Don't you love those web sites that say "About Us" and you pretty soon realize that there's one guy and one computer? Well I'm one guy with a computer as well, but what you see is what you get.
I wrote my first program in 1966. And it worked perfectly first time. So did the next four programs. Things didn't stay quite that rosy, but I graduated with a nice shiny BSc in Computer Science and came to Canada. I worked for Manufacturer's Life for about 18 years in an IBM mainframe world as a techie, a manager, and a techie again. It was there that I learned how to analyse a situation, solve a problem even when it seemed impossible, and how to organize, plan and test so that things worked as they were expected to do.
In 1988 I joined the City of Toronto to manage the support arm of their Information Centre (IC). PCs were coming in, and gradually became the main focus of my work, although the mainframes still demanded some attention. Now I was learning to work in a different environment (municipal, unionised) and more directly involved with business units. I developed an agreement with the Purchasing department which streamlined PC purchases and saved the City money. I dealt with all departments to assess computing needs, and created a help desk and a walk-in centre. When the IC was closed as part of downsizing, I moved to manage the IT needs of the Toronto Fire Department and learned about mapping, dispatching, radios and fire trucks. We got 200+ Fire Captains trained in word processing and e-mail, and put new computers in all the Fire Halls. After Toronto's amalgamation from six municipalities and Metro Toronto into one, I brought together six IT groups and formed an integrated unit. As Fire Chiefs would rather spend money on pumpers than computers, working for Fire Services taught me how to stretch dollars.
In 1999 I traded a 4-hour daily commute for an exit package and a twenty-minute drive to the Canadian Red Cross, where as IT Manager I looked after just about everything which had more technology in it than a stapler. 20+ servers, a building network, 300+ PCs across Ontario, building security, phones, fax machines and photocopiers. My penny pinching continued and I reduced my budget each year and provided better service. I got a problem tracking system and an automatic call distribution system running so that less time was spent losing track of problem reports. I developed an in house database to track employees across Ontario, and keep tabs on their complex working arrangements, where one person would often work in several locations, and tied it into payroll and our computer directories, so that when someone in Timmins left, we could secure e-mail accounts without having to wait for the husky to deliver the news.
Mainly what I learned in these three jobs is that it's not about computers and technology, it's about people. I had great staff working for me, so I learned to leave the techie details to them, while I sweated the big picture. Our clients had their jobs to do, and they didn't always see the computer as a friend. I came to respect that (although I still don't understand it!) and became a champion for their rights. Whenever a major change was mandated from above, I made it part of my job to put user education, user training, and communications into the plan.
Since 2003 I have been semi-retired, running Creekwood Digital Solutions and enjoying (well, some of the time) my teen-aged children, my home workshop and in Summer the deck and my bicycle. I volunteer as a business advisor with a non-profit group that services small businesses in South Western Ontario, and I maintain their web site. I've re-learned photography the digital way, and have begun to edit 14 years of home video onto DVDs.
Since January 2007, I have been a regular contributor to Microsoft's Canadian Small Business Forum, writing articles for entrepreneurs, especially those who are starting out in small business after leaving the corporate fold.
My objective now is to divide my weekdays roughly equally between commercial enterprises, volunteering and home projects. Some weeks there will be more of one than another, but I'd like to address all three. I want to work with people and enjoy the feeling of making a difference to the way they work. Saving them time and effort. Showing someone a handy tip. I don't want the four hour commute, the excessive politics, or the 10 hour days, but I still want to make a difference.
If you want see if I can make a difference for you, please contact me by phone or e-mail.