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Time out with The MathWorks

Presenting the rest of our conversation with Andrew Clay, managing director of The MathWorks Australia. The interview was originally published in the September 2007 issue of PACE.

How big is your Australian operation?

We have around 20 people working in the Australian office at the moment, a number which increases from time to time, with input from our other offices around the region. We continuously have engineers from the USA and Europe, helping us with customers or doing seminars.

How do you keep your training and technical support staff up to date?

All of our engineers (more than a third of our staff) spend a significant part of their time learning either here or at our head office in Massachusetts, or in Europe, working on new technologies with other parts of the world. One of our engineers here is globally recognised as an expert in Model-Based Design, our Real Time Workshop software, and embedded code generation. There’s a lot of knowledge sharing within the company. We’re keeping Qantas happy, but it’s essential to do that, otherwise you fall behind.

What are your major challenges?

We don’t have to face the challenge of differentiation in a crowded marketplace. The MathWorks is very differentiated and unique in terms of the solutions we’re offering. I can compare it with my experiences with other large software companies that I’ve worked for. Before I was facing an educated market with a product that was to some extent commoditised, and what I face here is a market that requires some education, but I have a very differentiated product.

Once the message gets across, it’s very easy to position with our customers, because they immediately see the value. So the challenge that we face is one of education, on the kinds of value that they can get from the most sophisticated uses of our technology.

What has the company learned from previous incursions into local markets?

What we found is that we can take a global message and position it in countries as diverse as China, Korea or Australia. The basic message tends to shine through, and our customers continue to do business with us. The MathWorks has very firm ideas about doing business the right way, doing the right thing. We have a well defined model for coming into a country now, having done it on a number of occasions.

More than anything else, if you come to a MathWorks office in Australia, Korea, China or any of the European offices, you’ll find that our business practices are the same; our pricing models are very consistent from country to country, location to location, the way that we do business is very consistent. If there is anything that summarizes it all, is that we’re consistent, and that’s important to us because many of our customers are global and they talk to each other.

What attracted you to The MathWorks?

When I was approached by the company, I realised that there was a significant opportunity for their technology in the marketplace, and establishing a direct presence represented a good moment to launch that technology and connect with customers. It was also an opportunity for me to be part of The MathWorks’ global growth. In Asia Pacific in particular, we’re at the start of that growth, with a direct presence in Korea, Australia and now China.

What is your typical day at work like?

A regular day for me is quite varied because there are many different parts to this business, so a good day is one in which I get to work with all those parts. A typical day starts with a 7 AM call with somebody in Boston; it’s a very early start because of the time difference. In the morning I’d have a conversation with my technical support people to understand what’s happened during the week, and look at the core queues to ensure that we don’t have anything amiss and see if there are any escalations that need to be managed.

If there is a training course under way, I might join in at the beginning and introduce the company and meet and greet some of the customers. I might also accompany one of our sales and technical engineers on a sales call; which might be to an existing or prospective customer. We’ll go out there and have a conversation with them, to understand their requirements and figure out ways in which we can work with them.

To finish the day, I may have a conversation with some of my colleagues in Europe, about cross-customer issues; European clients that we’re also working with down here.

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