5 minutes with... Paul Bamford, IT manager, Zoos Victoria

Q: What is your organisation’s core business?

Zoos Victoria comprises Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo. We are leading centres for wildlife experience, education, conservation and research. On-site, off-site and online.

What is the size and where are the key locations of your organisation?

We have about 450 staff across three properties — Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Do you believe that IT currently has the respect of business leaders that it deserves? I believe that IT is recognised as being integral to business, but I also think that respect must be earned. With the general perception following the dotcom crash and with the high number of reported projects that did not realise business expectations, the IT industry was left with a somewhat tarnished reputation. I think the feeling now is that this has turned around considerably, with the industry adopting more dynamic methodologies of business and technology alignment.

How will IT help drive your organisation’s success?

As part of the 21st Century Zoos philosophy, a major component is the delivery of key messages online. We plan to make Zoos Victoria’s Web site our “4th Zoo”! With more than 150,000 school children visiting our properties, our ‘online zoo’ will provide an invaluable learning resource. By using cutting-edge multimedia and communications technology we aim to offer an online experience that continues to build on the on-site visit, and also offers its own unique and engaging visitation experience.

How important do you believe the open source movement will be to the future of IT?

The open source movement actively promotes global collaboration and development among some of the most talented and passionate people in the IT arena. I believe that this has led to the creation of some of the finest software available, making previously financially unattainable infrastructure available to small business and not-for-profit organisations. With more and more larger companies and government entities incorporating open source systems into their infrastructure, I think the open source movement will play a large part in the future direction of information technology.

What key projects are you working on?

It’s a very exciting time to be working for Zoos Victoria as we have a number of upcoming projects. As well as the previously mentioned ‘online zoo’, MS Exchange 2003 deployment and Active Directory design and implementation, Zoos Victoria has received state government funding for a range of new capital projects that we will be contributing to over the next three years.

What are your greatest IT challenges?

Teaching the gorillas to touch type is always the biggest challenge. It’s their nails... Plus of course, keeping up with rapidly changing technology developments and ensuring ROI.

How many IT professionals in your team?

Currently we’re a department of two.

What are the most pressing issues you face?

Under resourced (see previous answer). Addressing strategic issues often gets blown off to the side while dealing with any number of operational issues.

What’s your average week like?

Monday morning 6am: wake up screaming. Weekdays pass in a blur. Friday 5pm: screaming ends...

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

The hours! Working part-time is definitely on my agenda for the future. Life’s far too short to spend working.

What’s neem your most difficult IT decision?

Open source versus commercial software.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you at work?

I have numerous stories, most of which I am not willing to commit to print. I will share a quick story that will give you an idea of what it can be like to work here. Being a not-for-profit organisation and having very finite funding, we approach companies for sponsorship in order to assist us in achieving our business goals. In a meeting with a prospective sponsor, mid spiel, I was interrupted by some sudden, very loud thumping and animalistic shrieking above our heads in the ceiling cavity. Then hasty scratching and scrabbling, followed by silence. I smiled and tried to shrug it off as being one of the quirks of working at the zoo and attempted to steer conversation back to more IT related discussion. That’s about when some liquid began dripping from the light fitting overhead, landing smack bang in the middle of the meeting table. Everyone at the table was silent for about a second and then broke down in fits of hysteric laughter. It’s very hard to remain focused when you are being splashed with post-coital possum pee.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Sitting on my verandah, looking out over countless acres of magnificent native bush. Working part-time.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Polish my pocket protector. Just kidding. In my spare time, you will find me reading any IDG publication I can get my hands on. If I’ve already finished all that reading, I’m likely to be found either entertaining friends (my partner and I share a passion for cooking), with my nose stuck in a good book or exploring some of Australia’s beautiful natural assets. We have a very adventurous dog that loves long bush walks, and I find the countryside very grounding after a long week in an IT headspace.

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