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"Why Am I The Only Woman At This Table?"

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Interview

In The Trenches

"Why Am I The Only Woman At This Table?"

by Schoun P. Regan

For this month's installment of Schoun Regan's new monthly column, "In The Trenches", Schoun took some time out of his busy schedule at this year's WWDC to have a chat with Andrina Kelly, a Senior IT staff member at C.O.R.E Feature Animation in Toronto. We're sure you'll enjoy their discussion!

Schoun Regan: How long have you been working with Macs?

Andrina Kelly: Since my first 512k when I was very young.

SR: Does your networking background comes from those early years too?

AK: No, I was working in the UK at a classical CD production company full of Macs and someone had to take on the responsibility and that was me.

SR: Do you think a lot of people start that way?

AK: Probably. I think there are a lot of self taught learners who came on the same way.

SR: Did you pick up your programming at the same time?

AK: Probably over the past two years. It's something I always avoided because it was something my mother did it. It's something I should have taken more seriously when I was younger.

SR: Do you allow scripts to interoperate between each other?

AK: Our rendering department needed a pop up messaging system so they could alert the floor when there were issues or they needed them to know something quickly. All of our rendering pods use LINUX, so the best way for them was to send out a shell script but that also incorporated into an AppleScript on the user machines so it would pop up a message. I don't know of any commercial product that would have covered it, because this covers both LINUX and Mac OS X.

SR: So CORE benefits from this. Tell me more about CORE.

AK: CORE is quite a diverse company. Recently they worked with a San Francisco company and put together a proposal for Disney to put out a feature animation film. We've been working on it for about 2 _ -3 years now and it is just coming up to completion and should be released in April 2006 called The Wild.

SR: Your role at CORE is?

AK: I'm one of the System Administrators with main focus on the Macs.

SR: What's your biggest day-to-day struggle? Your biggest headache?

AK: Interoperability. Allowing someone who's used to working on LINUX, used to working in a terminal environment, going over to a Mac, opening up the Terminal and going, "I'm going to go into this directory and open up this file" and having it work exactly the same for them.

SR: That said, how easy did the LINUX users take to the Mac?

AK: From what I've heard, they LOVE it! (Laughs) I can name several people that I've been working with in the last couple of years who've gone out and got a Mac.

SR: If you could take one thing from the LINUX environment and move it over to Mac OS X to convert those die hards, what would that one thing be?

AK: (Silence.....laughter and a long pause) I think the X windows to Finder transition is a little awkward for some people.

SR: It is easy being female in a male dominated industry?

AK: I was just talking about this with one of my colleagues today. It's a question I love to ask whenever I'm in a large environment of men, "Why am I the only woman at this table?" I find that women are a lot more patient and a lot more programmatic about things. I know for troubleshooting especially the number of women I've seen troubleshooting tend get to the answer a lot quicker than men. I find men get frustrated more quickly.

SR: Any advice?

AK: Don't get discouraged and don't be put off.

SR: Your OS X Servers, specifically render farms?

AK: Web Services, LDAP Masters and Replicas, My SQL, PHP, and failover setup All authentication is done with the OS X servers.

SR: Using Kerberos?

AK: Not at the moment. The infrastructure is all there though.

SR: How do the Xserve RAIDs perform?

AK: I have not had a failed drive in over two years. I couldn't be more pleased with the hardware from Apple. We had the first G5 cluster nodes in Canada. Since we've turned them on, I have not had a hardware failure.

SR: Being in the center of the IT industry in Canada in Toronto, what trends do you see?

AK: Anything media based is going to be strongly Mac. I've recently seen a few places like lawyers offices and psychiatry offices using Macs, which is nice to see and it shows a lot of faith that there's going to be a lot more progression towards the Mac. And in these smaller offices they don't have a full time tech staff and the fact that they can manage their own systems and their own server I bodes well for Apple I think.

SR: I have a couple sentences that I want you to finish, ready?

AK: Ready.

SR: I wish Mac OS X Server had...

AK: A better interaction between the configuration files and the GUI. I'd really love to see it's configuration file and what the GUI is changing and where the file is located.

SR: So almost if you had Server Admin open that had a drawer, would show you the configuration file and path, and highlight the section of the configuration file when you would make adjustments in the GUI. This of course for most services to start.

AK: Right.

SR: I wish Mac OS X had...

AK: Hmmmm. I find that moving between networks and environments is not as seamless as I'd like it to be. A better awareness of its location. Something like Location Manager. NFS performance is something else that I am crying out for. The performance from NFS is-I'd love to see it so much better than it is. A straight copy is so significantly slower on OS X than on other platforms.

AK: Last question. And you will be starting our database here as I this is a question that I will ask all our guests in the future, what are your top five favorite movies? Movies that you could watch over and over and over again. No order is necessary, just the top five.

AK: (Laughs) ok, let me think....(long pause)...they would be: The Red Violin, The English Patient, Sideways, The Italian Job (1969 version), The Wild (Released April 2006!).

SR: Andrina, thanks very much for speaking with me today.

AK: Thank you.

Vital Stats

Years in IT industry : 5

Place of Employment: C.O.R.E. Feature Animation/C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures 450-500 people. Toronto, Canada

Computers: Approximately 1 per user. 1/3 Macs 2/3 LINUX 500 Blade Dual Processor IBM Render Farm 32 Dual 2G Xserve Cluster nodes for Shake rendering and Final Cut Pro rendering BlueArc, NetApp appliances, and Xserve RAIDs totaling about 100TB.

Main Applications: Houdini, Final Cut Pro, Shake

Programming Languages: Shell Scripting, AppleScript, PYTHON


Schoun P. Regan is CEO of ITInstruction.com, which specializes in Mac OS X training and consulting. He speaks regularly to CEOs and CFOs on how to control IT department spending, the myths surrounding cross-platform integration, and the lunacy of expected lost revenue stemming from a culture bred to tolerate IT staff and operating system inadequacies as "normal". He seeks to change self-fulfilling IT departments that breed complacency for their jobs and contempt for the end user, neither of which are conducive to business.

 
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