5 minutes with . . . Wayne Bouffler, operations manager, WorldxChange, Australia

Computerworld: What did you want to be when you 'grew up'?

Wayne Bouffler: I never thought about it much. In the last few years of school, I spent some of my holidays as a builder's labourer to earn a bit of spending money - so at least I knew what I didn't want to be when I grew up!

CW: How did you get into IT?

WB: After completing my HSC I enrolled at university to study Electrical Engineering. I left after about a week - I'd just completed 13 years of schooling and really needed something different. I applied for and got a job with a computer bureau. I spent the first year of that job wrapping parcels in the despatch department before finally transferring to the operations department where I learned to operate the mainframe computers. After that, I got involved in networking facilities where I learnt transmission and data protocols. The personal computer had also raised its head so I had some exposure to that at an early stage.

CW: What duties does your current position involve?

WB: As operations manager I have responsibility for the company's Australian IT and voice infrastructures. Our network spans 27 sites in Australia and includes the associated switches, routers, transmission systems, servers, operating systems, applications and so on. Having control of both voice and IT helps the departments work together very well so integration issues between their different technologies are minor.

CW: What major projects or issues are you working on at the moment?

WB: Right now the main ones would be developing the support mechanisms to allow number portability between WxC and the other carriers and testing the IT interface between WxC and Optus to allow Optus direct connect customers to preselect WxC for long-distance and international calls.

CW: What is the most challenging part of your job?

WB: It would have to be managing the constant changes in both the telecommunications and IT industries. New products, technology, growth, interworking etc, etc, etc. The whole job is a challenge but that's what makes it interesting.

CW: How many IT professionals in your IT team?

WB: The core IT team situated in Sydney consists of eight people, although there are others in offices around Australia that do assist when required. We also have about a dozen voice technicians with varying degrees of experience.

CW: What IT courses have you completed, and do you plan to do additional training?

WB: Since escaping from university I haven't done any apart from the occasional one-or two-day course and it's been a long time since I did one of those. All my training has been "on the job". I've been in the industry about 20 years now and am still in my 30s (although only just). The demands of my job and family really don't give me time.

CW: What is the most pressing issue you face as an IT manager?

WB: The constant development and upgrading of our custom billing and customer service systems is an issue that is absolutely vital to our company's success and one that is relentless and never ending. For example we recently introduced a local call product which almost immediately doubled the number of calls we had to run through our rating process and bill.

CW: What would you imagine life to be like without computers?

WB: I imagine it would be like it was about 100 years ago. Less interesting, more manual.

CW: What would you do if you could rule the world for one week?

WB: A week's not long enough to fix world hunger or the Middle East so I would probably just declare the whole time a holiday and since I was the boss I would buy that luxury waterfront, big boat and flash car I always wanted.

I'd also throw those who drive too slowly in the righthand lane into gaol.

CW: What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?

WB: When the company first started operations in Australia we were given PC-based voice switches to run our business on in lieu of more traditional telephone exchanges. These worked very well while in operation but the industry was changing and we had to move with it. It was a hard decision to recommend to replace them with a more traditional (and more expensive) switching platform. We have just completed a year-long project to do this and the decision has proved to be the right one.

CW: List three likes and dislikes about your job.

WB: I like the technology I get to play with, the people I work with and the ever changing environment I work in. Sometimes I dislike the hours and occasionally the stress.

CW: What is your company Web strategy?

WB: We currently have an extensive Web site (check out www.worldxchange.com.au) linked to our international subsidiaries. We use it mainly to advertise, provide information on our products and services and to support our sales agents in the field. Our bills can be delivered and paid online with the e-bill option. In future we will be expanding our ISP offering which includes services such as unified messaging.

CW: Name five people you would invite for a dinner party and why?

WB: Albert Einstein, John Howard, Bill Clinton, Elle McPherson and just to stir things up a bit, Rodney Rude. What fascinating conversation would be had after a few drinks!

CW: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at work?

WB: I'm not sure what the most embarrassing thing was but it probably happened at one of our office Christmas parties......

CW: Where do you see yourself in five years time?

WB: I've been at WorldXchange now for more than five years and in that time I watched it go from nothing and have seen it grow into the success it is today. It's hard for me to imagine being anywhere else at this stage so I just take it a year at a time.

CW: What takes up your spare time outside of work?

WB: Mostly my family. Running the kids around to various sporting activities and watching them play is something I enjoy and also hanging around down the beach.

CW: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about happening?

WB: We place a lot of focus on backups, redundancy and security, but you always worry about hackers, viruses, fires and the like. In life anything and everything can happen, you just have to take steps to minimise the risk.

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