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MGT-651: Interview Assignment

IT Interview with Mike Lottridge

The focus of my interview assignment was to interview an IT professional. I decided to interview Mike Lottridge, a Technical Consultant at Choice Technology Group Inc. The company is an independent Information Systems consulting firm focused on small to mid-sized companies. Their specialties include Planning, Networking, Site Administration and Support. If you are interested to find out more about the company, the website is //www.choicetechnology.ca

Now let find out more about Mike and his profession.

Mike has a BA in English from the University of Ottawa. After graduation he took an intern position at Bell Canada selling phone cards and then got recruited to work at the CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) where he received training for internal auditing. Then he made the shift to work at IBM Canada in 1966 where he received specialized training and worked in a computer lab. He did mention that it was quite intimidating because other people who worked there were technical/computer engineers. While working at IBM he was part of the team that built the computer program for insurance companies and he got to spend a year in Chicago working there for IBM. He really enjoyed his time in Chicago. Then he got transferred to work on a special project for Northern Life Insurance in London Ontario to build their computer program, where he got hired as an Officer for 5 years before he came back to the Niagara area to help run a family tire business until 1993. He then joined up with his old high school friend to started up the Choice Technology Group Inc. with the idea of offering IT services to small and mid-size businesses that cant afford to hire their own IT person.

Because Mike has been involved with IT for so long I asked him how is he thinks about the transition from big computers to smaller ones.

He said thats how technology works. In the old days we had a big computer that filled up the room but used less power than the smaller ones of today, which I found interesting. As everything becomes smaller, cheaper and able to do more things, RAM becomes cheaper but this can cause inefficient programming and bad use of data files. Because the cost constraint that used to be there is no longer a factor, people dont care much about programming. For example, a giant computer that runs the whole system for Northern Life Insurance has 64 KB of memory compared to the regular office computer these days of about 4 billion KB which is tremendously greater. So in those days when you write a program to fit in the 64 KB computer you have to be very precise. But again these days nobody cares because its so much cheaper to mass produce overseas and its easier to write programs to fit into a 4 billion KB computer.

Mike also gave another example-Lotus program (which I am familiar with) is about 1 MB in term of size. Now the Excel program takes about 150 MB and does no more functions than Lotus.When asked why, Mike said because Excel is from Microsoft which has about 97%share of the office product activities market. This means the other 3% cant compete with Microsoft. Also, because most people use Excel you have to use Excel to be able to communicate and connect with the majority of people.

When asked what he thought about scams and hackers? Mike said technology makes everything wide open because of the internet. This creates opportunities for scams and hackers can even hack into computers from the other side of the world. When asked, Is a hacker a computer engineer? Mike said its not necessary, it just has to be someone who understands program. On a large scale, you get hackers hacking into a large company to steal information such as credit card information. But this is the way it works with everything - pros and cons, good and bad, advantages and disadvantages.

Mike described his main duties at Choice Technology as basically problem solving, from when anything goes wrong with the existing installation, computer or server to new installation, training, set up, infrastructure, upgrade programs. Anything we can help to get our client IT system up and running as soon as possible. Most of the clients are in the Niagara area from businesses with 5 computers to 50-60 computers. The biggest clients they have in terms of numbers are ASI and CanEng.

When asked what is his favorite part of his job and why? Mike said part of his job that gave him the most pleasure is finding the solution to different problems. He likes the feeling of finding a solution to each problem because each business, each task, has different problems and that require different solutions to solve. He admitted that sometimes he cant sleep thinking about the problem that he needs to solve. He also likes to get to know and interact with different people while he works at each site.

Mike believes that the common misconception about the work he does is that he can fix anything. Sometimes things are not fixable getting a new computer would be easier. Clients also need to understand whether the problem can be fixed with Mikes expertise or not. Lets say something goes wrong with my fund raising program (Donation Tracker) at work. I should call Donation Tracker because they are the ones who have knowledge about the program. But if I dont know whats wrong this is where Mike would come in to help identify the issue whether it is an application or infrastructure issue.

The common question his clients ask him is, When can you get here? But the question that he found most annoy is usually after the job is done is, What was wrong with it?because some of it can be silly, like the cord is bad. Sometime tons of things were wrong (e.g. virus, technical) and it normally takes time to narrow them down to the core issue. He normally tries to keep the answer easy for clients to understand-- short and brief. (Now I know what questions I shouldnt ask him too often.)

When asked, what emerging technology trend he believes will transform his job in the future? Mike found this question very interesting. He said originally we had a giant computer as a server, and people connected to the server would key data into it and pull data out of it to work on and send back to the server. But now there is so much data, where we are going to put it. For this reason he believes Cloudwill transform his job in the future.

Cloud is the phrase often used in reference to network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware, but are in fact served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more real machines. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up or down on the fly without affecting the end user, some what like a cloud-- becoming larger or smaller without being a physical object.

In common usage, the term "the cloud" is essentially a metaphor for the Internet. Marketers have further popularized the phrase "in the cloud" to refer to software, platforms and infrastructure that are sold "as a service",i.e. remotely through the Internet. Typically, the seller has actual energy-consuming servers which host products and services from a remote location, so end-users don't have to; they can simply log on to the network without installing anything. The major models of cloud computing service are known as software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service. These cloud services may be offered in a public, private or hybrid network. Google, Amazon, Salesforce, and Microsoft Azure are some well-knowncloud vendors.

Mike also added that the Cloud Computing always has been there but it was the internet that makes it easier. The internet was built during the cold war for the military to be able to connect and then after the cold war it was turn over to the universities to use to contact one other. Then it developed into e-mail and other stuff as they keep developing and adding more. It exploded in the 90s. This is why Blackberry still exists because the military use blackberry as it is more secure than the iPhone.

I asked Mike if he were to be invited to a University to give a guest lecture to an MBA class, what message would he try to convey to the students related to his job? Here is whatMike has to say.

Technology is a business tool. It is there for the business to record, to save and to document all of their corporate information Businesses can get their invoices, statements, financial statements out on time. When you look at IT from the business perspective its got to be there to serve the business - not the other way around. For example, dont buy the program just because you got a good deal on it.

I asked Mike, how he keeps himself up to date with technology? Mike said that technology changes so rapidly that he needs to do lots of research, reading on the fly, to keep up with it or when he runs into a new issue/problem. Until you go through the conversion or problem you really dont know. However, you have to know the basics and some engineering parts of how things work just like you have to know how to skate before you can play hockey.

What do you think aboutsocial network (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)? Mike believes social networks have been high-jacked by businesses. For example, Facebook started out as a social site, where people with common interests can connect. Now they use your information for demographics and push ads at you by selling ads to businesses. They put a corporate influence into it. Notice that when you search for something online, it seem to keep popping up on Facebook. Also when you sign up for a new app they ask to access your information and post on your behalf. Mike thinks social network is not really social its corporate. Its ways to sell products. And then to top it all off, anything that you put in social network - its for the world to see. Once its out there you have no control over it, you give up your privacy. Facebook is popular because of peers pressure. To him social network is good idea that become commercialized. Dont confuse the toy of technology with business technology.

Mikes favorite business websites are Dell and Golfnow websites. He likes Dell site because ofits functionality. You can buy computers and other technical stuff on the site. If you buy a computer from Dell you can look up your history, warranty etc. If anything goes wrong with the computer you can research the solution on line. He likes the Golfnow website because he likes to play golf and was able find discounts for golf locally and in other countries on this site.

As I work at a small office we use services from Choice Technology every time we have any computer issues. This is how I got to know Mike for quite a few years. He is normally quiet and reserved. This interview assignment gave me a good opportunity to learn more about him and his profession. Its amazing how much information I got from interviewing Mike.

I hope everyone enjoyed reading and watching the video J

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