5 minutes with... Adrian Yarrow, manager, corporate systems admin, Central Queensland University

Q: How did you get into IT?

When I was around seven years old our neighbours purchased a Commodore VIC20 (wow!). And that was it, I was hooked.

Q: What was your first job in IT?

My first IT role was as technical assistant to the Faculty of Arts, CQU (Central Queensland University) back in 1993. From this humble beginning which mostly entailed handing out video cameras and re-filling the paper trays in the lab printers, I have steadily progressed through the ranks of desktop support and systems administration to my current acting position since July last year.

Q: What does your current role involve?

Managing the enterprise-wide IT server and storage infrastructure and the clever bunch of systems administration staff who themselves continually push the envelope to provide a transparent and streamlined service.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

We always have many things on our plate; some of the key ones at present are the completion of our Directory Services project. This will give CQU an enterprise-wide authentication system that will let us provide a much more integrated IT service in the future.

We are also working toward the implementation of a new enterprise-wide managed operating environment for the university desktops; this will replace our existing Windows NT-based OE.

Our main goals for the implementation are to operate a much more flexible environment for the end users of the system and at the same time build in more remote management capabilities and service automation. This will help improve our response times with many of the day-to-day support activities.

Q: What's the greatest challenge in your job?

With our workload, it is very difficult to balance the many and varied responsibilities and priorities of the systems administration team. My main priority is to provide a stress-free and productive working environment for the team members.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

It is extremely difficult to carry out system maintenance on 24x7 services and to find a timeslot to do this work without causing a certain level of interruption to users.

Q: How many IT professionals make up your team?

There are eight people in the team; these talented eight bring an extensive range of skills from small business to large enterprise and corporate backgrounds. It makes for an exciting mix.

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

I report to the associate director, corporate technology infrastructure and have seven technical staff who report to me.

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

Saying No to systems administrators. For example, when a colleague comes to you with an excellent idea that they wish to implement; however, the idea, even though it is brilliant, might not have an organisational priority. This can sometimes cause staff to feel a little put out.

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

Balancing staff resources between the increasing operational workload and with project work.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

Total university IT spend exceeds $14 million a year.

Q: Where is your organisation's Australian head office, and how many end users are there?

North Rockhampton, Queensland. We have about 22,500 IT users, in all time zones.

Q: What's your average week like?

Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Working with the team on operational activities and managing project milestones.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be?

Fewer meetings!

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

We utilise our skills and technology levels to provide a stable Web presence to our community and the public. Improvements in the quality of content are ongoing; CQU is actively making progress to a more uniform content style and management system. This will greatly improve how we are perceived online and also, improve the publishing process for Web content developers.

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

Getting a little too merry at the Christmas Party.

Q: What IT disaster do you worry about?

Our data centre going up in smoke!

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Another quiet year. More vendor takeovers and consolidation activities.

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