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Finding variety and challenge at scale: Why Nik chooses Port Authority of New South Wales.

Nik Power has built an incredible IT career at Port Authority of New South Wales. Starting as a member of our IT Support Desk, he’s now Manager of Process and Application Support. Reporting directly to our CIO, Nik is responsible for three teams, working across the breadth of organisational activities. Nik has invested long-term in Port Authority - read on to find out why!

Challenges across a realm of projects

When Nik Power, a young man from Sydney’s North Shore, first stepped into our Sydney Harbour offices, it was 1994. Nik was in the early years of his IT career and ready to start a six-month contract position with us. Fast forward to today, and we’re pleased to say Nik’s become one of our longest-serving and most highly valued team members!

Professionals in the IT industry tend to move organisations reasonably frequently. So, we asked Nik why he chose to build an illustrious and long-term career with Port Authority.

Initially, Nik stayed for a simple reason.

“I just liked the people!” He laughs. 

“And I liked the role. The people seemed to like me, too, and after six months, they offered me a permanent position.”

But beyond a trusted team, what’s kept Nik growing with Port Authority all these years is the variety and challenge - not to mention the opportunity to work in an industry he finds fascinating.

“I’d never considered what Port Authority did before I started here. It was a real eye-opener. I thought, OK, this is important for the economy and trade. I could see the cargo coming in and going out via vessels and understood we’re part of the supply chain that makes it possible. That made it tangible and interesting to me. I like economics and understanding how the system works, so what Port Authority does really resonated with me.”

Nik has also felt continually challenged in new ways at Port Authority. Throughout his career with us, he’s had the opportunity to explore many aspects of IT, working across various departments and countless projects. From starting in a service delivery role to managing our infrastructure team to bringing virtualisation to the organisation and developing cutting-edge in-house software, Nik’s list of achievements at Port Authority goes on and on!

“I’ve been able to implement lots of good stuff here. I’ve had good managers who I can bring ideas to, and they’ve given me the bandwidth to learn and implement new tech, making it a reality. The challenging work is really what’s kept me here. We are a relatively small team in IT, and we have a very broad scope. So, if you’re up for it, you can have an expansive view of the technology stack and work widely across it here.”

Building for the future

IT didn’t exist as a field of study when Nik was growing up. His passion for music led him to complete a Diploma in Audio Engineering, but he quickly discovered music production wasn’t what he wanted to do. This was the mid-1980s, and in search of a new career direction, Nik found himself working in insurance. By sheer happenstance, this role set him on the path to a career in IT.

“My insurance department was given one computer, essentially to work out if it was useful for anything. My manager said, ‘Hey Nik, you’re young, you probably understand this stuff, do you want to give it a go?’ And that’s where I got my start in IT! I began by creating some very basic programs. I didn’t realise at the time that it would become my career, but IT just came easy to me,” Nik laughs. 

When Nik joined us in 1994, like most Australian organisations at the time, we didn’t have the internet or email. Nik proved key in helping us evolve to face the challenges of a digital future. In his early years with us, Nik rolled out email across our organisation and was instrumental in building our first web-based port management system.

Today, Nik continues to play a vital role in helping our organisation deliver cutting-edge IT projects. These projects receive a valuable boost thanks to our deliberate decision to include staff on the IT team with no IT experience.

“We’ve intentionally recruited people into IT who come from operations at Port Authority. Understanding what it’s like to be at the coal face of marine operations is hugely valuable to us. It helps us understand processes. So, if you’ve got that operational experience and an interest in technology, we can teach you the IT!”

A place where you can feel purpose

When Nik joined Port Authority, he realised for the first time he’d found a role where he could appreciate the organisation’s purpose and the important role he played in fulfilling it.

“Port Authority was such a different environment, coming from insurance - it seemed more tangible and real. Half the day, you’re working with people in overalls and boots. You can get out on the water and see how the operations teams performed. You can literally see what the organisation is doing.”

For Nik, connecting what he did in IT with its wider impact on the organisation created a sense of purpose and agency. And today as a manager, he encourages his team to experience the port widely, so they can appreciate how the decisions they make in IT directly affect our operations team.

“We strongly encourage our IT staff to gain a deep understanding of what our operations teams do and, indeed, what all our teams do. One of the guys in my team has completed pilot ladder climbing training. So, he’ll go out onto the vessels with the pilots, and get firsthand experience of how they’re using the tech in their jobs. We must know these kinds of things for our roles. Here, we get to be more than IT people, because we need to understand what our business is doing.”