The IT manager and former travel rep tells Elaine Knutt why you can change direction without getting in a spin.
What does an IT manager do?

I co-ordinate the staff responsible for IT in McBains Cooper’s 11 offices. We look after the IT infrastructure and decide which direction it might take in the future. We implement decisions taken by the management team and look at ways of using technology to improve the business. At the moment, we’re testing customer relationship management software that will give us easy access to data on clients.

Do you act as the firm’s IT doctor?

The actual computer maintenance is outsourced, but people ring me up for particular problems. Everyone’s got my work and mobile numbers. I’ve had calls at home at the weekend from people in the office who are distressed because my phone’s off. You do learn to check the obvious first – it’s amazing how often someone hasn’t plugged something in or switched it on.

How did you get switched on to IT?

When I left university, I bought an old computer and had to upgrade it. So, when I came to McBains Cooper, I knew a bit about IT. It was a gradual thing – I started off looking after IT for the building surveyors when we were using just two or three PCs. At one point, I decided I wanted to stay as a building surveyor but I changed my mind just as the job of company IT manager came up.

What made you change your mind?

IT has great prospects. Organisations see it as an enabler, so I see IT management becoming more central. I enjoy it because it’s always changing and there’s always something new to look at. There hasn’t been an immediate effect on my salary, but I think the rewards will grow as IT professionals become management candidates.

What would you say to anyone contemplating a career in IT?

You’ve got to be interested in technology – without that, it’s a long, hard slog. And you’ve got to be prepared to spend your time studying. But if you’re not happy with what you’re doing and you’re reading computer magazines in your spare time, then why not? The only problem is that over here, employers tend to want experience. In the USA or New Zealand, they have a more open attitude to changing careers.

What was your most challenging job?

Working as a rep, because people are always challenging. I worked in the south of France as assistant manager of a children’s camp where we had 300 children arriving twice a week. We used to have an armed guard at the gate – I don’t know whether it was to protect us or the French.

You’re living proof that you don’t have to choose a career at 18 to succeed.

I think you miss out on a lot in life if you follow a career path from 18. Unfortunately, employers don’t always look at it that way. But if I see travel on someone’s CV, I assume they’re capable and prepared to get out and do things.

What do you do in you spare time?

I still enjoy diving – it’s a hangover from my first job measuring marine pollution in New Zealand. My wife and I have just been on a diving holiday in the Red Sea, and we’re thinking of joining a club. And watching cricket – that’s been quite a good hobby for a New Zealander in the past few months.

Age 39 Current job IT manager and associate director, McBains Cooper Qualifications BSc in zoology, Victoria University of Wellington, completed 1981; BSc in building surveying, Greenwich University, completed 1992; Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, 1999 Employment history Laboratory technician monitoring marine pollution, 1982-83; welder, 1983-84; ski instructor in Austria, 1985; resort rep in Austria, France and Greece 1986-89; junior surveyor at Pavehall 1990-91; joined McBains Cooper as a building surveyor in 1992 Lives Old Windsor, Berkshire Salary £30 000-35 000 Drives An old Audi 80 Family Married to Deborah for 10 years