Q: How did you get into IT?
My previous life in architecture led me into computers when CADD first arrived in Australia back in the early to mid 80s. Back then, a computer user had to know more than just "Start" and "Programs". From there it was on to managing CADD systems in various architectural offices and a natural progression from there.
What does your current role involve?
Hmm… got a spare two hours? My professional life would be much the same as most other IS/IT managers… managing time and resources, finding the balance between immediate pressures and long-term strategies, completing budgets and attending meetings. Above all, though, come people - our most precious attribute, and I always find the time to talk with, or help, other colleagues.
How would you describe your company?
Boehringer Ingelheim is a privately owned pharmaceutical company with global headquarters based in Ingelheim, near Frankfurt, Germany, with an annual turnover of $13.5 billion globally. It has 32,000 employees worldwide and about 350 people in Australia and New Zealand, excluding the many workers on our farms in northern Queensland, where we grow crops for export.
Most of our users are remote (sales representatives across the breadth of the country), with their own, very particular and demanding, requirements. Our Australian head office is in North Ryde, NSW (also known colloquially as Pill Hill).
Our IT budget is more than $3 million. Apart from the 'normal' CRM, ETMS, ERP solutions that most sales and marketing businesses use, we also have specific medical applications used to manage clinical trials throughout Australia and various interfaces with external parties.
On the infrastructure front, we have the LANs, WANs and VPN solutions, optical fibre Internet connections and ISDN backup lines. Our global data comms are critical and are well supported by a CorporateGlobal Support Group (with our regional support offered out of Singapore). We are also in a constant state of trial and review - an interesting one at the moment is wireless broadband.
The hardware and operating systems list covers Compaq servers running Windows NT4 and Windows 2000 Advanced server; desktops and laptops running Windows 2000 and Windows XP only. We have a standard operating environment and use a hardware disk duplicator, group policies and remote installation server to manage this.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Two items come immediately to mind: continually aligning our local solutions with our corporate strategies and finding the time to pursue these strategic issues amidst the day-to-day necessities.
How many IT professionals in your team?
Eight people in the IT group look after an extremely wide range of solutions, hardware and infrastructure, develop our applications and support our staff. The variation only makes it all the more interesting for everyone. I am yet to be convinced that outsourcing any major part of our IT is a good idea.
What is your company Web strategy?
Locally and globally we are 'Webified'. We have approached all new developments and applications with the browser concept for quite a few years and provide all of our medical applications, budgeting, forecasting and sales interfaces via Internet Explorer.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at work?
(Dressing up as a Kenyan tribesman (including nose rings) for our company Olympics.
Dressing up as a 202cm fairy godmother, resplendent in dress and wig, at a Boehringer Ingleheim reps cycle meeting in Queensland.) No particularly embarrassing moments.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I would like to think that I am still a competitive volleyball player, after playing the sport at a high level for more than 20 years. I also play tennis on the weekend, share our two boys' soccer duties with Fiona and am actively involved in a few community groups.
What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?
I'm not a worrier. We build backups and redundancies into our systems, install lightning protection and actively monitor our network. But there's no point in worrying about everything… and so we all have good, relaxing weekends… until those systems also fail and have us in on a Friday night when the isolated air-conditioning fails (as happened recently)!
What is your IT prediction for the rest of this year?
As this year is half over already, I can safely predict a) no great resurgence in the IT&C markets this year, b) an overwhelming number of survey applicants and c) an ever-increasing workload. It appears that the IT world is now on a very slow upward path after recovering from the first downward part of a cycle that exists in most other industries. I'd expect to see a flourish of new activity, in relation to IT solutions and opportunities, as the recovery gains momentum.