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Jim Stewart OBE

Jim Stewart OBE Chairman

Be Inspired Series

Brian Patterson

IT Company Director
Zenith

It was a love of music that first introduced Brian Patterson to a career in IT

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I began working for a software company in Kilroot in 1986. My role was to add music to computer games that were being produced at that time.

That business started to evolve — it was a significant time in the development of computers with people like Amstrad coming into the market. We moved out of the games industry and into the supplies industry, providing supplies for consumables and computers to schools and colleges throughout the UK. We identified that gap in the market and were one of the few companies in the UK supplying floppy discs to schools and colleges around this time. We evolved again and began to supply the actual hardware. Then in 1990 we moved to Belfast and became a high street retailer, setting up the shop unit, Computastore. That continued until 2004 when the business was sold and I started up a separate company called Lyle Distribution, mostly dealing in consumable items and IT consultancy. In February 2013 Zenith Networks acquired Lyle Distribution.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Throughout school, my favourite subject was music. I was always a keen pianist and developed a love for music. I then went on to study it for A Level.

Did you go onto further/higher education?

Yes. From 1981 to 1985 I studied music at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. I followed that up with a Post Graduate MSc in data processing, so the combination of IT and music really started about then. I suppose that’s how the relationship between music and the games industry started then.

How did you get into your area of work?

While I was still at university, I was producing music for computer games so that in turn led me to my first job, adding music to games. Everything else followed on from there.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

When I was at university, I always wanted to be a sound engineer. That’s what I was aiming for.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

As my career took off right at the start of this evolving market, there were no precedents for qualifications. Prior to this, there had been no home computers so naturally, there were no specific qualifications for this job. What I did need to have was a sound knowledge of the area and a great interest in gadgets, which I had.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

I would say the three main personal skills are the ability to organise, to come up with strategies and to negotiate.

What does a typical day entail?

To be honest, there is no typical day, but my duties at Zenith include sales consultancy, quoting, sales order processing, procuring and ultimately winning business for the company.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best part of the job undoubtedly is winning new business. The most challenging aspect is the fact that we are working in one of the fastest moving business environs, one that is constantly evolving and our clients rely on our product knowledge to keep them ahead of their competitors. As a result, we must always be one step ahead and that can be very challenging.

Why is what you do important?

At Zenith, we are very much a team and I am just one small part of that team. We all rely on each other’s input and when one link in the chain is missing, that becomes an issue. So my role is important in keeping that chain unbroken.

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in a similar career path?

It’s a very challenging and exciting area to work in and there are great benefits to be had so my advice to anyone looking to break into this business is to get your head down and work, stick with it and be prepared for some very hard work.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to do?

A product evaluation specialist for Aston Martin, so I could get to test drive the cars.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

The best piece of advice I would give to anyone is always strive to exceed the expectations of others.

Describe your ideal day off 

I would pack the family in the car and we’d head off on a road trip to Donegal. We have a holiday home in Portsalon and that’s where I like to head when I have some time off. It’s a beautiful part of the country and I can really unwind there.

Part of the Independent News and Media group