This month we spoke with Thomas Harris-Howson, Senior Information Technology Officer at Adelaide Plains Council, about his role, professional development and what's next for him.
How long have you been in local government and what is your role?
I have had the joy of working in Information Technology in local government for just about 8 years, having worked in roles at both Light Regional Council, as a Support Officer (yes, I was one of the people asking if you had “turned your computer on and off again”) in 2015, and working my way up into my current role as Senior Information Technology Officer at the Adelaide Plains Council since 2017.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I would say that the statement “My day is never always the same” is very true for not only myself but many IT Professionals in local government.
However, it can involve evaluating council’s strategic goals and developing the IT related strategic/operational plans to align with these goals. I then work and consult with my staff to ensure we are all working towards the deliverables and outcomes set out in the plans including providing guidance and direction to them where they are unsure or needing assistance.
The council has lots of IT related projects that are running at the same time, it is my responsibility to ensure solutions implemented are compatible with council’s business systems. I work with vendors to manage these projects ensuring that plans are followed and that changes are handled appropriately with training and consultation.
I am also responsible for overseeing council’s technology assets including upkeep, vendor support and renewal. Finally, with the prominence of cyber security globally I work to review and ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of council’s intellectual property, staff and ratepayer data.
You are currently participating in the LG Professionals SA Ignite Program, can you share some reflections from your experience so far?
The program has been really enjoyable, I have found the content very beneficial in expanding my experience in dealing with the challenges we face as managers on a daily basis. My favourite units so far have been “Applying Communication Strategies in the workplace” and “Building and Maintaining Business Relationships”.
The other advantage of undertaking the program has been the networking I’ve developed from working with different members from other South Australian councils and the sharing of ideas and knowledge that has occurred from doing so.
What would be your advice to others thinking of participating in the Ignite Program?
The Ignite Program not only provides skills that can be used on your leadership journey (no matter if you have just stepped up into a leadership role or have been working in a role for some time) but also in your personal life.
It can also be a really rewarding program and a fantastic qualification to have on your resume that requires just over 12 months of study / commitment to complete.
What’s next for you in your professional development journey?
Having recently completed a Bachelor of Information Technology with University of South Australia and Micro-certifications in Cyber Risk and Strategy with RMIT, I plan on taking a much-needed break following the Ignite Program and obtaining a Certificate IV in Leadership and Management (by the way – a great thing to have on your resume!)
However, I do not plan to rest on my laurels for too long, instead I am going to use this time away from study to focus on my personal and mental health, which is also an important part of professional development and wellbeing. Taking stock of what you have achieved and what challenges are forecasted in your future professionally allows preparation for the next wave of learning that I want to take on.
The joy that I have found in Leadership, Information Technology and Cyber Security is that it is a constantly changing environment that we are living in (who would have thought ChatGPT would have blown up as it has a few years ago).
From this, new ways are constantly being introduced to help workers move council’s towards a better outcome both for the community, staff and (I had to say it) the environment and technology we embrace in our lives.
Are you working on any exciting projects you’d like to share?
Adelaide Plains Council, like many South Australian council’s, are working towards uplifting its Cyber Security posture following the recent release of the Local Government Information Technology of South Australia’s (LGITSA’s) Cyber Security Framework and Toolkit. Ensuring we are aware of the valuable assets the organisation has, the threats associated with them and things we can put in place to protect them.
We have also been working towards a new architecture for some of our systems (managed externally) which will result in greater control for council’s IT staff and allow us to forge a new direction for the organisation this is providing my team with enthusiasm for the coming years of what we might be able to do. Watch this space.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I adore spending time with my family including my wonderful wife, just under 2-year-old daughter and dog (Australian Shepherd x Poodle) including playing together and exploring this great city. Seeing things from my daughter’s perspective is a great grounding moment for me and helps me focus on what is important to me.
When I am not doing this, I like to research new technologies including testing things in my Home Lab. Finally, I also have passions of participating as a Motorsport Official, including in a few major state and international events (e.g., Formula One Singapore Grand Prix and Supercars Australia Adelaide 500) and when all else fails I love cheering on Port Adelaide in the AFL and SANFL.