CPM Value: Read All About It

Sydney-based Stuart Read is a 40-something IT professional and golfing enthusiast who was passionate about technology from an early age. He’s been working in the industry for over 25 years, recently joined ITPA and has subsequently embraced the Certified Practicing Member (CPM) program.

Read’s memories of IT go right back to the mid-1980s when his parents purchased one of those ill-fated Formosa Apple II clones and with encouragement from a friend who had a real Apple started learning everything he could about how they could be applied to work and play.

He can boast about being the first student at his school to ever complete and hand-in a word-processed essay, printed on a trusty Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer.

“I like to think that I was an early adopter of personal computing and could clearly envisage the future potential,” Read said. “I still remember manually doing all the CTRL codes in WordStar, to show off advanced concepts such as italics and underlining.

“About the same time, I proved my BASIC programming mastery with a fairly simple language translation program I wrote, and honed my skills in CP/M.

“Does anyone else remember that awesome 8-bit early attempt at open source? Or am I just showing my age … I mean experience?

“They were the good old days and as I continued to tinker with the Formosa’s innards and learnt tricks like using a hole punch to double the density of 5.25-inch disks (ask me how), I knew that computers were going to be my life and career from that day forth.”

Early start on computer study

Read elected to study Computer Studies as an HSC elective and he took up residency in (for the time) a state-of-the-art BBC Computer lab the school had set up and as Stuart said himself, “the rest is history”. It’s been all about technology ever since (“with a bit of golf thrown in”).

“I’ve often wondered what I might have ended up doing in life, if I hadn’t clicked with computers in my teens,” Read said. “I was always more oriented towards maths, physics and sciences than some other areas of education

“My father was a lecturer in what we now call STEM subjects so some of that must have rubbed off on me. Meanwhile, being a life-long Dr Who fan means that he might also have been a source of inspiration for me.

“I’ve always had a curious streak and a need to understand how things work – especially machines or anything technical – and I enjoy making them do what I want them to.

“I find it interesting how modern technology has found its way into so many professions or aspects of life in ways which would have been hard to imagine when my career started.”

Career started here

Read said that he has always worked in technical roles. His first job was at the stock exchange, working with big stacks of punch cards and other ground-breaking technology.

“I worked as a field tech for Osborne/Gateway, as a repair centre for Computerland and a resident IT guy for BBC Hardware (now Bunnings) where I helped setup a server and desktop SOE as they moved from their old mainframe systems onto an SAP platform,” he said.

“This was followed by a stint at HP looking after Netware and related systems for clients like Telstra and FreightCorp before I found myself working for the NSW Government in an operational team managing shared services for a range of client agencies.”

After school care

After leaving school, Read started an Electrical Engineering degree at UTS but “with the benefit of hindsight” he thinks he should’ve studied Computer Science.

“Back then, there wasn’t the range of IT courses we enjoy now,” he said. “Unfortunately, things at UTS didn’t work out too well for me, so I decided to sign up at TAFE for another Electrical Engineering and IT based course.

“That was a better idea and although I found the practical assignments difficult, they were rewarding. Over the following years, I finished several industry certifications which helped significantly in moving on to better roles as my career rolled on.”

More recently, Read has returned to tertiary study later where he enjoys the flexibility to pursue various options and specialisations online. He has completed the Graduate Certificate in IT Management and is looking at options to resume study towards achieving Masters level.

“In the interim I’m updating or completing other industry certifications including VMware’s VCP, Microsoft’s MCSA/MCSE, Amazon’s AWS, and ITIL,” he said. “Although IT isn’t an industry where tertiary qualifications are mandatory, such as medicine or law, it seems there is now an increased expectation for people to be a tertiary level graduates, particularly for senior roles.

“I didn’t find the absence of tertiary qualifications a barrier to roles earlier in my career, but I have no doubt that relevant industry training (like my Novell CNE) were important in moving forward at key points.

“Over the course of my career, I have worked for a long time in technical and operational posts, but I am now looking to get into more strategic roles, so I’m sure my continuing studies are going to be very important.”

#IStandWithITPA

Read is 100 per cent supportive of ITPA’s stance on the state of the NBN and the influx of 457 visa workers replacing local IT professionals and sees these two issues as the biggest challenges facing the industry and those who work in it.

“I’ve had first-hand experience in both cases and there is plenty of room for improvement,” he said. “Cyber security related challenges are also very important, especially in the face of terrorism threats and international conflict - whether actual or potential.

“Increasing automation will start to have an impact on IT professionals as well. Other industries are more vulnerable and in a lot of cases it is the expanding influence of IT that is driving automation, we are not immune from its impact.

“Hyper-converged infrastructure, cloud services, virtualisation and many other products are already reducing demand for certain skills, but it is increasing elsewhere. Compared to earlier in my career, IT roles are typically seeking a much more diverse skill set.

“There is often a relentless drive for efficiency, so the more skills someone brings to a job then the more likely they are to be employed. This all points to the importance for IT professionals to maintain and update their skills.”

Positively certifiable

This is exactly why Read joined the ITPA after hearing about in relation to the VMware 6 Masterclass course he was doing through IT Masters. Being able to leverage his on-going studies to secure CPM status he thinks will help him find the roles he is looking for.

“I thought being part of ITPA would be a good way to maintain awareness of a wide range of IT issues, build contacts within the IT industry, and enjoy a sense of community with others who are working in the IT field,” he said. “And, I was right.

“I also appreciate the advocacy role ITPA plays in representing the interests of IT professionals, how it works to raise awareness of issues affecting the IT industry, and broadly address and improve the use of technology in our society.

“Clearly the CPM program’s key purpose is to offer IT professionals opportunities to demonstrate their efforts and commitment towards developing, maintaining or expanding their skill set. I think it’s important to do that, given the constantly evolving IT landscape.

“Personally, I’m at a point of transition in my career where I want to move into some new areas while building on my background. The ITPA CPM program is helping me do that as it offers confirmation or recognition of my continuing professional development

Keeping a career moving

As someone who has invested his whole career into practical, operational support work, Read has built a significant skills and knowledge base but he sees continued education and training under the ITPA CPM program as a pathway to career advancement.

“It makes no sense to discard much of what I have already learned over the years and switch to a completely different facet of the IT landscape,” he said. “However, I’m definitely ready for some change and new challenges.

“I’m looking at a few ways to take that on, while retaining and building on what I’ve achieved so far. The chance to share some of what I’ve learned with others is also something that’s important to me.

“Although I’ve selected IT Management as the direction I’m taking, I don’t see that as excluding my practical operational experience.

“I’d like to combine areas I’ve worked across with my interests in virtualisation, cloud, and cyber security to become an interface between the technical and business sides of an organisation.

With all that in mind, I would like to move towards working as a Cyber Security Practice Manager, or similar capacity and it is good that tertiary education institutions are starting to offer these sorts of courses.”

Technology. Where to?

We generally like to close these interviews by asking the subjects what their favourite technology is and what technologies they would like to see that has perhaps not yet been invented.

Stuart is a keen golfer, so he has become very attached to his remote controlled electric golf buggy, but he also sees an almost unimaginable future for robotics.

“I am by no means the only player on the course to use a remote buggy, but it is funny watching them move and change direction like a dalek,” Read said. “I like to think it gives me a competitive edge on the course.

“Next, I want to invent exploding balls that can be activated when the crows steal them – but safety comes first; maybe using an altimeter to arm the bomb above a certain height I have to work out how to select the right ball to detonate, which mustn’t be the one still in my pocket!

“On a more serious note, I am continually amazed at the development of technology in both the medical and IT fields and I like to hear how lives are improved as a result.

“There’s already been enormous progress in the application of robotics to help those with severe injuries and I see nothing but progress ahead as science, medicine, engineering and IT evolve. There is no end to what we could be doing next.

“We are already connecting sensors to neural activity centres and using this to control prosthetics and other devices. It seems to be a matter of time before those things are matured to the point where people can walk again.

“I’m looking forward to reading about those and other technological developments in coming years.”

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