5 minutes with... Christine Cameron, IS functional leader, Tomago Aluminium

Q: What were your childhood ambitions?

I have been fascinated by big trucks since childhood and grew up wanting to be a truck driver. My love of animals also introduced notions of being a vet, but I was daunted by the years of study required.

Q: What was your first job?

My first job was as a customer service complaints clerk in the Waltons department store in Newcastle. It was a great learning experience, dealing with irate and sometimes irrational people. The hard part was keeping a straight face at the improbable stories told by some customers about what had happened to the item they were returning.

Q: How did you get into IT?

I was destined for an HR traineeship with Waltons when I finished my degree at Newcastle Uni. Just before I was due to start I saw an advert for trainee programmers with BHP and applied on a whim. I missed out on a job with BHP but Comsteel offered me a position and I accepted, never having actually seen a computer.

Q: What does your current position involve?

I manage the IS department at Tomago Aluminium, a primary aluminium producer just north of Newcastle. IS is responsible for developing IT strategies, managing the IT infrastructure, and development and support of a range of desktop, commercial and production systems. The company has a separate Process Systems group who manage the real-time systems.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

I am working on gaining acceptance of a major systems upgrade project by management and Tomago's owners. Our legacy systems are now due for replacement, but approval relies on finding a balance between IT priorities and the level of change that the business can handle.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

IS has 15 permanent employees plus two contractors. The number of contractors varies with the level of project work at the time. There are three teams: solutions (application development and support), technical services (infrastructure management) and customer services (desktop management and helpdesk).

Q: What is the most pressing issue you face?

Providing the best possible service level to our internal customers with a lean operating budget and escalating business needs.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

A bit less than you actually need, but close enough to make you feel it might be possible.

Q: Where is your organisation's Australian head office, and how many end users are there?

Tomago is a single plant operation employing around 1000 people. All employees have access to one or more IT systems. Our Sydney-based head office was relocated to the plant this year as part of the cost improvement program.

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

Having more time to spend with my team, coaching, developing or simply interacting with them. The most rewarding part of my job is helping others to achieve their best.

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

Tomago has comparatively little interaction with end-customers. Being a single site, we have yet to explore the real opportunities of the Web. Our main forays so far have been to establish information-sharing channels with our owners. Internally our intranet is becoming a primary channel for real-time production monitoring and reporting.

Q: What potential disaster worries you?

Systems are recoverable - losing key staff can be a much tougher disaster.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Businesses can no longer justify investing in new technology simply to maintain a competitive edge. Increasingly they are seeking to quantify value for money and ROI as essential considerations. In turn I feel this will result in reducing market share of the big-ticket market leaders in software applications to the benefit of second-tier providers.

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