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Five-minute interview: Rob Billington, Netwrix

Rob Billington, head of channel EMEA and APAC at Netwrix, shares with us his wanderlust, repeated brushes with death and a love of pudding

Morning, Rob, tell us what you do for a living.

I am head of channels EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] and APAC [Asia-Pacific] for Netwrix.

Why are you the right person for this job?

It definitely helps that I am very calm – if I’m honest, I think the channel makes you very resilient as a person. Plans are essential, but rarely make it through the day without either a major rewrite or a few little tweaks – therefore, being able to roll with constant changes is important. I’m going to say my ability to adapt and thrive.

What gets you up in the morning?

A 35kg labrador that wants to go for a walk, and doing a job that I really enjoy and believe in.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

I have been so lucky to have great mentors throughout my career. At the risk on embarrassing them, I will name check them. Firstly, Roger Butterworth at Clarity for teaching me how to sell IT solutions and build lasting business relationships. Secondly, Jim Tedesco at ScriptLogic for making me a better manager. And finally, Simon Pearce at Quest, and now at Netwrix, for teaching me the business side of the industry and how to apply that to my planning.

Rob Billington, Netwrix

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

Worst advice is “don’t do it”; best advice is “try it” and “always ask for help if you can’t figure it all out for yourself”.

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

Have an open mind and be alive to the opportunities. It’s a fantastic industry to be part of – you never know where it will take you next.

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning ‘digital transformation’?

Well, this is certainly always a challenge, but I think we have to try. I think it’s great how the terminology changes over time – when I started I don’t think I sat through a presentation that didn’t mention “complex, disparate, heterogeneous environments” so all in all I would say we are making progress. Cloud always sounds like a much calmer world.

What do the next five years hold for the channel?

I have long held a belief that we will move more and more to an MSP [managed service provider] environment, and that certainly seems to be shaping up.

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I have had my life saved by the fire brigade, mountain rescue, the ambulance service and a lifeboat, all in different incidents between the ages of five and 19. My mum still can’t believe I am alive – I’m sorry, mum, for all the grey hairs and sleepless nights.

Have you learnt anything new – guitar, painting, etc – during the pandemic?

I meant to, honestly I did. My biggest lockdown achievements were probably an astonishingly bushy beard, which I dyed (big mistake). Grey is definitely better than a very fake brown. But once I started working for Netwrix all my plans went out of the window, and I have been too busy.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

I would like to live abroad. I have travelled extensively, and been lucky to do so (about 70 countries at the last count), but I would like to settle down for at least a while and really immerse myself in a different culture.

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Pressure question. I know it should be something learned or inspiring, but I’m going with Richard Branson’s Losing my virginity. It was a wonderfully candid story of his life and achievements, the hard work and massive amounts of luck that he had. It also had the acknowledgement that he had the right people at the right time around him.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

The Matrix parts two and three – shocking films that were horrible.

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd; Fallen Leaves – Billy Talent; Master of Puppets – Metallica; Romeo & Juliet – Dire Straits; and Destination Zululand – King Kurt.

What temptation can you not resist?

Pudding. No matter how full I am, I have to see the pudding menu – then the rest is just an inevitability.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car was a Mondeo – these days I drive a Mercedes. Honestly, I will take anything as long as it has a big leather armchair and an automatic gear box – comfort over speed. How depressing. I must be getting old.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? Why, what did they do?

I don’t think I would want to be stuck in a lift, but if there were a special someone it would probably be Freddy Kruger. He haunted my teenage nightmares and even today I see a stripy jumper and it gives me the shivers.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

Easy – I would be an eagle. The idea of unassisted flying is just too great to want to be anything else. Unlike me, they are graceful so that would be a nice change as well.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

I’m thinking Mr Bean. His life always gets a bit crazy but seems to work itself out in the end.

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

Gosh, aggression versus power – hmmm. No idea. I think I’ll save my betting money for another event.


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