profile Choosing between becoming an astronomer or becoming an information technology graduate was difficult for Alcatel-Lucent Australia managing director Andrew Butterworth, but he still looks to the stars today.
"I agonised at the end of year two whether I would major in astronomy or move into computer science. At the end of the day, whilst I had a strong interest in astronomy, it was difficult for me to see myself marking a lifetime career out of that path," he told ZDNet Australia. "Whereas when I looked at the IT stuff ... I could see being a stronger enabler for what was going to be happening around the general day thing. That to me became a bit more exciting than a pure career in astronomy."
Butterworth graduated with a Bachelor in Science majoring in computer science in 1993 and took on a role with consulting company Accenture. In his 12 years with the company to 2005, Butterworth had 17 different roles, but his primary focus was on the operational system support, business system support (OSS/BSS) side of the company.
In 2005, Butterworth found himself in a new role entirely, shifting to the telecommunications industry and landing a job as the general manager for Telstra sales at the company then known as Alcatel.
"It's an interesting transition, [it] probably it took me six months to really slip into the new role and get absolutely fired up about what needed to be done. Both companies have massively different cultures. Coming from a consultancy company to a vendor providing telecommunications solutions. Very different cultures, very different approaches to ways of doing things."
Butterworth said that his main focus, when he started at Alcatel, was to shift the company from a "box-dropping mode" to a "customer solution-centric mode".
"So; more of a consultative selling approach, systems integration, network integration type of work. And that was my bread and butter at Accenture," he said, adding that he had focused on complex programs management, system integration and network integration.
He said that once he had realised that many of the skills he had picked up at Accenture could be transferred, his anxiety about his new role went away.
"Once you understood that, that daunting side went away and you got focused on the excitement of learning a new domain, understanding networking technologies a lot better."
As the GM of Telstra sales, Butterworth played a critical role in securing the deal with Telstra to transform the company's legacy network systems to a new IP network. Alcatel-Lucent was charged with the job of deploying new IP-based network infrastructure, including over 900,000 Intelligent Service Access Multiplexers (ISAMs) for Telstra in 2006, which would add IP services to the existing voice services on the Telstra network.
"To seize that opportunity with both hands was fantastic," Butterworth said.
After this big win for the company, Butterworth was promoted to the job of running the services team across Australia and New Zealand before being promoted to the role of managing director for Australia and New Zealand in December 2008.
In addition to the company's relationship with Telstra, Butterworth said that he is most proud of the company's shift from solely working with telecommunications providers to more diverse industries, such as government, utilities and defence and, of course, the company's contract wins with the National Broadband Network (NBN).
"We've made what I think has been a very strong brand position in the market place and I think people know who Alcatel-Lucent is," he said. "We're not only recognised for technology leadership and being able to provide people with a view on technology but I think we're really taking a big step forward in trying to promote and drive the acceleration of the digital economy."
According to Butterworth, every day in the telecommunications industry is different, and while he said it was unlikely that there would be any new players in the retail service providers (RSPs) industry over the next year, the NBN means that companies like Alcatel-Lucent will end up serving customers you wouldn't traditionally associate with the field.
"Whether they be wholesale service providers or retail service providers, either way, to me that increases the size of our industry and the pie we all compete for and that's a good thing for the industry."
Butterworth said that the next 12 months in the industry will be dominated by talk of how we utilise high-speed broadband, whether that be pushed by the NBN or by other technologies such as 4G or Long Term Evolution wireless broadband.
"I think we'll start to see the debate start to shift more to how to we leverage that. Devices, devices everywhere, that's going to continue. Smart TVs coming out ... it's not just handheld devices anymore, it's devices everything with intelligence built into it."
The discussion of cloud computing will also shift to discussion about network-centric clouds, Butterworth said.
"The ... discussion we're having today is going to start to shift to about how you bring the best of your network capabilities and your central datacentre capabilities to get what we call a network-centric cloud. Which, to me, starts to give a far more controlled ability to start focusing on things like service level agreements, and that, to me, starts to help us to work better when you start thinking about data applications and video, and you start bringing all those things together into a very complex environment," he said.
Given everything he's done in the industry, Butterworth doesn't regret his career decision.
"I still have a strong interest in astronomy, I get the kids out there and we look at the stars and all that sort of fun," he said. "But I made the right choice in the end."
The work-life balance
As the MD of Alcatel-Lucent, Butterworth admits that he travels most weeks out of the year, with only two weeks this year so far that he hasn't left his Melbourne home for at least one day. Managing the workload and his home life with his wife and kids is always tough, but Butterworth says that the iPad changed it all.
"It was only by accident, but it's turned out to be a real enabler for me to achieve a lot of things on that front. When I first bought my iPad, it was really about taking the pen out of the way I did business. I took it to meetings, did all my meeting notes with it," he said. "That did two things; one, it gave me more time. Instead of spending half an hour at the end of the day going through my written notes, it gave me more time at home."
The other major benefit that the iPad gave him was for his health, Butterworth said.
"When you're on the wrong side of 40, it is important to keep focusing on the health. For me to find one to two hours a day to exercise is really tough to do but what I found was by using my iPad when I was doing exercise on the treadmill, I was just reading books but then I started reading email and writing email," he said.
"As far as the kids are concerned, dad is off doing his exercise, and that's a good thing, but by the time I've finished my exercise I'm on top of my workload so the rest of the weekend becomes time when we can go off and do things."
Since taking up the regime, Butterworth said that he had lost 17 kilos and was feeling healthier than he was at 20 years old.
"There's no doubt at the moment, as I say to my family, the iPad has changed my life. I say it a bit tongue in cheek [but] at the moment I'm the healthiest I've been. When you feel healthy and great about your job, generally the whole demeanour. It all adds up."