Upbeat Chenery wins personality award

The Computer Weekly/First Option IT Personality of 2003 goes to a marine lab IT manager.

The Computer Weekly/First Option IT Personality of 2003 goes to a marine lab IT manager.

Sandra Chenery, IT manager at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, is the Computer Weekly/First Option IT Personality of the Year for 2003.

Chosen from a list of more than 60 nominations, Chenery has been selected because of her upbeat and practical approach to issues that many IT departments have struggled with in recent times. In many ways she personifies an industry that has come through the hard times and is determined to demonstrate its value.

Chenery has worked at PML, a centre for coastal and marine research, since 1977 and took over as IT manager last year. Joy at her promotion was tempered by a round of redundancies which meant the number of staff within the IT department has more than halved in the past five years.

She now has only three full-time members of staff who are supplemented by students who work at the department after their degree course.

Of the redundancies, she said, "At first, we found ourselves trying to carry out all the services as before, behaving as if we were covering for staff on leave or off sick. But eventually we were forced to make very hard decisions about which areas had to be discontinued. We no longer had the resources available.

"Once we had altered our expectations of what the new reduced team could achieve, we were able to look positively at areas we could change in order to make life easier.

"This meant the future became exciting again as we introduced new technology and software to enable streamlining and automation to make the most of the available resources within the group."

Kerry Hoskins, PC network manager at PML and the man who nominated Chenery for the award, said that despite these dark times she managed to remain cheery and "has kept the department sane and in good spirits".

Visiting the PML offices on the seafront at Plymouth Hoe, you are struck by the camaraderie that exists among her team and the pride they take in their work.

In spite of the hits her department has taken of late, Chenery has ensured that the rest of the organisation is made aware of all the good work being done by IT.

"The role of IT and our own support group can easily be overlooked as I am sure it is in other, similar organisations. Unless something goes wrong, the services we provide are frequently forgotten," she said.

"We are constantly looking at ways to improve our perceived role within the organisation and have begun a huge educational task."

Chenery has overseen the production of guides for 170 users on how to use the new services. She has also conducted several presentations on the benefits of e-science to explain how it can help with the massive data management issues faced by her team.

On the issue of women in IT Chenery said it can be hard work, but that the profession encompasses so many areas there "should be something to suit everyone".

"Not everyone wants to be a high-flyer, most just want basic recognition. From my experience, women are just as capable as men to committing 100% to a job."

She said because PML is a "pseudo-civil service environment", equal opportunities is ingrained in the organisation and there is help towards childcare costs for staff with pre-school children.

However, at her interview for a junior programmer post in 1977, she can still remember being asked how long she intended to stay at work before leaving to have a family, simply because she was wearing an engagement ring.

Today, Chenery not only manages the IT department but promotes the work done by PML through visits to local schools.

"I feel that it is important to encourage children to view science and engineering as exciting when they are at a young age. I have also put forward the needs of working at infant and junior school-level to PML.

"While my work here is not directly related to IT, it has raised my profile in the organisation and has shown that IT people can contribute to the whole firm on different levels."

Our winning IT personality receives a break in Barcelona    

Sandra Chenery wins a trip for two to Barcelona including two nights in a four-star Best Western hotel. The prize has been donated by First Option, one of the largest hotel, conference and event booking agents in the UK. 

The company offers clients a range of accommodation from the lower-priced budget and independently owned hotels, to hotel group properties across the globe. It guarantees to offer accommodation at competitive rates for large and small organisations.  

Alternatively, the conference and events division can source venues for meetings ranging from a couple of colleagues to company conferences involving thousands of delegates.  

To find out more and receive a free corporate health check on your hotel and conference spend, send an e-mail with "Health Check" in the subject line to [email protected]. co.uk or visit  www.first-option.co.uk

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