Five years ago, when Michael Robinson talked to friends and acquaintances about his work with cloud solutions, he was mostly met with blank stares.

Now the general manager of Datacom’s cloud platform services, Michael says in the short space of time since then, people have come to understand so much more about the role of the cloud in enabling digital transformation and allowing businesses to rapidly scale.

The pace at which new technologies are adopted and integrated into our businesses and our lives is one of the reasons Michael is committed to being a lifelong learner.

And it’s an approach that has served him well.

Self-directed learning

Growing up, he worked with his father as an electrician during school holidays. Going into the trade seemed the likely path, but taking a role at Dick Smith sparked a passion for IT.  

Michael worked his way up through multiple technical support roles (including roles with Vodafone, HP Inc., and Pacific Magazines) and his progress was propelled by a lot of self-driven learning — some through his employers but a lot in his own time.

“The diversity of these roles meant there was a lot of on-the-job learning and it was at Pacific Magazines, where I was the sole systems engineer, that I got my first experience of virtualisation and cloud.”

A learning path that began with Microsoft vendor certification kept growing with HP Inc. server solutions, Cisco networking, and Microsoft and Citrix architectures. Then a role with Optus cemented the shift of focus toward cloud computing and VMware.

More recently, while working at Datacom, Michael has earned certification in agile practices of scrum and scaled agile, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

What started as a three-month Windows engineer contract with Datacom has turned into a nine-year journey to date, and Michael says it is because he immediately connected with the company’s culture.

“As soon as I got here, I liked the culture and connected easily with the people I met. I also realised I probably wasn’t going to be recognised just for technical ability, and I made the decision to focus on broadening my skills.”

Not naturally an extrovert, Michael went out of his way to get to know people in different teams and to look for opportunities to learn from more senior people in the organisation. 

It paid off, with a general manager recognising Michael’s potential and mentoring him through a series of roles, including team lead, account manager, and operations manager, before he took on the general manager role for cloud services.

Learning to lead

Even though he is now in a leadership role, Michael says he is still very much in learning mode.

“You can never learn enough about yourself. I still do a lot of learning around leadership, emotional intelligence, and how behaviours work — whether it is learning from people around me, various online channels, or doing a course, I always take the opportunity to do it.

“My own leadership style is focused on coaching and enabling my team, rather than managing them.”

It’s a leadership style that appears to be yielding strong results.

Before taking on the role, Michael built and led a new team, which is now operating as a high-performing DevOps team that's helped change the way Datacom delivers agile services for its customers.

Michael says creating a culture where continuous learning was the norm, as well as taking the time to find the right people and to build mutual trust across the team, was key to increasing employee engagement and enabling his teams to feel a sense of challenge and empowerment.

Last month, Michael had another reason to feel proud of his people with Datacom’s cloud team winning a global AWS award for its work with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

By helping DELWP migrate across to the AWS secure cloud services platform, the Datacom team enabled the public sector organisation to achieve a 60 per cent reduction in its cost to operate services and a more resilient infrastructure.

He is quick to deflect any of the credit. “A leader is only ever as good as the people they have working on their team.”

With such a lengthy career at Datacom, it could be hard for Michael to pick a highlight — but it’s not.

“I met my wife, Ana, at Datacom and it was love at first sight. There are lots of reasons I enjoy working here but I will always be extremely grateful that it brought us together.”

Michael and Ana have now been married for five years and have two children: Beau (4) and Mya (3). Ana’s learning journey is continuing, too, as she juggles being a busy mum with retraining as a nutritionist.

“We’re both pretty committed to health and fitness and with Ana’s nutrition knowledge, we’re realising just how much of a role our diet plays in keeping our mind sharp, which is a great foundation for learning.”

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