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CIO Spotlight: The best of home

Tom Paye | Sept. 26, 2013
Using the high-octane approach to IT found in his hometown of Manila, the University of Wollongong in Dubai’s Joseph Aninias has emerged to become one of the most respected IT heads in the UAE.

Aninias's job revolved around looking after technological logistics. The company had offices in both Jebel Ali Free Zone and Deira, and it was up to Aninias to connect the two offices as best he could. Obviously, this proved difficult — online connectivity was only at the dial-up level, and the only way to get between both offices was to take the long drive down a much smaller Sheikh Zayed Road. Back in those days, if Dubai Marina had existed, it would have been seriously out of the way.

However, after almost three years, when Aninias had succeeded in linking the two sites, he came to find the position a little boring. He resolved to re-start his career as a fully fledged IT manager, and thought it best to get going quickly. And that's when he stumbled across a job advertisement at UOWD.

"At first, I wondered what I'd do at a university — a university has pretty much got an established infrastructure," he says. "But I thought I'd give it a go. When I was interviewed, I met one of the professors and the IT manager. They asked me all of this technical stuff, and the interview went for about two hours.

"So I asked them, 'What is the problem here that you'd like to solve? What do you want to fix?' Then they ran through all the issues they were facing — the dial-up, the host network, the infrastructure, the emails, the website, and all that. And so I went to the whiteboard, and showed them a diagram of how we were going to fix it. I think they liked that, so they gave me the job as a network engineer."

At the time, UOWD only catered to around 200 to 300 students, so the IT team was simply composed of Aninias and the IT manager. However, this was perfectly manageable, and the pair found that they didn't need anyone else. Aninias would handle the support side of things, while the IT manager would write the policies. However, soon after Aninias joined, things would move along much more quickly than he had anticipated.

"After my first year, there was a plan to move to Knowledge Village, because the growth became exponential. We were going from 200 students to 500 to 1,500 and so on. We had a feeling that it was unstoppable because the economy was really growing. Around about that time, I felt we needed a technical support person."

What's more, Aninias felt that the service level agreements that the university had with its vendors were not up to scratch. He advised the team that they needed to get rid of their vendors and draw up new service level agreements from scratch. "We were paying all this money but they weren't coming here," he recalls.


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