IT Engineer helps build the backbone of NSS service

Northern Stevedoring Services Systems Engineer Michael McDonald probably doesn’t know it, but he runs contrary to one of New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Ministers.

Michael and is family emigrated across the ditch to Townsville in 1999.

Former Prime Minister Robert David ‘Piggy’ Muldoon’s (1985-1984) once quipped that New Zealanders emigrating to Australia improves the IQ of both countries.

They’d be lucky to have him back in New Zealand thanks Mr Muldoon.

Michael’s a quiet achiever who goes about his job with great application and not a lot of fuss.

When things are going well, thank Michael. When we say ‘things’ we mean almost everything.

This includes your computers, printers, security, scheduling, anything with sensors, communications and a whole lot besides.   

Michael gave us five minutes for a Q and A.

What’s day-to-day work involve for you?

My day-to-day work consists of running all the IT infrastructure for the company, which includes, computers, internet, CCTV cameras and physical security systems.  Additionally, I also manage system and network security, provide end user support and liaise with our many IT vendors.

How complicated is it?

There’s a lot of moving parts and things have to be done in a particular order to ensure they work the right way. As far as most businesses go, we’ve got some pretty cool (IT infrastructure) gear, but obviously the stakes are quite high if it goes down.

NSS is dealing with a lot of international customers or clients. How difficult or interesting is that?

It’s definitely something that presents unique challenges. Some of their systems actually talk to our systems, plus sometimes you also have language barrier issues that make it difficult to get things resolved quickly. Often, you’re dealing with archaic integrations and often when they change stuff without notifying us, that can make for some interesting challenges.

Can you give one example?

Sure, so in particular we use these things called EDI messages, which stand for electronic data interchange.  

These are a pre-formatted message that basically has a number of parameters, such as weights of a container, who the customer is, whether it’s cleared customs, whether it’s empty or full or whatever the case is.

Over the years I’ve found that none of the shipping lines are the same and each of them have varying requirements, such as they might require a gate-out movement to form a particular sequence. 

It can become a challenge when you’re dealing with all those moving parts.

In terms of professional development, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A greater part of my work is taking on more of a cybersecurity role. The situation, obviously from a global point of view with businesses, is changing quite rapidly and certainly we often get external attacks against our Infrastructure.  

Currently I’m doing a Certificate 4 in cybersecurity which is a massive course. It’s about 800 hours, but will give me the tools to be better prepared for the future.

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