5 minutes with... Roderick Aguilar, CIO, Coffey Geoscience

What does your organisation do?

Coffey Geosciences Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of a publicly listed company (Coffey International), is an international consulting company which specialises in geosciences and the environment. Together with our other business units we consult on areas such as land remediation, salinity issues and water supply services. Our skills are also helping enhance transport links around the world. Coffey’s current transport projects include the Western Sydney Orbital and the $6.7 billion Circle Line rail link in Singapore.

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

We are an Australian-owned company with the head office located in Sydney. Coffey has more than 400 staff worldwide.

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

I report to the Group CFO. Most of our services have now been outsourced and I have two staff reporting to me.

What is your IT budget?

Less than 2 per cent.

What are your key applications?

E-mail and ERP.

What is your key infrastructure?

Private IPVPN, Linux servers, Java apps with Windows XP/Office 2000 desktops.

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

I would implement a state-of-the-art knowledge management system.

How long have you worked in IT?

12 years.

What IT technology do you lust after?

A 100 per cent secure network that remains usable to staff - impossible! A self-healing network that manages itself after a virus outbreak or physical breach...

Which IT technology do you think is overhyped right now?

No comment...

What area of IT would you like to understand better?

How to cost effectively secure my network assets through physical and software means.

What are your greatest IT challenges?

Doing more with less.

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

In the early days, when I was just learning to be a manager, I delegated a project to a junior staff member. After three months, the project was heading for disaster. I had no choice but to take the project off this individual, which devastated this staff member, as it was a fairly visible project. I learnt early on what to delegate and to whom.

What areas of IT do you specialise in?

I specialise in seeing a technology’s application to business before it becomes mainstream. As a result, one of my specialties is in providing the executive management team a strategic path with regard to its IT investments.

What are the most pressing issues IT managers face?

At this point in time, it would have to be virus outbreak management.

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

Getting a paper-centric organization to begin to use e-mail instead of internal paper memos. I sent one CEO an urgent e-mail requesting approval for a mission-critical piece of equipment and his secretary printed out the e-mail, he signed it and placed it in internal mail. I received the approval on paper four days later! Changing the culture of the organization was the toughest challenge, but it was also the most satisfying. Now you couldn’t take away e-mail from them without losing a limb!

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

Losing my temper as a LAN administrator. I learnt a long time ago that self-discipline is the key to high integrity.

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

CEO. By continuing to build my leadership skills, business skills and life skills. This can be achieved through constant self-improvement and by striving to become a well-balanced individual.

What potential IT disaster keeps you awake nights?

It would have to be a recurrence of a disaster that happened to me a few years ago. A mission-critical server fails during the peak Christmas period. System fails to restore from SIX different tapes. I had ONE last tape that I could restore from. Miraculously, the final restore worked! I must have aged several decades after that 46-hour ordeal!

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

I have very strong relationships with my preferred vendors. At one time, a mission-critical system fails. The critical component is out of stock around the country. Next shipment is in three weeks time! One of my suppliers rings his competitor, finds the stock, picks up the part and pays for it on his own personal credit card ($2500). He hand-delivers the part to me within two hours and the server is back up with only three hours of downtime. Needless to say, key relationships have saved my bacon on numerous occasions.

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