We spoke with Nick Lazaridis, president of HP Inc’s business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa about succeeding in a global career, exciting tech developments and what inspires him.
When you graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1992, where did you see your career heading?
When I graduated in 1992, the unemployment rate in Australia was above 11 per cent compared to today’s 6 per cent. This means that as my cohort exited university, there was a stark reality many of us faced that it would be challenging to move into the next phases of our lives – full-time employment in fields relevant to what we had studied.
At that time, we were happy to take any opportunity that came our way. I knew I wanted to work in a field where I could satisfy two key criteria: one being leveraging the education I had acquired during my degree and the other being to do that in a field that I found interesting, which was IT. Someone had shared the idiom “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, and looking back over the last 25 years, I find this to be one of the most pertinent pieces of career advice I have ever been given.
What drew you to apply your business skills to the tech industry?
I had been exposed to technology in my pre-teen years, and I was hooked. I absolutely loved it! I knew I wanted to work in that fast moving, emerging, and exciting industry and started to think about how I could add value to organisations in that industry. The reality is that when you complete your degree right after high school with limited (or zero) industry work experience, there is a disconnect between your view of how you can add value and where you should start your career to how a potential employer may see you. My advice here is to find the industry you are passionate about, look for an opening, and get in at whatever level you can. You will probably not get the job level, position, or remuneration you believe you deserve after your years of applying yourself to your studies, but it will get you “off the blocks” and you can only ever win the race you actually start. Getting your foot in the door is the most important step and everything really starts from there.
What are the interesting projects coming up at HP Inc?
While we continue to focus on our core business of personal computing devices and printers, we are also staying true to our company’s DNA of innovation. Our most interesting near-term opportunity is in 3D printing. We are already shipping 3D printers to large corporations around the world including Nike, BMW, and Jabil to name just a few.
You have said in the past that HP Inc is moving towards 3D printing and blended reality. Can you explain what blended reality is and what impact the two innovations will have?
“Blended reality” is simply the reality of how our physical and digital worlds are coming together and enabling us to do things that we could only dream of in the past. It is about being able to take real-world 3D objects, transfer them to a 2D world, customize them, and then reproduce them back into the real world. A simple example would be the ability to scan a pair of glasses into a graphic design program, make modifications to shape, colour, etc and then print that design out in 3D. You now have a unique pair of glasses. The impact this will have to our lives is effectively the democratization of design and manufacturing. The enabling technologies here are the computing device with 3D scanning capabilities along with a 3D printer.
When you started at HP, it underwent a major transformation. What advice do you have for others working in industries or businesses that are undergoing major change?
First of all you must absolutely believe in the cause. You will not be able to transform as fast as needed unless you and your colleagues have total conviction that what you are doing is the right thing for your customers and your business. Secondly, I would say you need to have open lines of communication since in times of business transformation it is much easier to face misunderstandings, and finally none of it is possible unless you and your colleagues have absolute trust in each other.
You can only ever win the race you actually start.
What do you think is the key to your success working in global organisations?
Trust is the single most important value you will need to learn and exhibit in your career. You have probably already worked out that trust is critical in your personal life and is the basis of your personal relationships; the same is true for your professional life. Trust encompasses a lot of other traits, and I highly recommend reading Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, which talks about both relationship trust and stakeholder trust and outlines 13 key behaviours that help to build and keep trust.
You have worked all over the world, in a range of different cultural settings. What did you learn about working within unfamiliar cultural environments?
You need to be extremely open-minded as well as having a hunger to never stop learning. Listen more than you talk, understand and accept other points of view. It may not be the most logical thing for you given your own upbringing and experience, but no country in the world does everything exactly the same, and the sooner you pick up the “norms” in every country, the faster you will be able to be more effective. Not only that, but you will also enrich your own life through a better understanding of your fellow humans.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the opportunities that we can afford others. At some point in your career, I hope you will be able to look at the benefits you can bring to other people’s lives and use that as your inspiration to keep succeeding. In my experience when you bring together the best and brightest, enriched by diverse backgrounds and perspectives, you have a winning formula. Being responsible for thousands of people’s careers and development, it is truly aspirational to see them do well, to see them progress and grow.
During your career you have worked with a range of visionary global leaders. From your experience what are the qualities of leadership required now and in the future?
Leadership is about being able to create and clearly articulate a vision that motivates and inspires people to engage and deliver on that vision. There are several I think are critical and they are, in no particular order: trust, integrity, confidence, effective communication, commitment, empathy, and inspiration.
Do you have any advice for students looking to forge an international career?
It comes down to your commitment and performance. Companies are always in need of talent in “hot spots” around the world in their businesses and most prefer to look internally for people with a proven track record of delivering on commitments and performing well, since they will already understand how the company works and how to get things done. The best way to position yourself for an international assignment is to be great at what you do, and to have some runs on the board (ie. a “track record” of success). You will find that once you have this in your favour, your reputation will rapidly spread and people will come looking for you. Focus your energy and time on executing to your goals and exceeding them and you will find this is the fastest path to success as you choose to define it. You should also be flexible on location since this will also earn you a good reputation. For example, you may want to live in Paris, but the most immediate opportunity may be Singapore. I would recommend you take the opportunity that is presented, as long as it makes sense for your career aspirations, since that also shows that you are prepared to make sacrifices for the company, and what you will then find is a higher level of reciprocity.
Bachelor of Commerce (Management & Legal Studies), 1992