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Administrator Farmer

Kevin Smith doesn't need to go hog wild to find parallels between IT and farming.


Photo by Dean Riggott

Kevin Smith has seen it all. The need to increase efficiency to keep the profits coming. The centralization. The specialization. The hot shots who champion new ways of doing things, and the unforeseen problems that often result when their innovations are implemented.

 

Smith is an IT veteran. But many of the trends he's seen in the technology world he's also seen in his other job: hog farming.

Managing a computer network and raising dozens of pigs from birth to market have their similarities. You may be weighing the mental images of swine at a trough with office folk stampeding for the morning donut delivery, but Smith ticks off some serious parallels. He notes that hog prices have remained virtually unchanged since he began farming in the early 1980s. Flat. Sound a bit like your stagnant IT budget?

"You're constantly watching for little problems," Smith adds. "If you don't take care of things right away, you're going to have a disease or something that causes a loss of profit or possibly a loss of the animal - it's almost like a virus. Every group of animals that we bring in brings in another set of problems, almost like a different application on the computer side."

For nearly a decade, Smith has ping-ponged 20-some miles between his farm and his employer in town - Rochester, Minn.-based Textile Care Services, which provides laundry services for hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other healthcare facilities.

As a technology administrator, Smith supports user PCs and display terminals, Windows* and Novell networks - even the copiers that are used for scanning documents into the local network. "I'm a traditional jack of all trades, master of none," he says.

Making Smith's life easier is a certain computer system we all know and love - an AS/400* model 170 that the company purchased before Y2K. Smith, whose previous technology experience was in software and PC sales and services, had never seen an AS/400 box before joining Textile Care Services in 1998. But he was quickly trained to be the primary day-to-day user of the system, to issue queries and run jobs and special backups.

Like others who've received an on-the-job introduction to the platform, Smith was impressed. He soon realized that the system and the unique, industry-specific applications that ran on it were indispensable to the company. And the new owners who purchased the operation some years ago, after initially advocating for a Windows technology-dominant network, eventually reached the same conclusion.

 

Neil Tardy is a contributing writer to IBM Systems Magazine. Neil can be reached at ntardy@msptechmedia.com.


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Administrator Farmer

Kevin Smith doesn't need to go hog wild to find parallels between IT and farming.

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