5 minutes with . . . Ron Daniel, Information systems manager, Simsmetal Ltd

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

Ron Daniel: My family lived near Sydney airport, and I quickly became fascinated with all things that could fly. Becoming a pilot was my earliest choice. I eventually applied to join the air force at the end of high school years but missed out during the final testing and interview process.

CW: How did you get into IT?

RD: I completed the Computing Science Degree at NSW Institute of Technology, (now the University of Technology) at a time when that course was rapidly gaining an increased profile in business. My first role out of uni was at a Sydney based consulting firm. I stayed there for more than eight years on various projects in differing roles in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

CW: What duties does your current position involve?

RD: I am directly responsible for the successful operation and use of IT systems by Simsmetal in Australia and New Zealand. Now that Y2K and GST are out of our way, there is the occasional project work of systems evaluation, and implementation that occurs from time to time. Managing a small team of operations support people is first and foremost and we are constantly striving to improve functionality of our systems via software enhancements and features. I am also involved in IT systems-related planning for the whole group.

CW: How many IT professionals in your team?

RD: We have an operational staff in North Sydney of four supporting more than 120 users around Australia and New Zealand. We have similar sized teams and support levels in the US and UK. We outsource and contract in for all our software development and new infrastructure projects.

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

RD: Due to Simsmetal's recent international growth, together with the burgeoning presence of the Internet, we are now evaluating how we can leverage our size, people, processes and our systems to increase our market presence and improve our operations.

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

RD: Keeping up to date with my reading program to stay informed about technology and business. I try and keep abreast of basic news about the economy and business, but having enough time to balance this with the IT must reads and the periodicals is often a struggle.

CW: What IT courses have you completed, and do you plan to undertake additional training?

RD: I don't have any firm plans for any more formal education but would like to complete an MBA by correspondence. Also, I want to learn more of the applications and technicalities of the Internet and wireless and mobile computing. These newest areas seemed hardly even dreamt of when my career in IT started.

CW: Most pressing issue do you face as an IT manager?

RD: The momentum of the Internet and everything 'e', and how to assuage the obvious concerns over the apparent security risks associated with being 'on the Net'.

CW: What is your company Web strategy?

RD: Use it as a conduit to maximise existing market presence and business practices.

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

RD: To be really 'without computers' I would have to imagine it would be like life in the times before the invention of the transistor. Everything would have to be mechanical or manual. A lot of the better aspects of life in those times are lost on some of us now. I suspect that without computers in these modern times our patience levels would be pushed to new extremes.

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

RD: Turn the five days of work into the weekend and the two days of the weekend into work days so everyone could spend some 'quantity time' with family and friends. Somehow, organise the whole of humanity to be fed properly for the week..

CW: What is the most difficult IT decision you have ever had to make?

RD: It wasn't a difficult decision, but it was nonetheless a sad one. It was the scrapping of our previous Wang-based systems in 1995. We had run them for more than 10 years and they had served us well. I learnt later that one of them actually found its way to the Western Australia Computer Museum! No, I haven't been back to visit it.

CW: List three likes and dislikes about your job?

RD: I like talking and working with all people in our company, especially those in the operations and trading areas of the business. I like the size of the place, it allows us to get things done quickly.

Travelling to our other interstate and international operations. I am not a fan of paperwork and administration procedures, telephone surveys, multiple copies of the same junk mail.

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

RD: Nearly 20 years ago, in my first job, we were doing a disk upgrade at one of our clients. The upgrade involved adding a new unit to their system. I set up the process to initialise the drive and set it to run.

I then noticed that the engineer swapped the unit numbers, just as he was supposed to, and my initialisation process was merrily erasing the entire boot disk!

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

RD: A great dinner party would have a mix of people from various fields. People who I have admired for their individual achievements and their personalities would include Billy Connolly, Greg Norman, David Hill, Gai Waterhouse, Stephanie Alexander.

CW: Where do you see yourself in five years time?

RD: Simsmetals' growth, particularly internationally, sees some large systems projects being identified right now. I see my role and responsibility increasing to have key involvement in these group projects. In five years I aim to achieve a CIO position in an Australian-based company.

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

RD: Watching my children at Saturday sports, or the myriad of things to do around the house and garden, which luckily is a complete break away from work. I'm also a golf addict, although only average at it, and a keen photographer.

CW: What is the worst IT disaster you fear could happen?

RD: My job and that of my team is to provide service and systems to our user base. Losing their faith in us or our systems' capabilities is my biggest worry.

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