Every Friday Delimiter features an Australian chief information officer, IT director or IT manager. If you’d like to be featured, drop us a line via our online form.
1. How did you get started working in IT?
I originally started as a trainee developer at the Leeton head office of Ricegrowers Co-op (aka ‘Sunrice’). When I moved on from Ricegrowers I commenced an Applied Science degree, which I completed externally through CSU, Wagga Wagga. On that note I will jump on my soapbox and argue that it’s quite critical that society supports those facilities providing access to tertiary education in the regional areas (to address the poor educational outcomes often observed in regional Australia).
2. What has been a satisfying project you’ve worked on along the way?
I think our early adoption of “appliance computing” was our most interesting project from a technical perspective (we started rolling out our custom single image Linux desktop in 2004). Deploying a standardised appliance as a client allowed our limited resources to focus on providing greater business value than just desktop support.
From a business perspective, adapting a traditional manufacturing-centric ERP to manage supply driven manufacturing of an agricultural product (grapes) has been very rewarding. As well as developing winemaking modules, we also have provided integration to our growers quality test results and just-in-time scheduling of grape deliveries into the wineries’ grape crushers.
3. What emerging technologies or concepts do you find the most intriguing?
Robotics, self-driving vehicles, ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things. Mix in universal networks and the exponential growth of computing power and we are looking at the Industrial Revolution 2.0 (at least a repeat of the socially disruptive effects that occur as it becomes cost-effective to replace a significant number of jobs). With less ‘legacy’ jobs available and a larger and older workforce looming, a strong and ongoing societal commitment to learning and training will be an obvious requirement.
I am also fascinated by medical and biotech research and the ongoing advances in genetics (including how epigenetics is helping our understanding of gene expression), and how gene sequencing is being used to understand human evolution and migration.
4. What problems do you think the IT industry urgently needs to solve — where are the pain points?
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) engagement at school and the issue of diversity. Australia is struggling to engage kids in STEM, especially girls. We are going backwards — in my earlier days IT was perceived as an attractive career choice for many girls, but unfortunately this is no longer the case. I fear that without this diversity many IT departments struggle to effectively engage with the organisations they serve.
At a business level, the increasing cost of compliance is becoming quite horrific. Some analysis indicates that up to 16 percent of organisational resources is deployed on compliance. In reality this is as much a societal and political issue as a technical one.
5. What policy settings do you think would help develop Australia’s tech sector?
I would like Australia’s political class (and Australians more broadly) to have a less confused engagement with technology. On one hand Australians love technology with a near cargo-cult like worship of overseas technology vendors, and yet we struggle as a nation to acknowledge the part technology will play in Australia’s future prosperity.
The Australian medical technology sector has done a better job of capturing the public and media interest (and thus the interest of the political class). There may be lessons to be learnt for the rest of the Australian tech sector.
6. What’s your hobby or hobbies outside of work?
Who has time for hobbies :) I am a passionate reader (news, business, behavioural economics, tech, science, sci-fi and fantasy … and many other random books, articles and journals). I love travelling (abroad and in Australia), music (collecting, listening, and attending rock/blues/pop concerts) and salami making (in winter).
I also occasionally play squash (in summer), do gardening (in spring), and I am trying to suck less at snowboarding (more ambition than skill, unfortunately). I also have plans to repair and register my old motorcycles (though a replacement is more likely), and I would love to finish my flying lessons one day. I enjoy wine, really enjoy exotic and craft beers, new and interesting foods, and dining with family and friends.
I must also admit to being a cricket tragic …