IT Project Management and Consulancy

About

A brief history about my career

Looking at my CV is confusing for recruiters as I don’t exactly fit into an orderly slot that they can understand and promote.

 

The reason for this is that I have had in depth experience in such a wide range of disciplines over the years.

I have a talent for being able to drop into a situation. Identify the key tasks that need to be done to bring everything back into focus, and communicate that to the appropriate people to make things happen. One client referred to me as the Red Adair of the IT world – which as a little embarrassing as all I had done was google the answer. But – hey! I understood what was needed and implemented it in record time – saving the company’s bacon!

I started my career in IT in the late 80’s when everything was still in black and white and I think a lot of my abilities stem from the fact that in those days you were really dealing with the nuts and bolts at a ground level. You had to know how things worked because there were no fancy gadgets to take care of it for you.

In the early 90’s I worked for an accountancy software development company so I have a reasonable working knowledge on programming languages and find it useful to be able to knock up a piece of code even today.

Moving on into re-seller support in 1992, I provided helpdesk and consultancy support as part of one of the UK’s largest technology distributor. We now know them as Tech-Data but back then it was called Frontline Distribution and had just been acquired by Computer 2000. By the time we got to the problem the dealer had already tried the most obvious things so it was an interesting and challenging role. I especially enjoyed the relationships I built with various hardware and software manufacturers and am still in touch with many of my former colleagues to this day.

In 1994 I was headhunted for an International Support role at Siemens Nixdorf Computer (subsequently Fujitsu Siemens and now Fujitsu Computers). I was responsible for 26 countries as third line support and got involved in many projects all over the world for organisations such as Norwegian Telecom, Macro (China), Daimler-benz, the DSS and many more. The main aspect of the role involved getting to grips with projects that had gone off track, putting the resources and plans in place to get it back on-track, and finally handing it back to the Project Manager. I learnt shed loads. This was also the time that the World Wide Web was exploding and I used by down time at Siemens to write a document and patch management system to index and present new patches to the first and second line support teams streamlining their patch management and increasing productivity by over 90%. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Siemens but left to become a self employed contractor in May 1996.

As a freelance IT Trainer and Consultant I continued to provide services worldwide. I became a Microsoft Certified Trainer and spent a good part of the next 3 years in the classroom delivering courses on behalf of many well known training organisations. These were not just the basic Windows Server or Desktop courses, I would deliver anything from Data Warehousing to Systems Centre. I also wrote and delivered my own training courses on Unix, Perl, and Windows.

I was one of the guest speakers at Networks 97 demonstrating inter-operability between Windows and Unix devices. This presentation was repeated later that year for the HP users group.

My first contract was three weeks in New Deli setting up a training centre for Santa Cruz Operation (the worldwide owners of Unix) as part of a longer term project where I set up similar operations in Finland and South Africa.

In the latter part of the 90’s I participated in a number of projects project managing the IT portion of office refurbishment projects in the City of London. I got involved in designing and implementing some of the first wireless networks in the UK,

Around the same time I was asked to consult for Mitsubishi PC Division (formerly Apricot Computer) at the NEC Group diagnosing and correcting performance issues with a new self billing catering system that was sat on their server platform. Little did I know at the time that this relationship would lead to the formation of Innovit Education as well as a more long term relationship with the National Exhibition Centre.

Over the Christmas period of 1998 I migrated a secondary school network from Novell 4 to Windows NT – again on behalf of Mitsubishi, and fell in love with working in the Education sector. The school was one of 12 selected by Microsoft to pioneer the concept of Anytime Anywhere Learning – where every student was provided with a laptop for their own personal use. In fact 300 landed the same week I was on site, much to the surprise and consternation of the Network Manager who had no knowledge of the project up to that point!

I was alarmed and intrigued as I could see glaring holes in what the school was planning. Not least a serious bottleneck in the network topology. But as this was not part of my scope of works all I could do at this stage was pass comment and hope.

Three months later I was asked back to the school. They had severe performance issues on the laptops as well as a high rate of damage and some dissatisfied parents.

I pointed out that laptops were not actually meant to be used as goalposts (or thrown out of the bus window) and they had some supervision issues to deal with.

Most obvious issues around performance were to do with the type of wireless technology their re-seller had recommended. At the time there were two competing technologies – Direct Sequenced Spread Spectrum (DSSS) and Frequency Hopping. Suffice it to say that the re-seller had installed the least effective one and this was leading to large amounts of packet loss.

There were also issues to do with network performance due to a past relocation of the server room. This meant that the servers were not at the core of the network and all sharing a single 100MB (yes that is MB) uplink to the core. We installed a new fibre to the server room and upgraded the link to 4GB (1GBx4 trunked) which in those days was a significant investment but lo and behold!….. Network problems gone away! – Magic!

Unfortunately there was little we could do about the wireless technology as the school had bought it on a 5 year lease so couldn’t afford to replace it. I fine tuned it as best as the firmware would allow which improved the reliability of connection, but it never really performed properly. Incidentally, the replacement system that I designed and specified 5 years on worked beautifully and was only replaced after 7 years to adopt the new wireless standards.