The technology industry has united in grief following the sudden passing of Roderick Lappin, with warm words of remembrance flooding in from across the world.
The charismatic leader, who was senior vice president and chief customer officer at Lenovo’s Data Center Group, passed away suddenly on Thursday.
Since the news, tributes have poured in from friends, colleagues and industry peers.
“For those who had the pleasure of knowing or working with Rod, you will already realise he was the embodiment of our best values, and represented what we aspire to with his passion and endless energy,” said Matt Codrington, managing director of Australia and New Zealand at Lenovo.
“To me, Rod was a great colleague, mentor, and a dear friend and his positive attitude and engagement was contagious.
“His contribution not only to our global business but also to so many of us personally has left a significant legacy and a life long impact. He will be missed, a huge loss for us all.”
Lappin was a 47-year-old Australian who worked extensively across the world and lived - and raised a family - in Japan, Singapore and South Korea on multiple stints.
“Rod was a one of a kind world-class leader,” said Karl Sice, head of commercial and Federal Government at ASI Solutions. “There wasn’t a mountain he wouldn’t climb, there wasn’t a person he wouldn’t help and there wasn’t a professional success he couldn’t conquer.
“I got to know Rod in our earlier days at Dell in 1999 at a time when growth and privileged entrepreneurism were at their peak. Rod was a genuinely approachable, hugely collaborative and extremely capable leader of leaders.
“I was to hear and learn from his wisdom first hand and I enjoyed keeping in touch with him and his amazing journey throughout Singapore, Japan and of course the United States.
“Best of all Rod is an amazing human being with a touch like few others, he loved his family, he always stayed loyal to his roots and he made this world a much much better place. We will all be poorer for his tragic loss.”
According to Duncan Hewett - senior vice president of Asia Pacific and Japan at VMware - Lappin will be remembered for his “passion and energy”, as the industry mourns “such a sad loss”.
“As a manager and leader you want your team to respect, like and follow you,” added Rob Makin, executive director and general manager of worldwide advanced services at Lenovo. “Some can manage this with their direct team but Rod Lappin did that across a global organisation.
“I feel very privileged to have worked for him across two organisations. A great leader and friend.”
For Richard Harri - general manager of volume at Dicker Data New Zealand - Lappin was an “inspiration” for Harri both as a customer and as an employee.
“In New Zealand we say ‘Kia Kaha’ which translates from Maori to ‘Stay Strong’,” Harri said. “Rod you will be dearly missed but never forgotten.”
As managing director of Linktech Australia, Ahmed Latif labelled Lappin as “one of the true leaders and gentlemen of the industry”.
Echoing Latif, Jamie Humphrey - managing director of Nutanix A/NZ - said that “Rod was more than just a colleague he was a true gentleman and friend”.
“Definitely the most inspirational, energetic, fair and thoughtful leader I have ever encountered,” added Katherine Binks, channel manager of APAC at Google Chrome. “What an incredible loss to the industry, and all my thoughts and prayers to his girls.”
According to Neil James - account director at NetApp - “Rod had a genuine interest in people and It showed.”
“Able to motivate and lead through sheer personality, he was a rare talent,” James said. “What a legacy he has left in the careers of everyone inspired and energised by him.”
“Words may not suffice to express the heartfelt sorrow that I feel for his passing,” added Bert Noah, national sales manager at Fujitsu Australia. “A very kind and gentle heart stopped beating.
“He never said no to people, let alone to his friends and colleagues. A huge loss to all.”
As founder of X Consulting, Marcia Kensell-Tyman acknowledged that words cannot take away the “immense grief and sadness felt by those who knew Rod, and to the loving family left behind”.
“I would think that we could all extend our arms around the world in love and comfort, and to remember the great contributions he made to all our lives,” she added. “So let's stop what we are doing and light a candle for him and for hope for his family.”
With a wealth of senior management experience spanning more than two decades, Lappin spent over five years at Dell during the early 2000s, starting out running global accounts across Asia Pacific and Japan.
Lappin then assumed an executive director position within the Australia and New Zealand team, with a responsibility for sales across a billion-dollar local business.
Lappin joined Lenovo Singapore in February 2007 as vice president of Relationship Business for the Asia Pacific Region that included Japan.
Since his appointment as president of Lenovo Japan in October 2008, Lappin successfully led the Japan business to continuously outperform the market while cultivating a great company culture.
Furthermore, Lappin also assumed the role of president of NEC Lenovo Japan Group, a highly successful joint venture with NEC, where its market share climbed to a record high of 29.1 per cent, solidifying the company's leading position in the Japan market.
With its record-breaking profit contribution, Japan remained a significant profit engine for Lenovo throughout his tenure.
Lappin's role expanded to include A/NZ when the tech giant divided the Asia Pacific region into emerging and mature markets in April 2014.
In A/NZ, Lappin oversaw the successful launch of the region's consumer retail business, achieving a consumer notebook PC market share from zero per cent to 8.9 per cent in just three months.
Effective April 2015, Lappin was appointed as president of Lenovo's Asia Pacific region, reuniting its Asia Pacific Emerging Markets (APEM) and Asia Pacific Mature Markets (APMM) businesses into a single unit.
Most recently, Lappin was responsible for leading sales and marketing in Lenovo's fast-expanding Data Center Group across the world, with the goal of achieving double-digit growth and industry leadership.
Alongside deep business acumen and strategic vision, Lappin was also a mentor, passing on advice and guidance to help industry colleagues excel.
“I love mentoring people,” he wrote, during a LinkedIn post in November 2018. “When I can help good people get the most out of themselves, the feeling is incomparable.
“One way I like to mentor is through sharing career advice. My experience to date has given me a clear picture of the attitude you need to build a successful career path for yourself.”
For Lappin, calculated risks brought accelerated outcomes.
“When I look at my work history, it’s clear that I’ve taken several calculated risks to give my career a ‘bump’,” he wrote. “You can apply this strategy to your own career too.
“A calculated risk is not reckless behaviour, rather it is you backing yourself to go outside your comfort zone for an accelerated outcome.”
Lappin - who studied at Macquarie University - advised mentees to think of their career as an upward graph, “from bottom left where you begin, to top right, where you’ll end up”.
“What calculated risks can you take to disrupt the graph and give yourself a ‘+1’ boost?” he asked. “When a risk pays off, it will give you the confidence to continue to stretch yourself.
“In my first year with Dell, I was their top field sales rep from an attainment perspective. They offered me a new job, based in South Korea. I took the risk and moved there.
“Did that pay off? Well, a month-and-a-half after I arrived, the Asian financial crisis hit! Difficult to make sales under those conditions.”
But for Lappin, the risk did pay off.
“I was able to sell computers to the U.S. Military based in South Korea,” he wrote. “The important factor here was the decision to back myself. I’m going to move to Korea, I’ve never been there before, but I’m going to work out how to be successful there.
“From there, I returned to Australia and ran the online business for Dell Asia Pacific. This opened the door to a new e-commerce opportunity in Japan.
“Another calculated risk – disrupt my life and move back to Japan. It worked out though, I made the best of that role and was promoted to run the global side of things in Singapore.
“You could say I used each calculated risk as a step upwards towards the next part of my career. Looking back, from my global Lenovo role, I can clearly see the steps I took from deciding to learn Japanese to where I am now.”