5 minutes with... Rosemary Burns, IT Centre Manager, Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE

Q: How did you get into IT?

Years ago when IT on the desktop was very new. It was a case of whoever had knowledge or could understand the technology became the organisational guru. It grew from there.

Q: What does your current role involve?

Management of network and desktop resources across the Institute. As a medium sized TAFE it encompasses all facets of IT management across a large number of platforms and desktop delivery requirements.

Q: What projects are you working on?

Major projects at the moment are infrastructure upgrades and project management of the ICT component of a new educational precinct that is being established in the Latrobe Valley.

This is a new and innovative approach drawing together higher education, TAFE and university in a one-stop shop for delivery of courses and programs for students in the region. A centralised ICT hub is to be developed which will provide state-of-the-art network infrastructure using newly rolled out fibre to all of the partners.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Managing a complex network with a very small, but highly committed team where funding is very limited. When I came to the organisation there was a very poor infrastructure and a very stressed IT team. The network was barely able to provide the most basic of services and the challenge was to improve the level of service and IT staff morale and provide network stability for our users. There was a lack of understanding of ICT within the organisation and as such, little attention had been paid to getting the basics right. The challenge then and now is to ensure that adequate funding and resources are made available to the department to ensure that it is able to meet user demands and stay afloat in what is becoming a highly competitive education market.

Accessing appropriate training for IT staff and ensuring that the organisation recognises the importance of this training is also an ongoing challenge as the complexity of ICT increases at a rapid rate.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

Connectivity across the WAN in a region where there is only very limited and expensive infrastructure available. Our greatest challenge is to make very small bandwidth work as effectively as possible and we use products like Citrix, packet shaping and a managed frame relay service at present to achieve the impossible.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

There are eight staff to cover all nine campuses of varying size which are spread across a distance of about 210km at the widest point.

Q: Who do you report to, and who reports to you?

I report to a general manager who reports directly to the CEO. A team of eight technical staff report to me.

Q: What is the most pressing issue you face?

Everything seems to be a pressing issue. Our users have high expectations and require speed, capacity and response to problems asap. Storage, bandwidth and security issues along with strong disaster recovery management are important issues for us and we are currently working through these to achieve the required results.

Q: What is your annual IT budget?

$2 million

Q: Where are you based and how many end users are there?

We are based in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria but have campuses in the Melbourne CBD. We have about 2500 end users.

Q: What’s your average week like?

Meetings with team to work out the work schedule for the week and with users and other managers. Travel to Melbourne and outlying campuses. Dealing with floods of e-mails and investigating new products and solutions. Provision of advice to end users and negotiations with vendors and funding providers. Project management of larger initiatives and documentation of processes and system outcomes arising from the projects. Generally, Friday arrives too soon.

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

Shorter working hours. The job requires substantial additional hours from all the team just to make everything works. Most users have no comprehension of what ICT involves and the length of hours and commitment that is required from everyone who works in the department. Fortunately, ICT team members love what they do!

Q: What is the most difficult IT decision you have had to make?

I’m getting older and they’re all getting difficult. Not sure if it’s me or the technology!

Q: What is the Web strategy?

The Web is becoming increasingly important for us as we develop online and flexible delivery programs and move forward into e-learning. We will continue to develop this area as a high priority.

Q: What IT disaster most worries you?

Fire! Our server room is above the canteen.

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Organisations will focus on efficiencies through convergence of existing technology rather than new and bigger technology as money for ICT becomes even tighter.

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