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Alcoa has been a major Australian exporter and employer for over 40 years. Alcoa's operations in Victoria, Western Australia and NSW form an integrated aluminium industry which produces about 47% of Australia's alumina and 30% of the national aluminium output. These operations include bauxite mines, alumina refineries, aluminium smelters, rolling mills and aluminium recycling facilities - adding value to Australia's resources at every stage of the manufacturing process. With exports of over $3 billion a year, Alcoa makes a significant contribution to Australia's balance of trade and employs around 6200 people, mostly in regional parts of Australia.
What does a role in process computing entail?
As an IT person in a process position I have exposure to a number of different environments from a scada level to a management execution systems level. My role is to retrieve data from the plc’s (Programmable Logic Controllers) and store the discreet data in a SQL Server database via Rockwell software. The continuous data is picked up using Honeywell software and stored in “tags” in the Uniformance database. Once the data is stored, we report on this using various software.
Our main systems are written in VB .net and use Infragistics grids and pro-essentials graphics for trend screens. These systems also allow manual data entry. The engineers use this data to analyse the processes to enable improvements and problem solving. Our customers can write adhoc queries using MS Query. This data can then be analysed using Excel. We also create trends that can be displayed on our intranet via SAS which is a tool used for statistical analysis.
Important skills for IT graduates
Technical skills are not the only skills required to become a good computing resource. Communication skills are essential to interpret what the customer requires and the ability to relate what is requested to the final solution. It is important to use techniques such as paraphrasing to make sure that you know what the customer wants rather than guessing and having to rework the solution because it wasn’t right the first time.
Other required skills are listening and negotiating. These become particularly important when encountering difficult customers. The ability to be able to confidently back your decisions when encountering these people will help win the respect of the most critical person.
Tips on getting the job
When applying for a job in IT, research the role as far as possible. This will enable you to formulate questions to ask in the interview.
Approach companies to try to get some work experience and if there is any vacation work on offer, take the opportunity.
We have had a number of our vacation students become full time employees because they did vacation work and showed a good work ethic. Part of the challenge is to get a foot in the door. Once you have done this, your chances of becoming employed improve substantially.
For information on Alcoa's graduate and vacation programs, visit the Alcoa Website.