George Koulogiannis: Information Technology is a constant battle with the unknown

George Koulogiannis is an ITIL evangelist, an IoT researcher, and Chief Information Officer at Haymillian, a media localisation and production services provider. Here he tells us about his career in the telecommunications industry and how the fourth industrial revolution is changing the world at an accelerated pace…

 

When did you start working and where?

I started working from an early age during the summers, as a waiter and bartender in a classy restaurant/bar in Greece, where I was born. The money earned helped me to finance my university years. When I graduated in 1993, I started working on the first ISP in Greece (called Hellas on Line back then) as a network administrator.

 

What field did you study?

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from California State University and an M.Sc. in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Essex.

 

Which knowledge gaps did you experience back then?

The early ’90s was an era where IT was becoming pervasive in the telecoms industry. Internet was in its infancy but already established as an important tool for research in universities, and a collaboration tool for the industry. Back then “collaboration” mainly meant emails exchange, and (for the those who remember) chat with tools like ICQ.

Therefore there was a lot to be done in the telecoms industry to embrace the new technologies around the internet, and revamp the existing infrastructure to start offering internet services.

 

How did you fill the gaps you experienced?

Those who work in the IT field know that in order to keep pace with the technology you need spend a good chunk of your personal time reading. Therefore in addition to participating in seminars, training, and vendors’ certifications, investigating into the new fields of technology is a must for any IT professional.

 

What was your first technical challenge?

Back in the ’90s connecting computers into a local area network was mainly done by using a “coaxial” cable. A coaxial cable resembles the TV antenna cable where you have an inner copper cable, insulated by plastic and an outer thin cable mesh, again insulated by the outer plastic cover. This cable was particularly sensitive to outside electromagnetic interference.

While working at Hellas on Line, I was trying to solve a phantom problem where the network would stop working at random intervals (after 6 to 12 hours). After two sleepless nights, too many boxes of pizza, and after having tried almost everything I could think of, I was staring at that cable in sheer despair… and then the root of the problem (and the solution) came to me: when the small fridge we had in the office corner would begin the cooling cycle, the network would stop working! This was because the coaxial cable was running behind the fridge, so once removed from there it never stopped working again. It’s amazing how tiny and seemingly irrelevant things can create chaos!

 

Any other tech anecdote?

Years later in 2014, I’m laying out a strategic project plan to a team of directors, complete with milestones, deadlines, and KPIs. In the middle of my presentation, one of the participants interrupts to ask a question that still resonates in my head: “George why do we need to finish this project by that deadline? There will be nothing else for us to do after that…!”

 

Please tell us a story

In 1999 we had constructed the first Data Centre in Greece. All contingencies for extreme weather conditions had been well analysed and mitigating actions and plans had been documented. During December of that same year, Athens experienced one of the most severe snowstorms of the last century. There was nothing to worry about since the data centre was well equipped for handling weather conditions, so we thought…

That storm knocked down the main power line that fed electricity to half of Athens. For us, this was nothing major to worry about since we had two days’ worth of fuel stored for the diesel generators. However, things turned tough as soon as the power company informed us that they wouldn’t be able to restore power for at least five days!

We ended up having to refuel the generators, but there was no way to reach the site due to the heavy snow. To make matters worse, almost none of the gas stations could provide petrol due to the power cut. We had to assemble an emergency team with Land Rovers who had to travel a distance of more than 50 miles in heavy snow conditions, fill up petrol tanks and then drive to the data centre to keep the generators going. The whole process was run every six hours (day and night) for four days – our customers never faced a minute of downtime.

I had also instructed the shift team to keep a satellite dish (that measure two metres in diameter) clean from snow. So, every half hour they would go out with a broom and clean the dish down. When we managed to reach and relieve them from their duty (that 8 hour shift was actually stranded and they only managed to go back home after 36 hours) I saw something that I could not believe:  for them to reach the satellite dish they had to keep a path clear, which by the time we arrived had 1.5 metres of snow stacked alongside it. Despite all these obstacles, they kept that satellite dish working, which even to this day leaves me in awe – nothing short of a miracle!

 

Information #technology is a constant battle with the unknown, and that makes it even more exciting. #IT Click To Tweet

 

Share your passion for technology

512px-Amstrad_CPC464
Amstrad CPC464. By Bill Bertram [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Computers were my hobby since the age of 14, and I was fortunate enough to be able to work on my hobby. My first real computer was an Amstrad 464 (now a computer history relic) and I loved it. From there on, I knew what I wanted to do in life. Information technology is a constant battle with the unknown, and that makes it even more exciting.

 

 

Share your vision about any tech enhancement, future revolution.

With the 4th industrial revolution and the arrival of the Internet, the world is changing at an accelerated pace.  Twenty years ago we used to advocate that change is the new constant. Today we experience that disruption is the new norm. Disruption on the way we live, think, work and innovate. In the next 20 years, most professions that exist today will disappear due to advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and other technologies. We see major breakthroughs in cleaner forms of energy, in space exploration, in DNA research, in climate prediction, even into the food industry.

In this disrupting environment, the biggest challenge will be the adaptation of our mindsets, beliefs, ethics, and societies to a world that will be radically different from what is today.

 

20 years ago, we used to advocate that change is the new constant. Today we experience that #disruption is the new norm. #technology #IT #telecoms Click To Tweet

What’s your personal motto?

I regret only for the things I did not try.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *