Hactl’s IT medics

If Hactl’s SuperTerminal 1 is a giant, then the blood that flows around its huge body is the information flows that sustain its life and make possible all its bodily movements. Today, in this era of globalisation, “information” is the key word.

In a cargo terminal that facilitates seamless connections with the entire world, the outward evidence of life is not a pulse, but the myriad flashing green lights inside the server room. Each one might signal an email exchange between administrative staff and a customer on the other side of the world; or the transmission of information about a consignment of fresh seafood that has just arrived the terminal, and the real-time update of its cargo handling status; or it might even indicate an enquiry into the attendance records of a member of staff. In addition, every second of every day, massive volumes of messages are sent within the cargo terminal, pinpointing the position of individual shipments or entire containers, and coordinating the machines and people who move and handle them.

All of these functions rely on a group of IT (Information Technology) talents who can solve problems quickly, and who are good at communicating, designing and creating. In this issue of Hactlink, we invite three members of the Information Services (IS) Department — Senior IT Analysts Wong Yat Sing (Sing) and Tung Hoi Ching (Cherry), and IT Analyst Hung Wai Chun (Terry) — to unveil the daily work of their teams as they care take the systems that keep Hactl’s giant heart beating.

Terry Hung
IT Analyst

We have to coordinate closely with various IS teams, including the Solutions Development Team, to complete the checking in the safest and quickest possible way.

The Problem Solvers

Cherry and Sing belong to the Solutions Development Team of the IS Department, while Terry works in the IT Operations Team. They all understand that these titles are potentially confusing, so Terry provides clarification: “Imagine that you need to research and make a presentation with a computer. You need stable hardware, such as a computer which can access the Internet, and the work space should have good network infrastructure that can send and receive Wi-Fi signals. This hardware and its support facilities are managed by the IT Operations Team.

“At the same time, to draft the presentation, you must install software such as Chrome and PowerPoint to research information and then design the presentation. These operations, involving software development and daily support, belong to the Solutions Development Team — that is, where Cherry and Sing work.”

Talking about his own area of IT Operations, Terry continues: “We conduct regular inspections of the most important hardware in the entire network of the terminal — the Core Switch. As the terminal network is on a very large scale, the task is much more challenging than it would be in a smaller organisation. We have to coordinate closely with various IS teams, including the Solutions Development Team, to complete the checking in the safest and quickest possible way. This experience has really opened my eyes!”

The most important duty of these IT professionals is to closely monitor all software and hardware every day, to anticipate potential crises and to strike first, so maintaining the smooth operation of the cargo terminal. If they are performing as they should, colleagues in other departments will continue to work as usual, blissfully unaware that there has been any problem.

Sing Wong
Senior IT Analyst

If the application certification expires, it would cease operating and the work of other colleagues would come to a standstill.

Evasive action

On one occasion, Sing and his teammates were preparing to update an application for the terminal. Performing a final test before the update, they unexpectedly discovered a problem: the certification for the application was going to expire within 4 days: and it must have valid certification at all times or it would cease to operate.

In some businesses, that wouldn’t be too big a problem. But at mission-critical Hactl, nothing must be allowed to delay the taking off and landing of aircraft. The inter-departmental collaboration is so complicated that even a momentary pause in information transmission could cause chaos. For example, operational staff are totally reliant on the “COSAC-eLoading” mobile app, which constantly updates the aircraft “Load Plan” in real time, providing them with a “map” of where each ULD or pallet is to be positioned on the aircraft – taking into account vital factors such as the nature of the cargo, and its effect on weight and balance. The front-line team also needs to relay updates of loading progress, and check that all manifested cargo has been loaded. “If the application certification expires, it would cease operating and the work of other colleagues would come to a standstill,” explains Sing.

Fortunately, the problem was discovered in time, and Sing and his teammates immediately contacted their IS colleagues, and everyone sprang into action to update the certification. Terry and Cherry both nod their heads and agree that it was a profound experience for the entire department. “After that, we reviewed the entire application certification process very carefully, to ensure the same situation could never repeat itself.” Sing adds.

Cherry Tung
Senior IT Analyst

Before dealing with the technical issues and writing a programme, we first had to understand the rules and concept of roster scheduling.

It’s good to talk

Of course, Cherry and Sing’s work is not confined to technical stuff: communication and innovation are equally important. Cherry is responsible for handling software-related matters for numerous departments: “We frequently meet with colleagues from other departments to understand their needs, workflows and any shortcomings of the existing systems, so we can design suitable application solutions. Throughout the whole process, you have to communicate with colleagues from various departments to ensure the software you design really meets their needs. For example, we developed an electronic system for the Service Delivery Department that schedules staff daily rosters. Before dealing with the technical issues and writing a programme, we first had to understand the rules and concept of roster scheduling. It’s an interesting process that allows me to explore the operation of other departments.”

Another life after work

Our three IS workers all agree that there’s more to Hactl than just professional satisfaction during work hours. For them, Hactl is a company that provides a wide variety of rewarding social and other activities after the day’s work is done.

Take Cherry as an example: beyond her day job, she has another role — as Jardine Ambassador. That has allowed her to represent Hactl in preparations for large-scale charity events such as Walk Up Jardine House and CENTRAL Rat Race — working alongside colleagues from other Jardine group companies. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues from different areas of the group, as well as others I would not normally get to know: such as students, people with mental illness and those in recovery. For me, that’s extremely meaningful. And my boss and colleagues have been very supportive!” She points at Sing sitting next to her and adds: “He has also represented the company many times in the “Walk Up Jardine House” event, and the results were very impressive!” Sing is well known for his sporting ability, and modestly responds: “Well, running up stairs is so easy!”

Terry, too, is an active member of the company outside working hours: “Two years ago, I participated in the short film competition during ‘Green Week’, to promote environmental protection. In taking part, I realised that many of my colleagues have hidden talents: some are great screenwriters, while others are expert in film editing. In that competition, Sing was also a screenwriter and actor in the short film.” Sing simply smiles and responds in typically self-effacing manner: “People are just being polite. It's nothing big.” The three of them continue to tease each other, and the room is filled with laughter.

These three enthusiastic young IT professionals, each with their own unique talent, have discovered that they can work hard and play hard at Hactl. So, if you thought the “IT guys” in Hactl are always the ones with thick glasses, who are no good at socialising and just sit at computers all day writing programmes — it's time to change your ideas!