5 minutes with... Ben Wrigley IT manager, Hotel Inter-Continental Sydney

Q: What were your childhood ambitions?

The usual things that young boys are attracted to: fighter pilot, astronaut, Formula One driver and so on. Unfortunately I totally ignored the fact that most of my chosen professions required excellent academic results...

Q: What was your first job?

Working part-time in a skateboard shop, as a shop rouseabout, in London in 1978 during the height of the UK skate craze. We had a young boss who allowed us to spend most of our time 'testing' new products. Needless to say the business didn't last.

Q: How did you get into IT?

More by default. My hotel career started in operations and after a time as a night manager, where most of the work was IT related, I found myself enjoying the IT side far more than operations.

Q: What does your current job involve?

As IT manager, my position involves all facets of IT. Hardware, software, training, budgeting, telecommunications, guest IT support, and the like.

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

Current projects include a raft of exciting new guest technology standards that Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts are rolling out around the globe. High-speed wired/wireless Internet access and streaming media delivery platforms are just a few. Removing the technology frustration 'road warriors' experience when travelling is at the top of the agenda at present.

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

The hospitality industry is facing a particularly challenging time at present, and as I'm sure most IT managers would agree, there is strong pressure to achieve more with less.

Q: How many IT professionals make up your team?

There's just the two of us. Obviously there is a substantial degree of outsourcing where the majority of services are concerned, but we are kept on our toes.

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

In these times, obtaining funding for new projects can be a trying exercise, particularly in an industry where the intangible quality of great service can be strongly affected by the technologies our staff have access to.

Q: What is your favourite IT gadget and why?

Hardware-wise, I'd have to say my Microsoft ForceFeedback steering wheel. Software-wise, Grandprix4; it's hours of fun.

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

A better view. Considering the location of the Hotel Inter-Continental Sydney and its proximity to Sydney harbour, you'd think it wouldn't be asking too much.

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

Whether or not, in a 100 per cent full hotel, to cutover to a new 1800+ port PABX. In spite of several unsuccessful connectivity tests we did, and thankfully the test failures never repeated themselves.

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

I still remember taking our first online hotel reservation in 1996. Back then it was an incredible achievement. Since then, the hospitality industry has been one of the winners in the e-business arena.

Q: If not for IT, what career would you be in right now?

Looking back, I don't think I'd change that much. Upon completion of year 12, I completed an apprenticeship on motor cycle mechanics at a dealership that specialised in exotic European motorcycles. I didn't actually spend much time in the workshop as my skills were more sales orientated (I talked too much!). I left the industry not long after completing the trade as the price of new bikes started to skyrocket due to a fast devaluing Australian currency. If I hadn't been attracted to IT, I'm sure I'd have found my way back to bikes. Probably more at an importer level.

Q: What's your average week like?

I usually start the day at around 8am. Then an operations meeting at 9am, which can last up to 45 minutes. From there, it totally depends on the current agenda, which can be anything from routine admin and maintenance to meetings to new projects etc.

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

I think we've planned for just about everything, but a major fire worries me.

Q: If you could walk in the shoes of any other IT professional, who would it be and why?

Geoff Crammond, games software developer. The advances that entertainment software has made in the last few years astound me.

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

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki - he knows it all and makes it fun, Graham Kennedy - an Australian TV icon, the late Ayrton Senna - a truly passionate F1 racer, Billy Connelly - a certifiable nut and a great ice breaker, and of course my wife - my best friend.

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

No chance!

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

As long as I'm happy and healthy, I can't say I've given it a great deal of thought.

Q: If you could invent something, what would it be and why?}An e-recipe book for the kitchen. A durable, low-cost device that would be able to display recipes on a simple touch-enabled GUI screen. The device could then be docked to a PC, when new recipes could be downloaded. A Napster-style Web service could be set up, where paying subscribers could upload recipes to a central repository, have them rated by the service (professional chefs), then made available for download by other subscribers for a small fee. There are others, but I won't go into it.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Public 802.x based wireless IP networks. There are plenty of challenges involved, but look what happened to the mobile phone industry.

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