By his own admission, when he began studying for an information science degree at the University of Newcastle, Greg Boorer had never used a computer.
Now Greg is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar technology company that he co-founded, Canberra Data Centres. The company underpins so much of what we take for granted in Australia in terms of safety, security and economic well-being.
Prior to going to university, though, Greg’s ambition was to be a pro-cyclist. As with so many sportspeople, his ambition was nurtured by his parents. Dad David was a bank manager and mum Kerry managed the family as well as working as a night filler at Woolworths and Big W. Their work ethic rubbed off on Greg.
By 16, he was riding at the National Championships.
“I really wanted to be a bike rider. I had raced in Europe and I was planning to head back there, but I was run over by a garbage truck and spent plenty of time in hospital,” recalls Greg.
“My friends were going to university and one of my mates said there were plenty of opportunities in computing. I had never, ever turned on a computer at that stage, but I was prepared to give it a go.”
At 23, Greg began his tertiary studies as a ‘mature-age’ student.
The determination demonstrated through his cycling was transferred to his studies and Greg graduated with high distinctions.
Through university, his passion for cycling remained and he worked as a mechanic in a Newcastle bike shop. During this time he met his wife to be, Margaret Hemsley, a Canberra-born and bred champion cyclist.
Greg fondly remembers their first meeting.
“She came into the bike shop and I soon began coaching her in cycling. Eventually, we were married at Canberra’s St Christopher’s Church. She was a pro-cyclist for seven years and made the Australian Commonwealth Games team.”
The couple moved to Europe in 2001. Greg worked as a programmer in Germany and Margaret was a pro-cyclist in Holland.
From 2000 to 2009, Greg was the Australian team mechanic for the world road cycling titles and the Australian team manager from 2010 to 2015. He was also the team mechanic for two Commonwealth and three Olympic Games.
He was also the Australian team mechanic when Margaret crashed while leading the women’s road race at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. She was just 14 km from the finish when it happened but she still managed to finish 12th – a remarkable achievement considering she had a broken collarbone and a badly cut left elbow.
Two years later, Margaret stopped racing.
Meanwhile, Greg was making a number of career-defining movements of his own.
“I worked out that I wasn’t a good programmer,” he said. “So I worked in sales with a banking software company.”
In 2006 they returned to Australia. Greg worked selling IT services to government while continuing his involvement with the Australian cycling team.
Within seven months, he could see a gap in the Australian technology industry.
“There was a lack of purpose-built data centres to underpin digital services to government,” he said.
In response, he started Canberra Data Centres in 2007 in Hume. He ‘crowdfunded’ from friends and concedes it wasn’t easy in the early days.
“We had our houses on the line. It was a tough time before we looked at private equity and we sold 50 per cent to a private equity firm in 2014.”
This move effectively secured the future of the company. It’s been strength-to-strength ever since.
From humble origins in Canberra, Canberra Data Centres is a multi-billion dollar company and Greg is now into his 14th year as CEO.
“We underpin so much of what happens around government services in Australia in terms of safety and security of its citizens, and the economic well-being and protection of the nation,” Greg said.
Today there are nine Canberra Data Centres with another two about to come online and another two under construction. By this time next year, there will be 13 in Canberra, Sydney and Auckland.
Family, though, is at the forefront for Greg and Margaret. The change in energy is evident when the subject moves to their four sons, all active participants in Canberra sport. Weekends are spent taking them from one sporting activity to another.
Business success has given Greg the ability to sponsor sport and charities including ACT Cricket’s pathway programs, Queanbeyan Tigers, Uni Norths Owls, the Hands Across Canberra Charity and many more.
Spend time with Greg and it’s quickly apparent that he and Margaret are intent on helping wherever they can.
And the link between all Greg’s endeavors is clear, whether it’s seeing the gap between racing bikes, the gap in a supply chain, or the gap in support for those in need. Greg’s response to all aspects of life has hard work, initiative and family as the cornerstone.