5 minutes with . . . Chris Tayler, manager IT services, William Angliss Institute of TAFE

Computerworld: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Chris Tayler: My original dream, was to join the Air Force as a pilot. The idea of sitting at the sharp end of an F-111, being able to fly a high-technology, very fast, and highly manoeuvrable aircraft and getting paid for it was something I dreamt about constantly. Then I would make a career step into Qantas as a pilot and get to see the world, while still being able to pursue my passion.

CW: How did you get into IT?

CT: My background is somewhat different to a lot of my peers. I am formally trained as a chef and spent many years working at some of Melbourne's best restaurants, before returning to William Angliss Institute as a teacher in the foods area. Concurrent with this I discovered the Commodore 64, with 64K of memory and an external floppy drive. I started learning programming to get the most out of the machine, and get it to help me in my cookery career. When I joined William Angliss Institute, I discovered the world of 286 and 386 computers in a networked environment.

Being naturally inquisitive it was not long before I bought one and set up learning how to install and configure it. And quickly become engrossed in Visual Basic, writing a couple of software applications for friends and businesses. Shortly after that I was asked to teach basic computer applications, and later to teach students about hardware and software. I was lucky enough to be appointed co-coordinator of the IT teaching team and a large government project saw me working as acceptance test manager for a large multi-TAFE software project. A corporate reshuffle produced a vacancy as manager of IT services about two and a half years ago.

CW: What duties does your current position involve?

CT: My current role involves me in developing policies for computers and network utilisation, ensuring that the institute's LAN and WAN and infrastructure grow and meet the expectation of the users as well as working with the executive team and the CEO to source software and solutions that will let the institute remain first choice amongst prospective students.

CW: What major projects and issues are you working on at the moment?

CT: Currently I am involved with a complete network restructure, expanding the capabilities of the network to include voice over IP, and looking at ways to link a number of key systems together to ensure that the executive team can extract meaningful data from the systems.

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

CT: Trying to read the trends in software, hardware and networking so I can maintain a three-year strategic plan. With the rapid changes in computer technology today, staying in front is almost a full-time job; every day it seems there are new solutions to problems.

CW: How many IT professionals make up your IT team?

CT: There are four professionals in my team, who work extremely hard to maintain and manage the network that has grown rapidly in the last three years. These staff are the most under-appreciated people. Users often forget that these people are working in an extremely complex, rapidly changing environment; the users' expectations are often unrealistic expecting instant service for minor faults, when there may be higher tasks to be performed first.

CW: What IT courses have you done, and do you plan to do more?

CT: During this year, I have completed IT project management, SQL & SQL PF with Oracle. Before that I completed Advanced MS project, and four core units in the MCSE course. Next year I plan to undertake a part-time undergraduate course in IT.

CW: What is the most pressing issue you face as manager of IT?

CT: I am just seeing the need to provide 24x7 remote access to staff and students. The challenge will be to accomplish this without compromising the overall security or investing huge sums of money in infrastructure.

CW: What is your company Web strategy?

CT: To provide online learning for students, electronic enrolments and flexible delivery.

CW: What is the worst IT disaster you worry about?

CT: Multiple system failures. We all try to build in redundancy and ensure that we have contingency plans, but if several systems all went bad at the same time, it's the stuff of nightmares.

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

CT: Went to a meeting with the wrong files, agenda, minutes, everything. I spent part of the meeting trying to keep up without appearing not to be prepared for what was on the agenda; I ended up having to excuse myself, duck out and ring one of my staff to bring me the right folder.

CW: What would you imagine life to be like without computers?

CT: Probably a whole lot slower; people now expect instant everything, you send an e-mail and you expect a reply. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing; people would relax and adopt a slower pace, maybe good manners would return. Of course, putting the genie back in the bottle would be a big trick.

CW: What would you do if you could rule the world for one week?

CT: Stop all new software development, maybe if we gave the developers one more week they might get the bugs out.

CW: Name five people, living or not, you would invite for a dinner party and why?

CT: Yuri Gargarin - for his courage, being the first man in space, when it was all unknown and his conviction and self-sacrifice in staying with a crippled fighter plane in order to miss a school. Neil Armstrong - for taking that first step, and filling me with the belief that you can do anything if you really want to. Stephen Hawking - a truly intelligent gifted person, not only capable of pure science but able to explain and teach others without pretence. JR. Tolkien. Gene Rodenberry - for preguessing so many wonders - with Star Trek, handheld communicators (mobile phones), floppy disks, computers you could carry and so many other gadgets that we now take for granted.

CW: What takes up your spare time outside of work?

CT: I enjoy spending time with my partner. As we both work in fairly stressful fields, we try to spend as much quality time together either working around the house, or just being us, dining out and enjoying all that Melbourne has to offer. Of course, as I am lucky to be the possessor of a private pilot's licence, when free time arrives (and some spare cash) I can be found at Morrabbin Airport.

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