Q: What were your childhood ambitions?
To fly. I grew up on a property not far from Lake Keepit Soaring Club (in the New England region of NSW). I spent many hours flying gliders. I toyed with ultra lights, powered parachutes and general aviation, but vision impairment prevented me from getting a pilot’s licence. Today my aviation interests are limited to a passenger on a commercial airline and an occasional glide when I get the chance to go home.
Q: What was your first job?
Unofficially, working on the family property with beef cattle, lucerne production and my father’s Clydesdale stud. My first paid job was working in the liquor department at Grace Bros, Tamworth.
Q: How did you get into IT?
After completing Year 12 I applied to the RAAF as a pilot. This involved a series of interviews and tests. While awaiting the last interview the recruitment officer advised me to enrol in a science or computing science degree as it would improve my chances of being accepted as an officer. I took his advice and enrolled in a Computing Science degree at the University of New England. I failed the RAAF medical and continued on with the degree. The rest is history.
Q: What does your current position involve?
Management of (inner western Sydney) Marrickville Council’s information systems resources and data. My primary role is to coordinate staff and to ensure adequate availability of resources to support the infrastructure and technology council’s end users need.
Q: What projects and issues are you working on now?
Council is currently moving from Windows NT to Windows 2000 Server in an Active Directory environment. Also included in the project is a move to a Class B subnet and dynamic IP numbers at all sites, an upgrade to Citrix XP and a digital access server, an upgrade from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000 and the upgrade of associated servers and switches.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Managing a software budget where the price is often based on the fluctuating value of the Australian dollar.
Q: How many IT professionals in your team?
Eight; five technical staff, two GIS staff and me. On occasions the team may also include work experience students.
Q: Who do you report to, and who reports to you?
I report to Candy Nay, director corporate services. Both the director and the general manager are extremely supportive in the adoption of new technologies that bring tangible benefits to the council and community. The staff in the above answer report to me.
Q: What is the most pressing issue you face?
Ensuring technology provided is fully utilised in an efficient way that meets both the expectations of the community for provision of data and services and the end user in terms of functionality and ease of use.
Q: What is your annual IT budget?
Both the operating and capital expenditure budgets equate to roughly $2 million.
Q: Where are you located, and how many end users are there?
The Administration Centre is in Petersham (an inner western Sydney suburb). There are about 320 end users.
Q: What’s your average week like?
A typical day may involve meetings with internal user groups or key users of a core application; meetings with external or sales representatives; evaluating new technologies, quotes and tenders; processing purchase orders and managing operating leases. Writing reports; assisting on the helpdesk during busy periods; investigating ways to improve efficiency, work place safety and environmental management of old and new technologies; responding to management requests; implementation of projects from the IT strategy and management plans; managing projects and contractors. Maintenance and upgrades to technology occurs after normal business hours to minimise downtime, meaning a typical day usually extends into the evening.
Q: If you could walk in the shoes of any other IT professional, who would it be and why?
Stephen Wozniak and Stephen Jobs who introduced the Apple IIe, making for many an affordable desktop personal computer. I admire the fact that at a time when a personal computer was out of the reach of most people, they were able to bring competition to the marketplace revolutionising personal computing.
Q: What is your favourite IT gadget and why?
The USB Memory Stick. I love the flexibility of carrying files on my key ring.
Q: What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?
I think the most difficult decision at the moment is whether to buy or lease. Both have their pros and cons.
Q: Name three likes and dislikes about your job.
Likes: Making a difference to the staff and community at Marrickville Council, the people I work with and the challenge of the job. Dislikes: The travel to work, the cost of many IT-related purchases being based on the $US, vendors not delivering on warranties.
Q: What is your company Web strategy?
Council launched its revised Web site earlier this year. It provides access to around 60 services and has become very popular with the community. Council worked closely with its core application vendors to Web-enable existing systems. The site will continue to evolve and develop.
Q: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?
Backup failing when you need it most — in the event of a disaster.
Q: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you at work?
Do I have to answer this?
Q: Do you plan to undertake any additional training courses?
Yes, ongoing training is essential to anyone involved in the IT industry and offers a way to review your current practices.
Q: What is your IT prediction for the coming year?
Surprise, surprise! Another rise in software costs based on the value of the $US or the drought, or anything else that vendors choose to blame for increasing the current cost above a reasonable inflation rate.