"My first job was in the computer department of what we would call a TAFE today - one of the interesting twists in coming to this job is that I started in higher education and I've turned up here again."
After sabbaticals interspersed with IT roles, which saw Holling tramp the south island of New Zealand for six months and then travel across Europe he returned to Australia to start to build a proper career. Although at the time he wouldn't have described it as such.
"I still didn't really have the idea of a career - I'd have been happy to switch companies and jobs if I got a better offer, but I kept getting promoted every couple of years so it felt like a new job, but it also had some of the comforts of the familiarity with the company."
The company he first joined was Digital Equipment - once a giant of the minicomputer market, although by the late 1990s the sheen was coming off the company and it was in play as a takeover target. But in 1996 Holling was ready to step up to the chief information officer role. "It was a bit of a surprise - there was another person who was seen as the probably primary contender - I but brought different capabilities - technically he was much better than I - but I had better people skills, and on reflection that's what swung it for me."
And those soft skills remain critically important to a CIO according to Holling.
"I know enough about the hard-core science of computing to know what questions to ask - but it's all about managing relationships and that's both upward in the organisation and managing the team and externally vendors and other partners. It becomes about relationship management, I didn't recognise that at the time. "
When PC maker Compaq took Digital Equipment over Holling scored the role as CIO. It was his second time running a technology company's IT operations.