Jason Langley, Ingram Micro general manager, value infrastructure, nearly didn't make it to the tech sector.
He talks to Heather Wright about leadership and making your own opportunities.
Jason Langley was days away from picking up his first dole payment when he was offered his first job in IT.
At 19, Langley, now Ingram Micro's general manager, value infrastructure, had been told he was 'too young' for computer sales.
It is an experience that has helped shape Langley's views on employing young people.
“The guy at the agency said 'what do you want to do?' and I said computer sales. He told me I was too young, didn't have the experience and would never get into it.
A week later, just a few days before collecting the first dole payment, I got the job [with a small Auckland computer company].
“To this day I get people telling me others are too young for a role, they don't have the credibility. I just don't subscribe to that at all.
"If they've got the right attitude, the right level of maturity, they can carry out just about anything. You look at all these youngsters starting billion-dollar start-ups. If you've got the right aptitude you can do it.”
Langley, who was always 'keen to carve my own way and do my own thing', would soon find himself working with two of New Zealand's young entreprenuers, after 'chasing down' PC Direct and securing himself a job there.
Founders Sharon Hunter and Maurice Bryham were both in their early 20s when they founded the company, which they later sold to Blue Star for a cool $30 million.
Bryham is one of a number of IT leaders Langley has had the opportunity to work with over the years who have left their mark on him.
“People like Maurice Bryham I've found very entrepreneurial, very comfortable with risk. And for giving a group of young people the opportunity to spread their wings and excel.”
One of Bryham's key phrases was 'you can't sell anything without a price'. Langley says that always stuck with him and even now, if he goes into a shop that doesn't have price tags, he's quick to exit. “It was such an important lesson.”
Former Datasquirt chief executive Aaron Ridgway is also someone Langley looks up to. “Same age as me, but very successful, very tenacious, very driven.
"That tenancity is something I've always strived for but probably not necessarily achieved in the same capacity.”
Enprise's Mark Loveys 'who has been very very successful in his own right through tenancity and patience and carrying on down a track and perseverance and eventually you end up being successful,' is also on Langley's list of mentors.
Meanwhile, Langley says his own career has been 'fairly eclectic'. Straight out of school he worked at the Land Transfer Office, before studying law – he lasted one year and says “I absolutely hated it. It bored me to tears”.
Then it was on to technology with the Auckland computer company.
From there he traversed through PC Direct – with a break to work with Camp America in the United States – Dell (its 'micromanagement' didn't appeal and Langley quickly departed), Netbyte, Datasquirt, contract work for Terabyte and roles with Enprise and HP's printing and personal systems unit, before finding his way to Ingram Micro early last year.
“I've been on the reseller side, the customer side to a degree, the vendor side and now distie. It's all been a learning curve.
“It's quite enjoyable looking at different ways of doing business. The hardest thing is getting your head around the subtle nuances between vendor, distie and reseller, and how to make the most of the situation.”
Along the way, he's sold one of New Zealand's first auction sites, for Turners Car auctions, while at Netbyte; and helped build one of the first WAP sites for the Vodafone Live platform, enabling customers to view Pizza Hut menus, complete with pictures, and order via their phone, while with Datasquirt.
“Pretty much everything I have done has been picked up on the job.
"I learned to programme under my own steam, learned to build web sites, do graphic design under my own steam, learned social media marketing by myself. Google is just a fantastic tool and I use it religiously,” he says.
To read Part 2 of The Channel's exclusive interview with Jason Langley of Ingram Micro, check back to The Channel on Monday.
This story was originally published in the May issue of The Channel magazine - click here to subscribe