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Guy Holmes – Polar achiever

by Graham Chandler on June 19, 2013 profiles

Guy Holmes - Polar achiever

A determination both to give back to the community and help children drove explorer Guy Holmes to journey to the North Pole, raising over $20,000 for Australian charity HeartKids WA.

“I chose the venture first because it is something I had been wanting to do for three years. I didn’t want to do something a lot of people do on a regular basis.”
-Guy Holmes

Guy Holmes has excelled at a host of jobs: army combat medic, cook, greenhouse manager, geophysicist, entrepreneur, corporate strategist, and software developer, to name only a few. When he makes up his mind to pursue something, it seems there’s no looking back. It’s a mindset that propelled him to the North Pole - on foot - to raise money for a children’s charity.

And it’s the same mindset that led to the creation of SpectrumData Pty. Ltd., of which Holmes is the owner and chairman of the board. Based in Perth, Australia, it is the largest data management company in the Southern Hemisphere, and he built it from the ground up. SpectrumData manages and recovers data for companies worldwide, and among its clients are oil and gas firms which are in need of accurate seismic, geophysical and exploration data.

Holmes arrived at his current position by a roundabout route. Following service as a combat medical specialist in the U.S. Army, he worked in various jobs before drawing on his medical experience to work as chief cardiac technician in Sydney while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in geophysics from Macquarie University in New South Wales. “At the cardiology clinic, I used to ask every patient what he did for a living,” he recalls. “One day a geophysicist came in and I said ‘I want to work for you and I want to start tomorrow.’ That was right at the end of my geophysics degree. His company took me in and the rest is history.”

The company was Encom Technology, which Holmes joined in 1996 as an entry-level geophysicist. He soon advanced from hands-on geophysics to software development, eventually heading up the company’s information management division. Under Holmes, the company accelerated its marketing and sales of software and data management services. With that momentum, Holmes led a management buyout of the division to create SpectrumData in 2003.

Today SpectrumData has sought opportunities to work more closely with Geosoft in Australia. Says Holmes: “I have been looking at ways to use Geosoft DAP technology to overlay on top of our data management technology, and have met with senior technology guys from Geosoft’s head office regarding ideas about managed services.”

A great deal of the determination that drives Holmes is related to his family and the hardships they have endured.

Holmes’s first child, Owen, born in 1999, nearly died from renal failure due to kidney disease. He survived thanks to a kidney transplant with a kidney donated by his mother, Guy’s wife. She donated it shortly after giving birth to the couple’s third child.

The team packed up camp each morning to get ready for the day ahead.

The transplant went well, but several months later Owen suffered a stroke. Although his kidney function is still good, there is a high likelihood that one day he will need a new kidney

In 2011, partly in response to Owen’s plight and partly out of a desire “to give something back to the community,” Holmes joined the board of HeartKids WA, an Australian charity devoted to children with heart disease. Determined to find ways to raise funds for the organization, he hit on the idea of trekking to the North Pole.

“I chose the venture first because it is something I had been wanting to do for three years. I didn’t want to do something a lot of people do on a regular basis.” The logistics intrigued him too — planes, helicopters, pulling his own kit for survival, battling the elements. “It then followed that it was a great opportunity to raise money and awareness,” says Holmes. Among the contributors is Geosoft, which kicked in $750 to help achieve the $20,000 goal.

Preparing for the venture was an ordeal in itself. Holmes embarked a rigorous five-month program of running, weight-lifting, kick-boxing and tire pulling. The latter was particularly grueling: “I rigged up two wheels with tires to a rope and harness and pulled them on the pavement five kilometres a night,” he explains. The remaining nights he played hockey.

After being flown in to a Russian ice base at the 89th Parallel,  there were a full 10 days of trekking ahead. Holmes averaged about 10 km a day on moving ice. “The cold was the biggest issue,” he says. “Unrelenting, ever-present and extreme, it controlled everything you did; I had very cold fingers for days at a time.”

On the day he arrived at the pole, he felt both “a sense of accomplishment and kind of a quiet contemplation,” he recalls. Other team members, many of them accomplished extreme explorers, were elated.

Holmes’s next fundraiser? “The South Pole has a nice ring to it,” he says, smiling.

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