5 minutes with. . .Teresa Murphy Assistant general manager of software engineering, Technology One

Computerworld: You once were a scientist, explain how you began a career in IT instead.

Teresa Murphy: I worked as a laboratory assistant for CSIRO in the division of textile physics. I did all sorts of things from making model beds and chairs and watching them burn to testing wool for length and strength. It was this scientific analytical work which brought me to computing. I did some statistical analysis and computer-assisted automated testing work. If you are aware of the hierarchy in CSIRO you don't go anywhere without at least a Master's degree so I went back to uni to get a second degree and chose a postgraduate computing course. Before I had finished my course I was offered a position with IBM and moved into commercial computing work.

CW: What does your current position involve?

TM: At Technology One, I manage the product development team for Student One, which is a higher education student administration system. This also involves working with the client base gathering requirements for the product, keeping up to date with legislative requirements (such as HECS, DETYA, GST), and providing implementation advice to clients and our consultants. Also, by being involved with tenders and doing pre-sales work, I look at what the market is asking for in the product and how to quickly incorporate these features into the product.

CW: What do you find most fulfilling about your current role?

TM: It has been a tremendous challenge to develop, implement and market Student One in the space of just three years. Today, it is still the only new-generation student administration system that is fully live - at both Curtin and Bond Universities. It is being implemented now at Macquarie, Flinders and Southern Cross Universities and Avondale College.

CW: How hard has it been to succeed in what was, and still is, a male dominated industry?

TM: It is male dominated overall and I find it disappointing that more women do not look for a career in computing. I still think we suffer from the technical geek stereotyping. However, in terms of succeeding I don't think it's any more difficult for women than men. Perhaps because the computing industry itself is so young (there are few 50-somethings with a computer background) it is one of the least chauvinistic.

CW: Describe the Student One project you have worked on for three years and other favourite IT achievements.

TM: It has been and still is a great partnership between Curtin University and Technology One. Curtin University contributed the business knowledge and we translated that into software. Because we were building a product catering for numerous tertiary institutions with different requirements, we had to make the product as flexible as possible. My other favourite job was while working for IBM. I was asked to amalgamate the financial systems of IBM Australia and IBM NZ. I had nine months to do this and the project involved seven teams each working on a different financial system to be integrated or converted.

CW: What IT projects and issues are you working on at the moment?

TM: One of the big issues is obviously the transition into self-service Web-based computing. We've all grown so used to the rich look and feel of Windows-based products. Now we have a need to provide an interface that requires little or no training and little or no software on the PC but still has to deliver the sophisticated information requirements that our clients demand. The challenge is to stretch the simple HTML interface to accommodate the needs of the power user without losing the elegance of the solution.

CW: Name five people living or dead who you would invite to a dinner party?

TM: Gandhi - a man with such fundamental philosophies on life. I would be very interested about his views on the current state of the world and his approach to solving some of today's issues.

* Joan of Arc - a women who rose to prominence in a very male-dominated era.

* Randle Quince - This man had been a bricklayer, then fought back from severe back injury to become a highly paid motivational speaker and now works for nothing helping troubled teenagers.

* Nova Peris-Kneebone - career changes for most of us are fairly difficult so I'd like to discuss with Nova why at the top of her sport in hockey she decided to change codes and start again as a sprinter.

* Julie McCrossin - a comedian and social commentator. Julie is a very intelligent and funny lady and if you're having a dinner party with these types of guests you need someone to help keep things from becoming too serious.

CW: Is there any part of the IT industry that you would like to learn more about?

TM: If there's anything I would like to know more about, it is the human interaction with computers - what people like and dislike in software design.

CW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

TM: Experience in the computing industry has shown me that too much changes in five years to set definite plans that far ahead. I love managing projects and learning new business processes. The projects keep getting bigger and the business interactions more complex. There is always a new challenge and that's what keeps this industry so exciting.

CW: What are your interests outside of work?

TM: Apart from spending time with my three children, I enjoy doing creative things. I think this helps to balance the analytical nature of computing work. I am a member of the Australian Lace Guild and currently President of the Queensland Division of the Guild. My main interest is in needle lace - making a fabric from nothing but a needle and thread.

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