5 minutes with... Ron Gascoigne, Manager of IT, Holmesglen TAFE Victoria

Q: What is your organisation’s core business? Our core business is the provision of post-secondary education and vocational training programs.

Q: What is the size and where are the key locations of your organisation? The institute has three campuses located at Chadstone, Glen Waverley and Moorabbin. It has more than 50,000 students and 1500 staff. It is one of Victoria’s largest TAFE Institutes. Holmesglen is a major provider of vocational training in the hospitality, tourism, recreation, trade, and horticulture industries. It is also a significant supplier of training in the traditional educational streams such as information technology, multimedia, science and business. The institute has about 3600 staff and student desktop systems.

Q: Do you believe that IT currently has the respect of business leaders that it deserves? I think we still have a short way to go to be able to demonstrate the reliability of the infrastructures we put in place. We also need to be able to demonstrate that the technical solutions we recommend serve a business need and provide a business advantage to the organisation. We must learn to speak the jargon understood by business and financial people without introducing the IT haze into the discussion. The actual solution to the problem or need is immaterial, but the business case to support the solution is critical.

Q:How will IT help drive your organisation’s success? As the tools to provide high-quality, online learning programs improve, so will the acceptance if IT as a basis for the provision of self-directed learning. The role of the technology is to support both the teacher-led and the self-directed training.

Q: How important do you believe the open source movement will be to the future of IT? The move to open source is a critical factor in the long-term ability of IT to produce the solutions to complex business processes and performance. The ability to integrate best of breed solutions from a range of developers and vendors into a reliable and manageable solution is key.

Q: What key projects are you currently working on? Our main projects at the moment are the initial implementation of voice over IP services and the long-term migration to a fully IP-based voice infrastructure. This project will extend to the investigation of additional services to be developed for integration with the IP telephony environment. There is also the utilisation of blade technology in conjunction with our SAN environment to provide boot from SAN functionality. Thus allowing for shorter system recovery times in the event of a hardware failure.

Q: What are your greatest IT challenges? To provide 24x7 services and support on an educational budget constantly being reduced by successive state governments. This makes it difficult to implement the desired government goals as detailed in its strategic plans.

Q: How many IT professionals in your team? I have 22 staff to support the desktop users, the deployment of applications to staff and students on an as-needs basis, the management of the file/print services of the institute, the monitoring and management of the entire data communications infrastructure and the provision of all intranet and Internet services. When compared to similarly sized tertiary institutions, we are able to provide similar standards of service at a lower per-head cost.

Q: What is your annual IT budget? The annual budget is in the vicinity of $2.5 million for salaries, goods and services.

Q: What’s your average week like? An average week is usually fairly uneventful due to the quality of my staff, their commitment to providing services of a high standard and the cooperative and team focus which has been established over many years within Holmesglen. Occasionally we have a day, or week, from hell, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. The bad weeks may become more frequent if the government policy of funding cutbacks continues, while still expecting us to provide expanding services and implement new technologies.

Q: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at work? When having to perform an emergency shutdown of a service, and in my haste to type the broadcast message to go to all users of the network, I misspelled shutdown by replacing u with another vowel and hit the enter key without noticing the mistake. It was only a matter of a few minutes till the phone began ringing and it continued to ring for many hours after the service was restarted.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time? I would hope that the technology would have advanced to the point that failures or outages were just memories and this would free me to work more from home. The plans for retirement would be the major project under investigation and how generally having more time to smell the roses.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? As the kids have gotten older and do not rely on Mum or Dad’s taxi any more, I have taken up lawn bowls and am quickly appreciating what a tremendous team and individual sport it is. It will feature in the plans for retirement. It is also always enjoyable to mix with friends at restaurants, sporting events and casual social functions.

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