5 minutes with... Adam Gracey, computer laboratory manager, engineering faculty, UTS

Q: What were your childhood ambitions?

To run a music recording studio.

Q: What was your first job?

My first job was in retail as a Christmas casual at Grace Bros in the city.

Q: How did you get into IT?

While studying commerce I was working at a small securities dealer managing its cc:Mail network and supporting its member accounting firms. I then took a full-time job doing the same thing for what was then one of the Big Six accounting firms.

Q: What does your current position involve?

After working on large SOE (standard operating environment) rollouts, but only seeing a small part of the process (application integration), I was looking for a role that required a larger skill set and saw the ‘big picture’. That’s what this position has. I can be managing staff and budgets, developing technical solutions or instigating and managing projects.

Q: What projects and issues are you working on now?

There are a number of key projects for the next 12 months. Upgrading the SOE from NT to 2000, upgrading Zenworks to 3.2, creating an automated procedure to manage student home drives and enabling remote access to specialised software and hardware. This is the most engaging project, some very talented people who work for me have designed and written a Web-based application server that lets students remotely access some programmable devices. Students can then remotely program these boards and watch the results from the Web-cams that monitor the devices. This is the direction the university is following. We hope to leverage this technology to additional subjects in the coming year and include traditional terminal services for application-based subjects.

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

I am still learning the motivational, coaching and relationship management skills that my role needs. I am often finding myself talking through these issues with other staff and people whose opinions I value.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

I have six staff; some of these are specialists in their field, such as robotics, telecommunications or hardware devices, whilst others take a more general role in managing the laboratory’s infrastructure.

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

I report to the manager of IT for the Engineering Faculty. My main clients are the academic heads of certain subjects and these are the people that I interact with the most. About half the people working for me report to the academics for the final implementation of the underlying technology. But they report to me for project milestones and day-to-day management. The rest of my staff report to me for all their work.

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

Managing the expectations of academics with the services we can provide against the realities that our small budget imposes. Academics always want to investigate and use new and emerging technologies and methods. If I was to meet every desire my budget would be the size of a small nation’s.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

Not very much at all.

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

Our main campus is at Broadway, Sydney (just a few kilometres from the CBD) and this is where our faculty is based. There are about 1400 students accessing the dedicated engineering facilities.

Q: What’s your average week like?

Guiding staff through their work, be it development or support functions. Receiving requests for new services to be made available in the laboratories and tempering these to what can actually be achieved. Managing the budgets and workloads of staff.

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

I would like to be able to work from home more often and more easily. Unfortunately I have one of those jobs that requires my presence most days.

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

Deciding that a certain skill set was no longer required and having to tell the person.

Q: List three likes and dislikes about your job.

Like: casual clothes, smart dedicated people, management. Dislikes: small budgets, low pay.

Q: What is the institution’s Web strategy?

We are making more information available every day, and are developing the infrastructure so that the practical component or courses can take place online.

Q: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?

Students destroying one of my labs! I think our disaster recovery plan is pretty sound — unless the entire campus is razed to the ground.

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

Project managing large IT rollouts.

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

Trusting an audit of someone in another city who we were putting out of a job. Only to find that when we arrived everything on the site was different.

Q: Do you plan to undertake any additional training courses?

I am doing some project management courses currently and have an ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) course coming up this month.

Q: What is your favourite IT gadget and why?

The mobile phone is the most important IT gadget ever! It’s my favourite because it reduces the amount of time it takes to organise people.

Q: Name five people, living or not, you would invite for a dinner party and why?

My grandfather, he died the day I was born. My great-grandfather, I’d like to see his perspective on life. My girlfriend, she’d be sure to stir them up. Carl Sagan, author of the best love story I’ve ever heard. Richard Feynman, the craziest scientist I know of.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

That eDirectory will be the directory of choice on multination XP rollouts.

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