5 minutes with... Lee Patrick, Network administrator, Catholic Church Insurances

Q: How did you get into IT?

Funnily enough it’s not what you know, it’s who you know holds true for my employment. An opportunity arose with an insurance company which fell outside the realms of my study of mechanical engineering (So glad I got out of that game!). As a teenager I had a real (strikethrough: dislike) hatred for computers which arose from a lack of understanding. It became apparent very quickly that computers weren’t going to disappear, so, I assessed my future in engineering and thought it time to confront those fears and jump right in.

Q: What does your current role involve?

Administering and securing a stable network environment Australia-wide.

Q: What projects are you working on?

We have embarked on a major migration project from Novell 4.11 to Windows 2003 Server (Gold). We are working in conjunction with Microsoft through a M/S service provider under an early adoption program — Rapid Deployment Program. Once complete we will then be revisiting our Directory Services e-mail system and weighing up the pros and cons of migrating from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange. Another huge project.

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

Travelling three hours daily (round trip) on public transport whilst receiving helpdesk request calls en route. Enduring the public on trams and trains.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges?

Supporting a heterogeneous network environment — a blend of Novell, NT4 servers, Windows 2000 Server, Citrix Metaframe for Xp, RS6000, AS/400 to name a few. With an antiquated version of NetWare just waiting to bite the bullet (Arcserve don’t fail me now!) and a swag full of Microsoft application servers, we have been waiting for an opportunity to arise like the Windows 2003 Rapid Deployment Program with Microsoft.

Windows 2003 server will replace our Windows NT 4 PDC/BDC and Novell File/Print system environment. Novell NetWare has served us well for many years and is an exceptional product and it will be difficult to see it go; however, the TCO for an upgrade far exceeds the current Microsoft solution.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team?

I am one of four tech. guys. On the other side of the fence we have six information staff led by the chief information officer.

Q: What’s the reporting structure?

I report directly to the network manager, who reports to the CIO. I’m just another hard worker at the bottom of the food chain.

Q: What is your company Web strategy?

We have recently acquired a huge external clientele base, directly related to our niche market, in which we will be hosting their sites from our Melbourne office.

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

The head office is in Melbourne — I hope no one from our Sydney office receives this publication as they would debate it vehemently:-). We are a relatively small company in comparison (~ 200 employees) to some of the other insurance giants; however, we maintain a very niche market.

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

This is a difficult one as my job I enjoy; it’s the people that sometimes make it difficult. However, being a service provider to our internal clients you must remain focused and composed towards the client at all times: rule number 1. Wait till you hang up the phone and then go smack your head against the wall. Arghh...

Q: What has been your most difficult IT decision?

When the opportunity presents itself for those larger stickier problems, normally when managers are not around it can be daunting as to whether the correct decision was made. Making the decision is not the issue; it’s the repercussions of that decision.

Q: Do you plan to undertake further training?

Being a blue site (IBM) the IBM Director 4.1 course looks very inviting. Director is a powerful utility and management console for Netfinity, X series and Blade type servers. It allows remote control and inventory collection for the IBM workstation and laptops we manage among many other great features. And the price is right!!!

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time?

At the risk of not upsetting too many people, I’d like to see myself in a more senior role with the same company. Job title withheld.

Q: What IT disaster worries you?

The tragic events of September 11 were a real eye opener for everyone and with that insurance companies all over have had to revisit their disaster recovery and business continuity plans. We are no exception. I dare not speak of it too loud as the servers have ears, but it has something to do with smoke and flames...

Q: What is your IT prediction for this year?

Bigger, nastier viruses — safe bet.

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