Jobs saviour nominated as IT superhero

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 12:18 01/12/2012

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Steve Knutson is "an IT superhero", not just for having Kryptonian blood running through his veins, but for saving many of his workmates from unemployment after the multimillion-dollar DataSouth fraud, his supporters say.

The Christchurch IT expert has made the final 10 of a nationwide hunt for an IT "Superman" set up by information communication technology firm Kordia.

Knutson used to be a senior manager for DataSouth Solutions, the company that collapsed suddenly in March 2011 with the revelations that director Gavin Bennett had used the business to defraud more than $100 million from South Canterbury Finance through false loans.

That left about 40 people without jobs and many stressed to the limit, Knutson said.

"[After the February 2011 quake] we had lots of clients in the CBD red zone and everybody in our team was working very, very hard to help those businesses recover . . . we were so busy doing that, we didn't see what was happening [at DataSouth]."

Many of the staff had young families and damaged homes and finding themselves without a job was frightening, he said.

One colleague in particular fell into deep depression and needed a hand to get their confidence back and into a new job, he said.

Knutson spent a lot of time ringing round Christchurch IT companies getting as many people as possible into work elsewhere.

John Ritchie was one of those who nominated Knutson for the IT Superhero award.

On the competition website, he said Knutson saved "IT-befouled asses en masse" after the quakes and went on to do the best by both clients and the DataSouth staff "who were the true victims of its demise".

"Steve is already the IT Superhero - but this award will be his Bat Signal beaming his image upon the clouds."

Two days after DataSouth's failure, Knutson and two other former senior managers, David Carter and Peter Cummins, formed a new company, Canterbury Business Solutions, securing clients at Carter's kitchen table.

"We decided we could work for someone else or back ourselves and try go into business," Knutson said.

That company had massive goodwill from clients whose businesses had been saved after the quakes by the huge workrate of DataSouth staff and had a solid base to help get off the ground, he said.

That grew and at one point the company employed 16 people, including many who had lost their jobs with DataSouth.

Knutson took the role of general manager which was a huge learning curve and one that changed his outlook, he said.

"I used to worry about IT projects from a technical perspective . . . when it's your bottom line, you view things a lot differently to everyone else."

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Another of Knutson's supporters, Alun Davies, said: "Steve's skills, enthusiasm and support and energy can only come from someone with blood sourced from Krypton."

If Kordia does judge Knutson to be the nation's IT superhero, he will get a five-day all expenses paid trip for two to the Kennedy Space Centre, Nasa's launch headquarters in Florida, United States.

The company will get a $500 celebration party.

"I couldn't think of a better prize for an IT geek," Knutson said.

- The Press

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