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Five Minute Interview: Mark Armstrong, Progress Software

Tell us what you do for a living.

I’m responsible for Progress field operations and management and execution of the company’s goals and key objectives within EMEA.

What gets you up in the morning?

The fact that I’ve usually got a plane to catch.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

There’s no way I would have achieved what I have without the support of my wife and children – I know that’s corny but its true nevertheless. The job can be demanding, requires a lot of travel and time away but my family still puts up with me.

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

Worst piece of advice was in 2000 – we were advised not to accept cash and shares for our company but wait for an IPO. Anyone who was around in 2000 can imagine what happened next.

The best advice is the simple and an oft-told mantra – follow your passion. I think every good boss I’ve had has told me that and I have been fortunate to have had some good bosses!

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

Be clear on the market and the go to market strategy. What are the opportunities and what are challenges? This is true of someone setting up in their own business or just starting out as an employee. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible regarding the market you’re getting into. Too many great ideas fail because the domain expertise isn’t there and there is no clear vision of what success looks like or how to get there.

What does the next five years hold for the channel?

There is a huge opportunity for the channel. Platform as a Service (Paas) is enabling the development of niche and bespoke applications for business specific operations. These apps will be developed in a range of locations – cloud, on-premise or hybrid and the deployment will need to be just as varied. Increasingly, consumers of applications are looking to app stores, SaaS vendors or for App Platforms to solve day to day business problems.  This increased requirement for flexibility will provide the channel with a sizeable revenue stream opportunity.

Tell us something most people do not know about you.

I am the chairman of Billingham Rugby Club – okay so those that do know me will know this – it’s all I talk about.

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

Apart from seeing my children achieve their goals, it would make me very happy to see a Billingham Rugby Club player in the England rugby team. We’re very close!

What temptation can you not resist?

To speak when there is silence.

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

My first car was an old van and today I drive a BMW. The van was good for carting around the rugby lads, but there’s really no comparison when it comes to comfort.

If you could take part in one event in the Olympics, which would you choose and why?

From 2016 at the Rio Olympics, rugby sevens will be an Olympic sport. To me rugby is the epitome of how a team should be, where working together is critical. There is nowhere to hide on a rugby field without getting found out (often in a painful manner) and business teams should be no different (without the getting hurt of course). I often make rugby metaphors when speaking about business and wouldn’t it be fantastic to play it at the Rio Olympics?


This was first published in February 2014

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