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Blog > School Advancement Q&A > Q&A: Paul Harapin, President of Sydney High Old Boys Union

Q&A: Paul Harapin, President of Sydney High Old Boys Union

Paul Harapin, a leader in the Digital Transformation sector, talks to us about connecting alumni through COVID-19, and how he's bringing a new digital era to his Old Boys network.

Paul Harapin, President of Sydney High School Old Boys Union and former Vice President & General Manager for Asia Pacific & Japan of Domo, talks to us about how he’s been applying his 20 years of experience in digital transformation to engage the Old Boys network in a new online community.

You've been a leading figure in Australia's Digital Transformation industry - tell us what you love most about this sector.

The technology sector as a whole is always changing, always innovating and never boring. I work with multiple countries across the Asia-Pacific region, from Australia to South East Asia, Japan and more, so I see different maturity and adoption curves. I am always learning and feel as excited now as when I started in the industry 30 years ago.

How has Business Intelligence (BI) changed over the last 20 years whilst you've been in this industry?

BI is changing rapidly but has only started to advance significantly more recently. Most organisations will rely on very delayed, expensive “reports” built with legacy tools and many people. With the new world, there are huge amounts of data coming at executives faster than ever before, and decisions need to be made in realtime. Companies such as Domo, which I set up 6 years ago in Asia, provide mobile and alert based management of your data in realtime, so that you’ll be alerted when a threshold is exceeded. The uncertainties and tough decisions that the pandemic has brought means that this level of data management has become increasingly critical, and as the platform is cloud-based it can be accessed anywhere.

You're also the President of Sydney High School Old Boys (SHSOB) - what do you hope to achieve for this alumni association?

I have been focusing on growing engagement since becoming president, which I feel is the most important thing for our Old Boys. Connecting former students with each other, and connecting with current students for mentoring is a really important way for us to build a supportive community, and this is why I am so excited by the modernisation I am putting in place with the ToucanTech online platform, which will help us accelerate these programmes further and faster over the manual, reactive systems we previously had.

Can you share examples of how your old school network has supported you - professionally or socially?

The COVID-19 lockdown presented a wonderful scenario to reconnect with a group of my friends from school, who are all busy executives, but we’ve managed to find time each week to grab a coffee and a walk in Centennial Park. It started off with myself and one other, now it is up to 9, all physically distanced, yet socially connected. On a professional front, we have helped Old Boys with interview practices and getting work, getting funding for start up investments, and I recently connected some old boys from the Class of 1945 earlier this year.

You went to the University of Sydney, before becoming a systems engineer at IBM - would you choose this path if leaving school now?

I would choose a different course to study, however I wouldn’t change the path I took. IBM provided a wonderful learning environment at the time, and when I stumbled into startups with Tivoli back in 1996, this journey has provided me with an amazingly diverse career. I have enjoyed living in different countries including in the USA and Asia, and meeting amazingly innovative leaders including Diane Green (VMware founder and now on the Google Board) and Paul Maritz, ex Microsoft and VMware.

What advice do you have for younger SHS alumni who are starting out in their careers?

Don’t have set expectations, as all career paths will shift and change, and will throw forward opportunities and roles you never knew existed! Instead, while you are young, just try things you are passionate about and let fate and your interests take care of the rest.

And for any entrepreneurs building up their business, any top tips from your experience of selling (and acquiring) several tech companies?

Most entrepreneurs have a vision, so take advice, understand customer needs, but don’t be moved off your path and focus, as many may try to influence you to do so. Stay focused and understand your numbers, as at the end of the day, you can’t execute the vision if you don’t manage the business and customer outcomes well.

And finally, tell us what you like doing for fun!  

I have four kids so I love watching and coaching them in Australian football, basketball and rugby. I also play a little guitar and listen to a lot of podcasts of different topics to keep broadening my education, mostly in the car or when walking. 

The Sydney High School Old Boys Union new online community will launch on a ToucanTech platform soon - keep a look out!  Check out other alumni communities powered by ToucanTech, such as Hutchins School in Tasmania and Bishops College in Cape Town - if you'd like to create a similar website, book a call with one of our product specialists here.

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