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Peter Galan: Keeping the lines of communication open

Peter Galan and his colleagues work behind the scenes to make sure the Agency's information-technology infrastructure is always up and running.

picture - Peter Galan

A decision to issue a food recall or close a processing facility is never taken lightly. Such actions can have a significant impact on people and resources so they must be based on absolutely accurate information. All of the facts have to be carefully examined.

For that reason, information-sharing at the CFIA isn't simply a goal, it's a necessity. In fact, the Agency's Values explicitly states that such decisions are based on "an open exchange of information and opinion."

That open exchange depends on modern communication methods being available to all Agency staff. With more than 6,000 employees located in 18 regional offices across the country, the CFIA's IT infrastructure is, not surprisingly, highly complex.

Peter Galan knows that information is the lifeblood of the CFIA, and he is happy to play a role in facilitating its flow. As Head of Infrastructure Support for the Agency's Ontario Area, Peter is responsible for the efficient functioning of the Agency's network hardware within all parts of Ontario except Ottawa. His territory covers an area from Windsor to Cornwall and as far west as Fort Frances near the Manitoba border.

"Desktop systems, laptops, switches, routers, back-up systems, servers-there are a lot of components that make up a modern, national computer network," says Peter. "For a business such as ours, it's essential they all function efficiently."

Every morning, Peter's team checks the system's log files. Generated using sophisticated diagnostic software, the files contain detailed information about the network and any problems or issues that may have occurred overnight.

Depending on what the files show, Peter's team will investigate warnings or alerts, conduct tests or system maintenance. The day's agenda might also include consulting with the staff at the telecommunications group in Ottawa or with their colleagues in other parts of the country.

But a major problem, such as a system crash, requires an immediate response. "When a significant event occurs, such as a problem with a critical business tool such as email, an alert is sent automatically to my Blackberry," says Peter. "Our business depends on technology. The faster we know about a problem, the faster we can take action to address it."

Peter admits he was always interested in technology. "I bought my first computer in 1984. It was a Commodore Vic 20, which was the lower-end version of the Commodore 64," he laughs. "Sometimes, it's hard to believe how far things have progressed."

After graduating with a diploma in computer programming from Humber College in Toronto in 1989, Peter took a job as a junior programmer/analyst with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a position that became part of the CFIA in 1997. Today, he's part of a team of seven.

"I've been really fortunate over the years. The Agency has always challenged me and given me the opportunity to grow and do new things. I've gone from managing computers to managing people.

"The bottom line is, I really love what I do. We have some really top talent working with us. It's very exciting-and always changing.