A day in the life of Chris Tobler, IT Liaison

15 April 2013
Problem solver: Chris Tobler, IT liaison and principle technical officer for the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Biological Sciences department.
Problem solver: Chris Tobler, IT liaison and principle technical officer for the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Biological Sciences department.

MP: What is an average day like for you?
Every department on campus should have an individual who carries the IT Liaison (ITL) role, to act as a point of contact between their department and ICTS - especially during a crisis. I act as first point of call when there's an IT problem in the Percy FitzPatrick institute. I then diagnose whether the problem is user-related, a hardware or software problem, or a broader, more systemic issue. I deal with any immediate IT problems, fixing any issues that fall within the scope of my skills. I find that as an ITL, I often act as the 'canary in the coal mine', providing early reporting of system errors to ICTS.

MP: What are the biggest challenges?
Having patience; for example, a staff member calls me because they have no internet connection, and I see that they forgot to plug in their network cable to their laptop - again. Or trying to get users to understand that when a printer fails to print, for any number of reasons, that sending the document again and again doesn't push the print jobs out by the sheer weight of the documents accumulating in the queue! Where issues fall outside my skill level or access authority, I log a call with the IT Helpdesk. Once an issue has been logged, I follow up with ICTS and report back on issues once they've been resolved. Another one of my roles is to act as a communicator between ICTS and my department. I receive information from ICTS and then decide whether this information needs to be passed on to the students and staff in the rest of the institute and larger department. For example, I'll inform my users about upgrades and building-wide projects that may affect them.

MP: What are some of your job highlights?
I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the job, and the fact that I have a solid network of contacts within ICTS to call on for urgent issues. For this reason, the ICTS departmental move from Upper Campus to Mowbray was challenging, because I can no longer simply pop next door for advice when I need it.

MP: What advice would you offer other IT liaisons?
A capable IT liaison needs good communication skills, a thorough understanding of their own skill set and a willingness to improve if necessary. An ITL should be patient, remain calm under pressure, not panic when things go wrong; and must be willing to hand over problems that exceed their own expertise promptly in order to ensure complaints are dealt with timeously. I would advise departments without IT Liaisons to consider appointing one in order to boost productivity and to improve on issue resolution times. Nominees for the role should have experience and knowledge of a wide range of hardware, software and operating systems as well as a thorough knowledge of the ICTS procedures and policies at UCT, but this isn't always possible in all departments; but anyone with an understanding of technology and a natural curiosity can take on the role and learn on the way.

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Monday Monthly

Volume 32 Edition 05

15 Apr 2013

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