25 Q&As: Have a backup plan

As part of Computerworld's silver anniversary celebrations 25 IT managers recall the ups and downs of their careers. Here, Andrew Glassock, IS manager, IDG Communications, publisher of Computerworld, Sydney, shares his experiences with Gabrielle Wheeler.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing IT managers now?

Keeping a current overview on the raft of technologies, product and services that continue to emerge. As an IT professional you need to chart a clear course for your organisation’s technology solutions.

As well as tracking technologies, products and services, today’s IT manager has to be aware of the host of government regulations and legislation that has been enacted over the last couple of years. IT managers need to know the 10 Privacy Principles, HR and censorship laws — what the impact could be in HR terms of an image on my network is just one examples.

Q: What has been most disappointing during your IT career?

During my time in IT processors have got faster, hard drives bigger, screens colourful and flatter, but the dominant means of interacting with your computer remains the keyboard. There have been many technologies and companies that have claimed a viable alternate means of inputting data — yes I confess to owning an Apple Newton — but still the keyboard remains supreme. This is a disappointment to me as I believe that a change to the primary input device (particularly to voice input) would have a profound impact on the way we use computers, who uses computers, and on the design and form factor of computers.

Q: What would you tell someone entering IT today?

To someone entering IT today I would say “Always have a backup in place; knowing you have a backup plan, go for it!”

Q: What tertiary qualifications do you have?

I have a Bachelor of Education.

Q: What did you do before you moved to IT?

I was a sailing and windsurfing instructor in Spain while I was on walkabout after teaching industrial arts for a few years.

Q: What was the first computer technology you used (and when)?

The first computer technology I used was a HP 25c programmable calculator in my last years of high school in the mid 70s. The first “real” computer I used was an Apple before they were Macintoshes — a twin 5¼in floppy drive Apple IIe which my father bought in 1983 or so. I remember its green screen, ProDOS operating system that fitted on one 360K floppy disk; it came equipped with Appleworks on another floppy disk that you would place in the second drive bay. Since then I have used a variety of Wintel, Apple Mac and handheld computers.

Q: What is the scariest thing looking forward in your IT career?

I look at the way my children accept without question the use of computers and technology — my four-year twins know how to switch the home PC on and hook up to the Net and navigate to Mixy’s page at www.abc.net.au or www.bobthebuilder.com. When the family was overseas at Christmas time my seven-year old was sending e-mails back to her school friends keeping them up to date with her travels. I then look forward 10 or so years and think about their school IT manager trying to keep these IT-savvy individuals in line when IP is everywhere, wireless is everywhere and always on, anywhere in the world. Do I still want to be an IT manager then — I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.

Fast facts: Corporate HQ: Boston, Massachusetts, US. Annual turnover: worldwide in 2002: $US2.58 billion. Employees: 12,000 worldwide, 120 in Australia. IT users: All. IT budget: $250,000 to $499,000 (local). Key applications: Lotus Notes/Domino, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Subs Plus, Sun Accounting and Microsoft’s Office suite. Key infrastructure — hardware: Dell for both the desktop and for backend servers, HP printers and Canon Multifunction devices, Ericsson PABX; operating systems: Desktop Windows 98 moving to Windows XP Server side NetWare, Windows and Linux.

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