25 Q&As: Countless hours on the old VIC20

As part of Computerworld's silver anniversary celebrations 25 IT managers recall the ups and downs of their careers. Here, Bill Advic, IT manager, Westfarmers Energy, Myaree, WA, shares his experiences with Helen Han.

In your experience, what IT technologies have brought the most significant benefits?

Wireless technology has come a long way and I believe there is still a long way for it to develop further. We are only now starting to see real developments in both addressing security concerns and higher bandwidth availabilty. Wireless offers the business sector real productivity increases. Consider what the mobile phone did to the old pager — wireless data will do the same for the PC.

What has been the most significant breakthrough during your IT career?

The most significant would have to be the developments in recent years of the Internet and the way it’s being used by both business and end users: from banking, broking and communicating with each other. Like wireless, bandwidth has been an issue for a number of years but with developments of broadband with such products as ADSL, cable and other faster delivery methods, the Internet is now becoming usable.

What advice would you give to someone now entering IT?

Be clear and realistic about where you see your career in five years, 10 years and even 20 years time. Speak with people who now hold the positions that you aspire to (mentoring, and having a mentor, is a very good idea). If you haven’t already obtained tertiary qualifications, consider studying part-time at TAFE or University. Try and work out a path to achieve your career goals — a mentor can help you plan this. Make it known to your employer the direction you want to steer your career in. Seek the long-term rewards, not the short-term paybacks for your efforts.

When did you start in IT and what job did you have before you moved in IT?

I moved into IT at the age of 18 or 19 as a trainee computer programmer with Toyota in Perth. At the time I commenced a five-year part-time computer programming course through TAFE. Before my break into IT, I worked for Toyota as a storeman.

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

The very first computer technology I used was many years ago in Grade 9 of high school. It was a programming unit I studied called “programming in miniwoft” using punch-cards. The code was punched onto the cards which were then sent to the University of WA for processing and returned a week later with a printout of the program and any associated syntax errors. This was followed a couple of years later with the Commodore VIC 20 which was the predecessor to the Commodore 64 back in the very early 80s. It had an ordinary tape cassette to store (BASIC) programs and data on and relied on a normal TV for video output. I spent countless hours on the old VIC 20.

Fast facts: Employees: About 2000 within Energy, 27,000 in Australia. IT users: 20 operational staff, 20 project (ERP) staff including temps & contractors. IT budget: more than $2 million. Key infrastructure — hardware: Windows NT on IBM servers, RS/6000, Sun E10000 mainframe; networking: Cisco switches and routers, TCP/IP; operating systems: Windows NT Server & Windows 2000 desktop and workstations.

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