From soup kitchens and ‘soulful glows’ to jujitsu and cold brews, how Anthony Koochew keeps culture front and centre at Azured

As the driving force behind Azured, CEO Anthony Koochew has spent his professional life upskilling and staying at the forefront of technology. But Anthony has many loves beyond the obvious IT, many of which have helped to shape and influence Azured.

On paper, Anthony Koochew looks a lot like many career IT professionals. But looks can be deceiving, and if you have ever asked Anthony about Azured’s raison d’etre, you would probably agree.

“I knew I was destined for an IT career from my school days. I studied it at Uni before going straight into a full-time role deep in Melbourne’s western suburbs. I worked hard, in fact, perhaps too hard and after a while I needed a change and chance to recharge,” explains Anthony.

Looking at his options, which included a role with a start-up and exploring new business ideas in New York, Anthony opted for a less logical, but hugely admirable choice of working at a soup kitchen.

“I had volunteered at the kitchen in the past. It was run by a group of people who were committing funds to build a social enterprise café and they needed someone to run the project. It promised to be a total change from my current job where I had been offered further opportunities but wanted to explore building my own business. Instead, it was all heart and no brains,” reminisces Anthony.

Passion, purpose and a business built on friendship

The social enterprise café provided Anthony with a love of cold brew coffee. It also gave him the experience of working for passion and purpose, instead of just a way to make money. Anthony went all-in, selling his belongings and whittling away any funds he had left.

“I really didn’t care about the financial side of things, I felt like I was doing something valuable, something that really mattered. That kind of work gives you and those around you a soulful glow that is addictive in many ways,” notes Anthony.

Eventually, the project was side-lined by the CEO. Anthony and his glow had to find their next calling. It was during this time, that Anthony had a well-timed meeting with his mentor, Martin Ferguson in the heart of London.

“When I caught up with Martin I had nothing else planned and so when he suggested we set up an Azure-based consultancy, it sounded like fun. Although our values have evolved along the way, as have our offerings, I worked out early in my career that being a generalist is ok, but being a specialist would enable me to go deep in a single area, something I had looked at wistfully whilst moving from project to project. I wanted to be a specialist,” says Anthony.

Finding a focus: Working with cool tech and cool people

Keen to maintain the feeling he had working for a not-for-profit, Anthony, together with Martin, set about defining what Azured looked like and what set it apart from other Azure specialists.

“I think our first tag line was something like ‘cool tech and cool people’. Martin and I are both technical people, loving technology – a good thing given our industry. But people were paramount to our vision. Smart people in IT are a dime a dozen, but finding people with values and cultural fit are harder to find,” says Anthony.

Whilst the tagline has evolved, the core ethos of Azured remains unchanged. Anthony and the Azured team hire on attitude, looking for people who are humble and happy to be there.

Instead of interacting with staff in a way because that is what is expected of them, the Azured leadership seek out human moments with the team. Whether that means inviting staff to join in the next Brazilian jiu-jitsu class or giving them the space they need to challenge themselves and grow, Azured has a strong and positive strong focus on their people.

“There’s this assumption that CEOs need to be infallible and never show a crack. But that’s exhausting and not realistic. Colleagues and customers want real people. People who know there’s a time to admit faults or failings and use those experiences to grow. At Azured, we have fostered this hands-on approach. I would never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do,” says Anthony.

Organisations often claim that they prioritise culture and finding ‘the right fit’. At Azured, this claim is backed by volumes of evidence. More than fifty per cent of the staff do Brazilian jiu-jitsu together, a practice Anthony jokes reveals how his staff react under pressure.

“Ultimately, we are a group of people that get on well and have come together thanks to a love of technology and a need to fix or solve problems. It’s this passion that unites us, but it’s our approach and attitude that keeps us together,” concludes Anthony.

To learn more about what makes Anthony tick, or to speak with one of the Azured team, contact us today.

Click here to learn more about the team behind Azured.

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