Ships to Computers

In 1991, when the first DOS-based PCs started to become available, I graduated from the University of Malta after having read for a degree in Electrical Engineering. The Internet and mobile telephones still had not appeared.

There were no ICT courses at the UoM. Engineering courses were the closest I could come to entering this field. Teaching of computer science was therefore obviously limited, but at least we recieved a fair amount of computer architecture and networking theory. We also built our first processor boards, and wrote our first code in assembly language. The Dean was not thrilled when I approached him to announce that I wanted a ‘software only’ thesis, a first. But I got away with it, and built a software driver for a LAN card, a networking card, using a programming language called Modula 2.

When I graduated my computing future did not look bright. I was tied by a two-year contract with Malta Shipbuilding, to whom I was assigned during the student worker scheme. I had spent three summers working there managing a team of electrical technicians, which toughened me. After this experience, managing teams should have been relatively easy.

During my last months at University I decided that I wanted to enter the IT world. I started shopping around for a job while doing some teaching at a private school. I landed a job at the software company Megabyte as a systems engineer and decided to end my contract at Shipbuilding paying the required financial penalties. Financially not the best decision but best for my career.

After seven years at Megabyte , I moved on to become the CEO of the Internet company Maltanet. I spent 8 years running the company. In Malta, during this time the Internet market was growing exponentially. The pace of technology accelerated tremendously making it a very exciting time within a highly competitive environment. When GO was fully privatised we merged all the subsidiaries and I spent nearly 3 years as Chief Commercial Officer for the group. Managing the commercial portfolio of a quad play operator was an instructive and rewarding challenge.

Today I run my own firm called ICT solutions. In 2009 I set up a joint venture focused on two areas, ICT servicing and software development. It employs a team of over 20 people, mostly UoM graduates. They provide solutions to cater for the ever growing ICT requirements of the corporate world.

So what lessons have I learnt? Firstly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and everyone needs to build on their strengths. Secondly, you need to put in long hours. If you do not work harder than your normal 9 to 5 employee, then you will remain a normal 9 to 5 employee. Thirdly, you need to keep abreast and understand technology cycles and where the market is going.
Be technically competent but appreciate business logic. Fourthly, and most importantly, relate to people and build relationships with your team and clients.