5 minutes with . . . Paul Snedden

5 minutes with . . . Paul Snedden, network and communications administrator, GBM LOGiC (NSW)Computerworld: As a child, what did you want to be when you 'grew up'?

Paul Snedden: The very first thing I ever wanted to be was a fireman. When I joined the Boy Scouts at age eight, becoming a fireman soon changed to being a soldier.

CW: How did you get into IT?

PS: I honestly don't remember when I made the decision to get into IT. My parents bought me my first computer when I was 12. It was a Texas Instruments' TI-99/4A that came with two cartridge games, and not much else.

My brother and I played those games as much as we could, but I also dabbled with the BASIC programming language that was built in. The very first 'useful' program that I wrote was a drawing program, which I modelled on the Logo program on the Apple computers at my school.

CW: What duties does your current position involve?

PS: I administer our NT network, which consists of two file servers, a RAS server, a Web server, and our Linux-based Internet access server (e- mail, ftp, proxy, etc). The Sydney office is still growing at a decent rate, and I look after pretty much all the IT-related tasks, including e-mail set-up, help desk, etc. We have about 60 users here in Sydney, so I'm kept fairly busy.

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

PS: We have implemented our internally-developed inventory and job management software, so there is ongoing maintenance of that, as well as keeping our back-end Web server running. There are daily spot fires, which are always a challenge. With more employees coming on board, it's nice to be able to present them with a standard set of policies and procedures for IT-related information, including password and account management, help desk issues, e-mail issues, and the like. Developing this set of policies and procedures is uppermost in my mind.

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

PS: Time management is a challenge, because there is always something happening. Being able to maximise that comes from training the user base, but I believe I've done that so I can focus on the more important issues first. I think the only downside to the relationship I have with the people here is the fact that they don't like how calm I am all the time. I don't like getting stressed over things, so I leave that up to everybody else.

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

PS: In Sydney, there is our IT manager, three programmer/analysts, and myself. Our head office in Melbourne has a similar structure, although they have more programmer/analysts and two full-time network guys (network administrator and help desk support). A lot of our direction comes from Melbourne, but they're always ready to listen to ideas that I have. I have also been called on from time to time to assist in the network set-up of our Canberra office as it doesn't have a dedicated IT team.

CW: Most pressing issue you face as a network and communications administrator?

PS: Hitting that elusive 99.999% uptime is my aim. Any network administrator who says they are achieving that is either lying or doesn't work in a real environment. There are so many factors involved, such as server maintenance, power failures, hardware and software upgrades, all of which require downtime of some sort. If you have uptime of 99.999% and your site runs 24x7 that means you have downtime of almost nine hours a year. That's not very much at all when you add in all those planned and unplanned items I mentioned.

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

PS: When Windows 95 first came out, the company I was working for wanted to 'upgrade' to it. Our network administrator and I decided to upgrade the current hardware we had, rather than purchasing a stream of new computers.

It was a very difficult decision, because of the work involved and the troubleshooting that had to occur with the hardware upgrades. Purchasing the new machines would have been far easier, but the rollout went pretty well so we were happy.

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

PS: If you had asked me this while I was at university, my answer would have been to destroy Microsoft. Three friends and I started our very own software company (Casual Software) with the mission to provide the same sort of software that Microsoft sold, but ours would be free. We coded some good stuff, but we were young and naive then and the Billgatron was worth a measly $10 billion.

CW: What is your company's Web strategy?

PS: We're getting some fantastic feedback from our customers about our 'gbmlogic.gateway' Web presence. Being able to order point-of-sale materials from our customised online catalogue, and track it from time-of-order to time-of-completion has been called for in our industry.

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

PS: Julian Hare (an NT and Unix 'guru' that I once worked with. My dream is to remember half that Julian has forgotten). Samuel L Jackson (my favourite actor, but only if he has facial hair at the time of the dinner party). Ludwig Van Beethoven (I'm developing quite a liking for his symphonies). Bill Holder (An old high school friend of mine, because I haven't seen him in more than five years). Socrates (nice dress).

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

PS: I'm not what you'd call one of those corporate high flyers that zip from company to company. I like to settle in for a while and get things done. Working for a company that's still in its early days is fantastic, because I can watch it grow, and grow with it.

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

PS: Spending time with my partner (Carol) and our three boys is an adventure all its own, but I love every minute of it.

Up until last year, I was also refereeing Division One basketball, but I retired because of a back injury I suffered while playing. A lot of my friends ask for my help with their home computers and what not.

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

PS: With the increasing amount of virii and worms that are appearing each day, I worry that we will become infected. I try and stay on top of these by providing an automated system for our users to update their antivirus software, as well as keeping them informed about events we hear or read in the media.

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