I finished VCE in 1987 – it seems a long time ago now! My family had moved to Melbourne from country Victoria when I was entering Year 10 and I felt lucky to get a place at Yarra Valley Grammar.
I studied Commerce at Melbourne University and spent my summers doing internships with a variety of accounting practices. It was a great time because I had a number of my best mates in the same course and I also lived on campus, which helped me to make new friends. Not really sure what I wanted to do, and really enjoying my economics classes, it felt like it was the right decision to stay and do a fourth or honours year in economics. It turned out to be a great decision.
I spent a lot of that next year looking at different career options and stumbled upon strategy consulting firms. The promise of working on a variety of different strategic projects for a range of businesses really appealed to me, so I applied and was fortunate to get a job offer from LEK Consulting. It meant I had to move to Sydney, but at the time that seemed like an easy trade-off.
Over the following three years I worked with some fantastic people on some great projects – from the merger between Qantas and Australian Airlines to helping Fosters sell their UK pub estates. I’d only left Australia for a couple of weeks in the first 21 years of my life and my work meant two of the next three years were abroad.
This was before email was prevalent, well before the first browser had been developed and in a time when international phone calls were still very expensive. I remember missing home but also loving the complete immersion in the different places that I worked and travelled.
I applied to do an MBA and was accepted into Harvard Business School. I arrived in Boston from London the day before classes started. It was my first trip to the US. Having thought London was big when I arrived there, I remember my first weekend in New York, standing on Sixth Avenue just near the Time Life building, in complete awe of the scale of America and the determination of the American people.
I had a wonderful time studying at Harvard. I love business and really enjoyed the process of pulling bits of it apart, debating decisions and gaining exposure to some of the best business minds. During my second year I heard about the Silicon Valley venture capital model, where ideas that could change the world were being funded on the basis that although nine out of 10 would fail, that tenth idea would make enough money to generate a positive return on all 10. I was intrigued, and the more I learnt the more I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Having left consulting, I was also convinced I wanted to be an operating manager. So I went to California and knocked on doors, trying every way I could to get a start. It was 1996 and I was fortunate to get an opportunity working for one of my classmates for a small start-up.
The next eight years in the Valley were unbelievable. I arrived not long after Netscape had invented the browser and the www was just starting. I remember the late nights we’d spend thinking and re-thinking our business model. At first, new companies and industry changes were happening every month; it then became weekly and eventually daily as the dot com bubble really started to expand.
San Francisco wasn’t built for the influx of people and basic services were stretched to the limit. People were taking out loans to pay rent because the prices went up so high. We were working longer and longer hours, believing that we were changing the world; that there wouldn’t be another opportunity and that if we didn’t grab it someone else would. Of course that ended a few years later, but during that time many great companies that will be with us for decades were formed and are now thriving.
During those years I was fortunate to meet my wonderful wife Karola, get married and have our first two children, Mietta (2000) and Vivien (2002).
In 2003 an opportunity came up to move to Sydney. We decided to take it and so the next stage of my career started with MYOB. I’ve now been with MYOB for 10 years, five of those as CEO. Our son Zoltan was born in 2006.
MYOB provides business management software (accounting, payroll, inventory management etc.) to small and medium businesses. We have 1,200 team members across Australia and New Zealand and are one of Australia’s most successful technology companies. I’ve always enjoyed business and really like having businesses as our clients. Our vision is to make business life easier. Unfortunately it’s not easy owning and running a business in our country, so at MYOB we try to make it a little easier.
Every day I feel extremely fortunate for my life. There have been many challenging times, but I’ve always felt I have the support of people around me and the determination and drive to get through. Along the way I’ve listened to my gut instinct and been happy to take my own path – I’d encourage others to do likewise.