5 minutes with... Neil Lappage, IT manager, Weight Watchers Australasia

What does your organisation do?

Weight Watchers has helped millions of people across the world lose weight for over 30 years; it’s a healthy business to be involved with!

Where is your head office and how many employees and end users do you have?

We have 60 employees at our head office, in North Sydney, but have branch offices in most states of Australia and a strong presence in New Zealand.

Who do you report to, and who reports to you?

I am the only permanent IT resource in Australasia; however, I do call on contractors from time to time. I report directly to the finance director.

What is your key infrastructure?

Too many to mention, but on the commercial side our IVR system and E-Commerce Shop have got to be up there.

Given an unrestricted budget, what IT technology or service would you buy for your company?

I would probably throw the money at making our infrastructure as adaptive as possible to the changing needs and demands of our business; the days of capacity planning would be finally over!

How long have you worked in IT?

I have been in the industry for eight years; I first started in the City of London in 1996 and have been working in Australia for nearly a year now.

What IT technology do you lust after?

A SAN or NAS would be nice in our current environment; it’s a case of making the leap from decentralised storage to a central array, which would be time consuming; however, it would be worthwhile.

Which IT technology do you think is over hyped right now?

Having mentioned the word hype it reminds me of hyper-threading. Let’s be honest, does it really work! Another pet hate has got to be tablet PCs, it’s just an opinion but surely there is no serious future here.

What area of IT would you like to understand better?

I have always had an interest in getting my hands dirty with VoIP but you really need to be in the right place at the right time. The technology seems to move on very quickly, what I did know a few years ago would probably not have any significance now.

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

On a career note it would probably have to be me leaping the big pond to Australia and taking a chance of finding work here. Fortunately everything worked out OK following my confirmation of my permanent skilled independent visa.

What areas of IT do you specialise in?

My current main focus is infrastructure; in particular our data centre servers and WAN.

What is the most exciting IT project or implementation you have been involved in?

My first major installation at Weight Watchers was a VPN across every branch in Australasia. Having just arrived in Australia this was an exciting journey especially since I was the only person on the project.

What's the most pressing IT issue?

Continually managing users expectations; once you raise the bar and set a standard the pressure is on to maintain it.

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

That has got to be screwing my tie into the top of a server and then walking away. Fortunately no one saw that one!

Where do you see your career heading and how do you plan to get there?

I’ve got every intention to go to the top, but I’m quite happy with where I am so far since I’ve only just turned 26. There is so much scope for growth in my current position who knows what the future may hold.

What potential IT disaster keeps you awake?

Not being able to recover our Windows 2000 Active Directory system state is to name one; however, we have many forms of redundancy and tried-and-tested backup systems in place, so it is not a real concern.

What's been the biggest lifesaver of a purchase or procedure?

Wherever I go I always undertake a disaster recovery project as soon as possible if one has not been recently actioned; a plan’s not a plan until it has been tested!

When it comes to IT purchases, do you base you decision on research of the available products and services, talking to vendors, reading up on possible solutions, talking to peers, in concert with the business unit, or fit purchases to the budget?

Sometimes a combination of all of these; however, just one of the above can be enough to make the decision most of the time.

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