer, and I very rarely get to indulge now, but I do try. Although I think the biggest thing that impacts on hobbies in my personal time is the fact that I have a six-year-old and a two-year-old, and what I really want is to make sure I have enough time for my kids.
Three tips from Gary:
- Understand what success means for you. You will always try and measure, or be measured externally, based on what other people believe success looks like. You need to be clear on what you consider success is.
- Understand how far you’re willing to go to get that success. Have an idea of what you want to do and how to execute it.
- Be happy. I try to make sure that my definition of success has an element of fun, has room for family and making sure people feel supported.