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IT adds up

Published on Friday, 06 Sep 2013
Gerrit Bahlman says there is enormous competition for competent IT staff.
Photo: Sky Lip

PolyU recruits to meet rising internet demand

As society’s demand for internet connectivity anytime, anywhere and through multiple devices increases, universities are feeling the pressure just as much as companies and organisations.

Students, staff, alumni and visitors using new teaching technologies and learning-management systems on a variety of devices and applications – such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and virtual desktops – are increasingly demanding constant connectivity.  
“People simply expect there will be robust, always present, copious capacity in the networks and wireless services,” says Gerrit Bahlman, director of IT at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). “The impact on infrastructure, security management, capacity management and service delivery has been dramatic. We have seen a 300 per cent rise in demand for wireless connectivity in a year as the impact of multiple devices challenges our Wi-fi infrastructure capacity.”

In response to new technology and subsequent opportunities to improve learning, teaching and research, PolyU has dramatically increased its investment in IT security staff and systems. It now aims to fill several key IT positions, adding to the 150 people employed by the IT Services Office (ITS). The main objective is to ensure the reliability and safe usage of IT services, without any obstructions to what users want to do.

The university is looking for an associate director of the ITS who can assist the director in achieving the university’s long-term goals regarding direction, strategy and information. They will also provide leadership and produce plans for service design, transition and operation covering all aspects of development.

Positions are also open for analyst programmers and programmers. Analyst programmers examine user requirements and perform tasks relating to system design, development, testing, implementation and support. Programmers work on system-development tasks such as programming, testing, implementation, maintenance, enhancement and support.

An IT officer and assistant IT officers are also required to provide various university departments with technical advice on information security and controls from an operational perspective. They will also assist in managing, monitoring and maturing the information security management framework, conduct security assessments on information systems, handle information security incidents, and research information security technology.

“Finding technical staff with experience, common sense and the ability to enhance the university’s safety is a real challenge. There is enormous competition for competent people – the war for the best talent is a reality for the information technology industry,” Bahlman says.

Bahlman seeks people who can focus on internal customers and partners so that they are able to understand business problems and user needs. Applicants should understand that technology is the servant, not the master, and is there to solve problems.

“Getting close to the business needs of our internal partners, and parking your ego, is an essential ingredient for success,” Bahlman says, adding that he has seen only too many times unused and ineffectively applied new technology introduced without any understanding of business needs.

Bahlman is seeking people with skills in MS-SQL, VDI, HyperV, VMware, storage virtualisation, Java or CRM packages. Younger applicants should also display good soft skills and a high EQ.

“Soft skills are a necessary capability for people in more senior positions,” he says. “Staff who do not have good EQ really cannot be promoted into more senior roles. Without good people skills, a person can do serious damage to the reputation of a service centre. Understanding the unique nature of managing customers, clients and partners is a very valuable skill.”

All positions require proficiency in written and spoken English, and preferably fluency in written and spoken Cantonese and Putonghua.

New staff members are given an induction by the HR office and the ITS on the university’s general policies, staff handbook, campus facilities and IT facilities.

Training is organised by HR for all university staff. IT staff are encouraged to work with their supervisors and establish their personal and professional development goals during the appraisal cycle.

“There are a range of training opportunities made available to staff that help orient and build professional skill sets,” Bahlman says. “The focus of staff development is on acquiring certified qualifications in IT service management, project management, IT/IS security and network engineering. There are also group training workshops which are held regularly.”

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