IT Technical Management
- Full time
- Part time
- One time
Managing technical teams in integration, support and development.
Mango, a young and expanding low cost carrier, had decided that they should insource the development and support of their reservation system. This required building a team proficient in all the technologies underpinning this application. This included Linux as the server OS for the back end systems, which involved a Tuxedo hosted set of services backed by an Informix database server and Windows as the front end platform for both a VB GUI and a .NET web application.
The applications were a mixture of C, C++, SQL and VB with supporting scripts in bash, perl and Windows command language.
As some of the required skills are quite scarce and people who have experience of even just a majority of these skills even more scarce, recruiting the staff for the planned team proved more problematic than anticipated. The result of this is that I had to become adept in all areas on the back end and some on the front end (we had managed to locate a Windows developer). All of this was happening at the same time as I built a new development environment and implemented development policies.
Added to this were the requirements to learn a new industry and to take over a lot of the relationships with both our local and foreign outsource partners. Mango also have a growing number of business partners in both the banking and retail sectors with which the internal systems need to integrate, this required me to take over all technical integration engagements with these partners.
Standard Bank Africa
SBA were taking a slightly different approach to providing computing services throughout Africa involving a different Core Banking supplier and deploying servers in-country rather than a centralized solution. To ensure the quality of this initiative they were setting up an Architecture team for the Africa environment.
Due to my extensive and varied experience in various IT roles I was considered an appropriate candidate to join this young and growing team. My initial responsibilities were to fill the Architecture role for the Core Banking rollout with particular emphasis on the newly developed ESB which was seen as a key factor in the success of the program. This allowed me to apply my extensive experience of integration to ensuring that the correct approach and best practices were applied to the integration effort.
Six months later when my contract came up for renewal SBA offered me a permanent position. As I was enjoying the role and the team I worked with, not to mention the fact that they made the offer quite attractive, I accepted.
Since then I have become more deeply involved in the Core Banking programme, though still retaining my architectural responsibilities for integration technology across Africa. Core Banking has involved me in all aspects of banking activities covering channels, payments, cash management and other areas. It has also involved mediating conflicting viewpoints and priorities (e.g. project deadline versus long term strategy) which, though sometimes challenging, has been an interesting experience.
I joined Barclay's ZA Data Center to provide support for the MQ network that connects Barclays banks throughout Africa and Asia. This was part of an initiative to replace IBM as the total outsource provider with contractors reporting directly to the Data Centre.
My initial duties included manging the knowledge transfer from IBM, but when I realized that IBM had no real procedures in place, nor any foundation for scalability, I developed a set of shell scripts to allow for easier maintenance and administration of the MW infrastructure. These scripts have allowed me hand over first line support to an established team that were lacking in MQ skills, with the team that I have started to build providing 2nd and 3rd line support. (Scripting was used because 'development' is frowned upon in this Data Centre environment so there were no real languages available to me at that time, see below).
When I started the MQ infrastructure was supporting banks in two countries, it has since expanded to 5 countries with another 5 in the pipeline at the moment. During these months I have been actively involved in re-architecting parts of the infrastructure to further reduce dependency on IBM by streamlining the steps in processing RTGS payments to the Reserve Bank of India. I have also implemented management of remote Queue Managers via a proxy Queue Manager to simplify support of payment processing for both RTGS and SWIFT payments.
Unix Technical Manager
In March of 2009 I was offered the management of the Unix team. This team consisted of 7 AIX, 2 Solaris and 1 Linux specialists responsible for the 100+ LPARs, 22 Solaris Zones and ever growing number of Red Hat Linux servers on which Barclays hosts banking operations for the emerging markets.
To date I have overseen the design and deployment of a more secure user management environment, the introduction of LDAP and the creation of a test environment in which to simulate our SAN infrastructure. These among many other innovations...
Johannesburg, South Africa
Initially my responsibilities here ranged from designing middleware solutions to supporting these solutions once deployed. The majority of the implementations were effected to support Sasol's national network. The work involved liaising with Sasol's business and technical staff on an ongoing basis. The principal purpose of the middleware was to facilitate interfacing of the SAP systems with other, specialized, systems in use at Sasol and with the financial institutions. The technologies involved were NEON's (now Sybase) eBiz Integrator, MQ Series and webMethod's Integration and Enterprise Servers.
For the last couple of years I have been responsible for investigating the use of J2EE and other Open Source technologies to address clients' integration needs. This has covered various commercial packages and the broad range of open source solutions available, though concentrating on products from the JBoss group and the Apache Software Foundation.
I have also acted as Service Delivery Manager managing the support of a WebSphere MQI based integration infrastructure for a major corporation's national network and have been responsible for setting up the support of the webMethods solution in use at one of South Africa's major mobile telephone network operators.
When not involved in some technical issue for Business Connexion or one of our clients I spent my time assisting our sales teams in correctly positioning integration software and Open Source based solutions for our clients and prospects.
My latest assignment has been to take Vodacom's vodamail.co.za email offering live as a free service. This resulted in the number of mailboxes growing from 80,000 to over 700,000 in one year. This growth required the configuration and deployment of additional servers and the building of a small team to support these. The service has been so successful in South Africa that my last assignment has been to implement the same solution, with some local...
S2 Systems International
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Due to the breakdown of the relationship with their distributor in the Middle East S2 contacted me and offered me the role of setting up their technical services in the region. This involved developing relationships with seven client banks in the Emirates and five in Saudi Arabia. Most of these banks had no knowledge of S2 as they were used to dealing with the departed distributor. During my time in Dubai I managed, with three staff in Saudi and two others in the UAE, to establish S2 as a local player. This has provided the sales force with the ability to position S2's next generation system as a replacement for the aging ON/X system currently in use in the UAE and the more powerful ON/2 in use in Saudi.
Even after leaving S2 I was recalled at the request of one of the client banks to undertake a project to migrate their ON/X system to a more powerful NCR platform. This project was completed to the satisfaction of both the Bank and S2.
Plainville, CT, USA
This company was primarily a supplier of contract staff to the US and international markets. I joined as a contractor shortly after arriving in the USA as a means of gaining time to locate the correct career opportunity.
While there I developed and implemented a bill of materials explosion system at General Electric that operated on both the IBM System/38 for the factory requirements and on PCs for the certification process with the underwriters. This was developed in such a manner that the same code was utilized on both systems, thus easing the maintenance effort in the future.
NEON instructor and delivered many courses
Johannesburg, South Africa
This was a management consultancy firm with which I had had dealings over the years. During those years the founders had retired or moved into other business areas and the company had ceased to operate. I obtained the use of the name and intended to resurrect the firm as a more focused supplier of consultants to the IT industry. However, for various reasons, primarily the difficulty in locating people who truly understand IT and were willing to leave the security of their employment, MSD remained Mike Kenny.
My clients included the major banks in South Africa, South African Airlines, an insurance claims switch and others. My responsibilities varied with the clients. I was responsible for the design and development of a UNIX based network monitoring system used to control Standard Bank's 1600+ ATMs and also a senior member of the team supporting the system that runs the ATM transactions. During the 5 years that I spent supporting Standard Bank's ON/2 ATM switching system I was involved in many product enhancement projects. Some as part of a team others as a sole contributor, among these was the conversion of the batch interface to the Bank's backend mainframe from an SNA base to tcp/ip. I managed various projects such as upgrading a healthcare insurance verification system from one generation of Stratus hardware to the latest, RISC based, version and the implementation of an Airline Reservation System.
When my client, Dimension Data, obtained the distributorship for NEON's range of middleware products my role changed so that I became the technical arm of the NEON sales team. In this role I participated in sales presentations, proof of concepts and architectural design through to project management. The varied nature of these roles was necessitated as we grew the skills base for these types of messaging solutions. During this period I became certified as a NEON instructor and delivered many courses on the use of NEON's technology. I was...
technical specialist implementing the solutions and training distributors' staff
Dallas, TX, USA
S2 Systems are one of the leading suppliers of OLTP solutions for switching and processing ATM and POS transactions. In 1990 they embarked on a project to diversify from the proprietary Stratus system to more open UNIX systems. Due to the scarcity of good technical resources with both COBOL and UNIX skills I was an ideal candidate for this project.
Initially I was responsible for porting S2's applications from Stratus (using VOS COBOL & PL/1) to AIX (using Micro Focus COBOL & C). Later I implemented these applications on NCR, Sequent and Stratus's version of UNIX, FTX. I then joined International Professional Services and traveled as both a sales support resource, assisting the sales people in correctly presenting the products and as a technical specialist implementing the solutions and training distributors' staff.
tools and compilers. As I had participated in a number of beta release programs for Micro Focus while in the UK, I was approached to join their Philadelphia office.
Once settled I became the technical side of the OEM Marketing team. This involved technical presentations of prototype development tools to the larger ISVs and to the major manufacturers of UNIX workstations. I also designed and developed some of these prototypes and assisted many of the ISVs to migrate from Ryan MacFarland COBOL to Micro Focus. The work was almost exclusively on UNIX platforms and written in COBOL and C.
Norex Cannes, France
Norex were a supplier of computerized solutions to the hotel and hospitality industry. Aimed at displacing the industry standard System 34 solutions they were developing a multi user solution running on TurboDOS.
My role as a contractor with the company was to develop an interface between the telephone system and their proprietary Front Desk system. This was accomplished using Ryan MacFarland COBOL and Z80 assembler for the billing and interfacing portions respectively. All application code was written to be usable on IBM's System/34.
This aim of this start up company was to produce a full featured multi currency, multi company set of business solutions running on micro computers (the initial applications were developed on Xenix and targeted at low end UNIX systems and PC networks). Their target market was the large multi nationals with reporting requirements in different currencies and under various regulatory bodies. Their competition at the time were large mainframe solutions from companies such as MSA, McCormack-Dodge and others.
I initially joined this startup as Development Manager and was responsible for defining methods and standards for the development team. From that basis I then managed the development and release of the first set of multi-currency modules (G/L, P/L & S/L). After these were launched I moved to the sales office as Customer Services Manager to set up the pre and post sales support operations. During this period I was responsible for managing the installation and configuration of many systems worldwide. Normally this work was carried out in conjunction with one of the large auditing firms.
At this time the UNIX market was very fragmented with every hardware manufacturer having their own proprietary version. One of my responsibilities was to work with the European distributors to implement our solution on their UNIX platforms. This exposed me to many different 'interpretations' of UNIX. It also, ultimately, led to Micro Focus requesting my involvement in their beta test programs.
My last task with this company was to work with IBM to implement these systems on IBM's System/36
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Stemmos were agents for the CP/M based SuperBrain Micro Computers and related software products in the U.A.E. As part of the large and diversified Juma Al Majid group their primary role was developing turnkey solutions for member companies of the group.
I was responsible for the design and development of various custom inventory solutions using COBOL and dBase II. As the company also ran an evening school providing training in various computer technologies I also prepared and presented courses in Micro Focus COBOL and Microsoft BASIC.
This was the Irish distributor for Zilog Micro Computers. I joined them before they were established and was responsible for locating office space, sourcing supplies and liaising with Zilog in the UK During this period I mastered Ryan MacFarland COBOL and Zilog BASIC (ZBASIC). The Operating System used was a proprietary system named RIO which was quite advanced for an 8 bit system, but for the 16 but market Zilog moved to ZEUS (Zilog's Enhanced UNIX System). This planted the seed of my interest in UNIX, which interest I have to nourish over the years.
Qualifications & Certifications
Trinity College Dublin