Q: What were your childhood ambitions?
Now we are going back a while...I think I remember just wanting to be an adult so that I could finish school. I can’t remember ever wanting to pursue an actual profession. It has taken many years to determine what direction I wanted to take with my career.
Q: What was your first job?
While still at school I was a paperboy at Bankstown Square shopping centre (in suburban Sydney). That was when papers were 6d (5c). I would look forward to the David Jones employees’ pay day as they were good tippers. It was a fun job as you got to meet lots of people. My first job after leaving school was with McDonald’s in the first store it opened in Australia at Yagoona.
Q: How did you get into IT?
I applied for a job as a trainee computer operator with Perpetual Trustees in 1974. At my second interview I was told it was between a policeman and myself, and if I got my hair cut (it was about 6” beyond shoulder length) I could have the job. Needless to say I had a haircut, got the job and grew my hair back to its original length without anyone saying a word. These were the days when RSL clubs denied access to males who had long hair. To gain entry to an RSL club I had to tuck my hair down the back of my shirt and sit in the corner so as not to be spotted.
Q: What does your current position involve?
Managing all aspects of the Fund’s IT. I have all the usual tasks that go with the territory, such as budgets, staffing and making sure we have the right processes in place to ensure we provide the best level of customer service to both internal and external clients. I do this with a very dedicated and professional team.
Q: What projects and issues are you working on?
We always have a long list of active projects; however, the key projects are: in the process of implementing an automated claims engine, written in Java. Re-engineering several of our legacy COBOL systems, including our Dental Centre system. We recently implemented a CRM system from Pega, and we are continuing to build in functionality. We have recently purchased an interstate health fund and we are looking at our integration options.
Q: Who do you report to, and who reports to you?
I report to the general manager — Finance. My direct reports include; manager data centre, manager system development, senior IT projects manager, six health systems analysts (who are assigned to various projects), and the manager of office services. Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping the customers satisfied. I really enjoy it when we deliver a system that exceeds the users’ expectations. This keeps the dream alive.
Q: How many IT professionals make up your team?
There are 35, made up of 16 in operations, 13 in systems development and six analysts.
Q: What is the most pressing issue you face as IT manager?
Allocating the right amount of time to each activity. Finding the right balance, I find, is difficult as there are always things that don’t get done on time. However, I am a firm believer that my staff is the most important asset.
Q: What is your annual IT budget?
Seven million dollars.
Q: Where is HCF’s Australian head office, and how many end users are there?
Our head office is in Sydney and we have 48 branches across NSW and ACT. There are about 600 end users, 300 on our LAN and another 300 on our WAN using Wyse terminals running under Citrix.
Q: Briefly describe your average week:
Surprisingly it starts on a Monday and finishes on a Friday. Each week varies, as I have only a few fixed meetings, which are mainly project related. Having only a small team I ‘walk the floor’ and have regular informal discussions with my staff. If I counted the amount of time I spend on e-mail I would probably be surprised. No two weeks are the same and I guess that’s what keeps me coming back for more.
Q: If you could walk in the shoes of any other IT professional, who would it be and why?
I would pass on the invitation as I have problems filling my own shoes let alone someone else’s. Besides, it’s not good hygiene to share shoes.
Q: What is your favourite IT gadget and why?
The off button on my PC as it signals the end of the day. Seriously, I do not have a favourite IT gadget as I use very few. If pressed, I would have to say, the TV remote, when I can find it.
Q: What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?
Applying for this position nine years ago. At the time, I said my next move would not be in IT. I am still telling myself this.
Q: List three likes and dislikes about your job:
Likes: my team, helping our customers, successful projects. Dislikes: disappointing others, users assuming that system changes should be quick and easy; losing a staff member.
Q: What is your company Web strategy?
We want to continue to make the Web a viable sales channel and a source of relevant information and customer self service. We have several Internet projects under way which will make dealing with HCF an easier experience for our customers. Any application we deploy on the Web we integrate into our backend system to automate the process.
Q: Name five people, living or not, you would invite for a dinner party and why?
Red Skelton and Jerry Lewis for the comedy and I think they would be good at charades. Elton John would provide the music. While the after dinner speakers would be Sir Edmund Hillary and Captain Cook who could tell us a story or two.
Q: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you at work?
Nothing springs to mind. This could be because I just want to forget them or I really haven’t any skeletons in my closet.
Q: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?
Nobody remembering where we keep the recovery plans, even though we test the procedures at least three times per year.
Q: What is your IT prediction for the next year?
A crystal ball will continue to be standard issue and the most used forecasting tool for an IT manager.