“There are not enough ‘Georges’ in the ICT industry,” says George Coldham’s colleague and mentor, Dr David Cook.
A self-confessed techie through and through, George is a passionate educator, determined to address the ever-growing problem of digital illiteracy- “I feel there is a future where those with technological and human skills will be successful, and those without will be left behind,” he says.
Perhaps this drive comes from being part of a generation who helped reshape the internet, constantly resetting the benchmarks as they went.
“I have been interested in computers since tinkering with a Vic20 (with a tape drive) and I still remember dialling into BBS with my 14.4k baud modem, then dial up internet with 33.6k modem,” says George.
But those tech relics are a far cry from George’s current life- “I’m loving learning about cyber security and how to break and fix things.”
George leads the next generation of talent as ICT Lecturer at the largest ICT Training Organisation in Western Australia: South Metropolitan TAFE.
“I train students in server and network infrastructure, at all TAFE levels. I hope to instil a certain curiosity and high level of professionalism towards their prospective future. I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing my knowledge and seeing my students succeed and grow,” he explains.
His leadership extends well beyond the nine to five zone however, with multiple responsibilities at the Australian Computer Society, including Management Committee (Non-Executive Director); WA Branch Executive Committee Vice Chair; and Diversity & Inclusion Sub-Committee Member, a committee which is tasked with promoting and improving the participation rates of diverse groups in ICT.
He is also on the Board of Directors of FutureNow, which provides a leadership role in promoting training to industry, including partnerships between industry and the training sector.
When looking at the list of George’s ‘extra-curricular’ roles, it’s hard to fathom how he manages to fit it all in. Really George, you have time to game? “I game far too much,” he admits.
While completing a Bachelor of Computer Science, majoring in InterNetworking and Mobile Computing, George took on his first job in the industry at Westnet, in Tech Support. Beginning his career immersed in a role with so much variety, requiring fast problem-solving reflexes, it’s perhaps no surprise that George has become infamous for his problem solving ability.
A former member of his National Institute of Technology (NIT Australia) team, Rita Cheng, says “When posed with problems, George is calm and communicates his solutions excellently. He is also excellent at communicating IT concepts to people with little IT background.”
As all students do, George clearly remembers times when he was not so in control of things.
“I got into trouble when learning how to use telnet – I had no idea what I was doing, but connected to a university in South Africa. They contacted my ISP and they gave me a thorough talking to and I have been on good behaviour for a long time afterwards!”
After graduating, George completed the Telstra Graduate program where he learned a lot about local and interstate phone and data networks.
George has a strong work ethic and tries to instil in his students the responsibility they have as professionals in the ICT industry- “We need to be aware of the level of influence we potentially have as ICT professionals. This is especially true for those in a position of authority, whether individually in our immediate circles, or as part of a team that affects the daily lives of a large portion of the global population,” he says.
George has an infectious enthusiasm for technology, “I love technology. I love shiny new things with bells and whistles, and one day hopefully lasers.”
Artificial intelligence is just one area of the future that George finds especially fun to ponder.
“I look forward to having a more capable personal AI… especially if it can help mark my students work with me. I’m not sure I want a robot in the house, but if it was as good at cleaning as Rosie from the Jetsons, well, I may need to reconsider.”