5 minutes with... Paul Jesse, retrenched OzEmail e-commerce manager

Q: How did you get into IT?

My interest in computers started in high school. I had a Commodore C64 and wrote small programs and games. When I began to study, I looked for a part-time job, and a software company employed me as a Cobol programmer.

Q: For how many years have you been in IT?

19 years.

Q: What is your current employment status?

I've been unemployed for 16 months, except for a short-term contract as a VB developer last year.

Q: What did your last IT role involve?

My last permanent position was as the e-commerce project manager at OzEmail. I was responsible for a small team, the development and implementation of OzEpay, and the integration of online merchants.

Q: Why did you leave?

In 2001, OzEmail made a large number of people redundant, almost all of whom were in software development. It was mainly due to the problems that their parent company WorldCom was experiencing.

Q: What is your opinion of the current IT employment market?

It has been extremely flat for the last 12 to 18 months, especially in the areas of project management and software development. An improvement in the short term is unlikely.

Q: Is it a hard market for unemployed IT professionals?

The market for IT jobs is extremely competitive, with most advertised positions receiving more than 300 applications. Just getting to talk to the recruiter is often a major achievement.

Q: What are its prospects?

It's unlikely that there will a lot of activity until 2004, with a major upward trend in 2005. A lot of companies are putting new developments on hold until the overall economy improves. Many IT departments had their budgets slashed, headcounts frozen, and often there is just enough money to keep everything running.

Q: What is the most challenging part of a job in IT?

In technical roles, it's keeping up with new technologies and systems. You are constantly faced with decisions about what to focus on and specialise in. In management, it's motivating and getting the best out of your people.

Q: What kind of IT position do you want?

My ideal position is a senior project management role in a medium to large company. The position needs to be challenging, both from a technical as well as an organisational point of view. This means building close relationships with a diverse range of business units, and to deliver IT cost-effective solutions that meet and exceed business objectives.

Q: What are your qualifications?

After high school, I completed a two-year full-time course in systems design and engineering. We spent a lot of time building systems and coding in Assembler. Since then, I have done a lot of technical training to keep abreast of new technologies and developments. At the same time, I attended a variety of management and communications courses to enhance my people skills.

Q: What areas of IT do you specialise in?

I have a very strong software development background using Microsoft technologies. During the last five years, I have specialised in managing teams and projects, developing and implementing a large number of client/server and e-commerce systems.

Q: What are the most pressing issues IT managers face?

Working within tight IT budgets that seem to decrease every year, and still having to deliver solutions that meet business objectives. Also retaining and developing key staff.

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

Very early on in my career, I managed to delete two weeks worth of converted data within my first 10 minutes at a client site. I was devastated and expected the worst. To my surprise we discovered that the conversion programs had been wrong, and I got off with a lesson for life and two months working nightshift to complete the work.

Q: Do you plan to undertake additional training courses?

I intend to get the Project Management Institute certification. Project management skills are, in theory, easily transferable across industries, and the certification is highly regarded.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

The uncertainty in the IT job market will continue for the rest of the year, forcing many highly skilled and talented people to leave IT.

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