Doing business with Thomas Salmen

Doing business with Thomas Salmen

The CTO of Orcon talks about War (the book) and innovation.

Where were you educated?
High school in Okaihau in the Bay of Islands. University at Massey in Auckland, then postgrad at University of Auckland. Where do you live? Waterview, Auckland.

Are you married? Kids? Married, no kids so far.

What are your interests outside work? Motorcycles, photography, travel, Twitter.

What are you reading at the moment? War, by Sebastian Junger. And The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon.

Professionally, who do you admire most? Okay, so I know this is going to be a horrendous cliché and I hate myself slightly for saying this, but I do think that Steve Jobs is one of the most interesting people in our industry today.

I suppose that’s kind of admiration. I’m fascinated how he’s managed to turn his business into one of the most successful in history – seemingly through a culture of extreme focus, innovation, and engineering principle.

Frightening, but awe-inspiring – kind of like watching a volcano erupt and not being sure if you’re far enough away yet.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? “Don’t buy that car”. Sadly, I ignored it.

A lesson you’ve never forgotten? Buying that car.

How long have you been working in IT? Since the late 90s. I left university in 1998 and fell into a job working on the Telecom Xtra helpdesk. Made my way to a junior systems admin role not long afterwards.

What was your first job? At high school I worked in the orchards in Kerikeri picking fruit, and baling hay in the summer. Once I was at university, I worked 60 hours a week (including five graveyard shifts a week) at a gas station. I didn’t manage to keep that up very long...

What’s the best thing about working with IT executives? I’ve always found IT people in general to be some of the most innovative people there are. I’m constantly amazed at the things that some people seem to be able to do, even with the odds stacked heavily against them. IT seems to attract a high proportion of these innovative, agile, brilliant individuals.

What is the worst? Working with those who have lost their spark of innovation, had it driven out of them, or never had it in the first place.

What is your favourite networking situation? Something low-key and offering a better opportunity for one on one engagement. Small bar rather than large conference hall.

It’s not for the beer – I’m not a drinker – but I prefer to engage on a personal 1:1 level than sway an entire room at once.

What will you do when you retire? Travel extensively, and photograph it. Preferably on the back of a motorbike.

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