CenturyLink’s Ralph Varcoe tells TheStack about his IT Life
Tue 17 Nov 2015 | Ralph Varcoe
Tell us about your company:
CenturyLink is an $18bn global IT solutions provider, helping mid-sized and large enterprises, as well as many partners to achieve business agility, in a highly resilient and efficient manner. Our hybrid IT services include public and private cloud, bare metal, data centre colocation, managed hosting, and network services.
How long have you been in IT?
I’ve been in telecoms and IT since 1997. That’s 18 years, which seems to have gone in a flash. With the technology and service advances over the years, the industry is unrecognisable today compared to when I started. It’s certainly the case that in IT you never stand still.
What are your areas of expertise?
I’ve been fortunate in my career to lead a number of different functions, which has helped make me a well-rounded Sales Director. This is at the core of my expertise, with significant experience brought from managing a marketing function, developing business strategy, attracting, nurturing and growing alliances and indirect channels, and managing complex sales engagements. All of this has predominantly been in the IT and telecoms arena, though I did once also sell perfumes door-to-door!
What motivates you right now?
Growth. The growth of the channels I’m responsible for, the growth of my team as they develop their relationships and the business they’re generating, and the growth of our revenue as a result. I love working with my team, and it is them that I am motivated by every day. There’s so much potential for them, our partners and the industry overall, so it’s really not that hard to keep the motivation high.
What has been your favourite project so far?
My favourite projects are the ones that most delight our partners and customers, so I can’t give just one. They vary from projects that are about data centre consolidation to an all cloud platform, through to ones that enable our partners to provide great and innovative software on a robust hybrid IT platform. The common denominator for all of them is that the customer or partner is achieving their business goals with a smile on their face.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Nortel was still around then with their DMS switches and passports. Avaya was driving VoIP technology. RFID was making waves, and I was involved in projects with Cisco. And there was Windows 95! Everything back then just seems so ancient now. So last decade!
Who’s your tech hero?
Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It is he who enabled the world to become interconnected. It is he who “invented the internet”. That is a real world-changing contribution. While others in the tech industry have refined and improved the work of others, Sir Tim literally changed the world into a web. He and Spiderman have lots in common.
Who’s your tech villain?
This is a hard one to answer. There are actually quite a few. You can’t become as big and successful as some of the tech giants without being a villain as well as possibly being brilliant. I can’t stand arrogance, seeing people trampled upon, deals and acquisitions being done no matter what the (painful) consequences, and the public flaunting of wealth. You decide who might fit that profile.
What’s your favourite technology ever made?
The Internet. I know technically the internet isn’t a technology. It uses technology to distribute information, store it, and connect the world. It changed the world.
Which do you use most?
In terms of devices, I use my iPhone, Macbook Air and iMac the most. Talking, photos, music, TV, streaming, apps. (Oh and I use them for work, too).
What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
It’d be a fool who made that prediction, given how things have changed in the last 10 years. I expect I’ll be using some sorts of Apple devices to connect to everything. I’m hoping that it’ll be intelligent enough to do the bits of my job I don’t particularly enjoy for me so I can concentrate on spending more time with the team and customers and partners (and sailing).
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
There isn’t one greatest challenge. There are multiple challenges and pressures all exerting themselves at the same time. How can the IT department provide increased value and services with a static or shrinking budget? How can they control where data is kept? How can they stem the prevalent and insecure shadow IT tide, while providing the services that their end users want? How can they refresh their technology while keeping the lights on and within the constraints of budget? How can they best embrace this Cloud wave? All of these pressures are ones we at CenturyLink can help solve as customers and partners transform their businesses.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
It’s a cliché, but it has to be Apple. They were innovative. And for a while they lost their way. They invented new markets at just the right time. They understand quality, branding, loyalty. They make things that people queue up for days just to get the first ones. They give a great customer experience, from the design of their stores to the experience of unwrapping their devices from the packaging. And they make operating systems that work, instantly, easily, intuitively.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
Definitely to Cloud. The traditional hardware industry is in trouble. None of the vendors is doing particularly well. The ease of use, scalability, pay as you use, non-capex advantages of cloud mean that companies will no longer be buying vast arrays of compute and storage for their own teams to manage. Instead they will migrate to use other people’s infrastructure, somewhere out there on the internet. Cloud is an evolution of IT that is only going to accelerate at an even greater pace over the next decade.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
There are two things I wanted to be; the captain of a china clay ship and a yacht designer. I spent every holiday on the Fowey River in Cornwall watching ships coming in, loading and leaving again. I also used to idle away my time drawing yacht profiles and designing their interiors. Now I realise that being a ship’s captain would have bored me to tears, and that there aren’t many job prospects for a yacht designer.
Ralph Varcoe is regional sales director for channels and alliances at CenturyLink EMEA