Over the last three decades, IT technician Alison Ward has remained a constant in the changing technology landscape at Sacred Heart College.
What originally started as a 10-hour a week science technician job has come to an end for Mrs Ward who retired last week after 29-years.
Having trained as a maths teacher and with a science background, she never envisaged she would be in the role she has been, even though she has always been interested in computers.
“The field didn’t exist back then,” she says. “But I love it and I love learning new things all the time and it is always new – nothing stands still.”
It is her love for learning and people, specifically at SHC, which has kept her for so long.
“It’s just such a nice place to be, people don’t like to leave.”
Originally from Scotland, Alison immigrated to Sydney, Australia as a child, where she eventually trained to become a teacher, met her Kiwi husband and then moved to Napier in 1975.
She became a maths teacher at Napier Girls’ High School that year but a move back to Australia for 15months saw her give up teaching and pick up a job in a science lab at a University.
In February 1991 Mrs Ward started at SHC before the growing computer network meant they split her role and she focused solely on IT from 2004.
“There was nothing at all so gradually we did get computers and once we did start to get a computer network in the school they needed somebody to look after it,” she said.
“My job in IT just kept expanding and expanding.” At that point, they had dial-up modems and the internet “wasn’t really” used.
A big renovation of the Ross Block saw it become the centre of the network with all the servers.
It has changed “so much overtime,” she says, as she deals “less and less” with software and hardware because it is set up in the cloud now.
The IT rooms that were once lined with computers have now made way for students to bring their own devices.
“I don’t have to install software anymore as I used to. It’s more troubleshooting, if something is not working, that’s really what I do.”
Mrs Ward says it is all “self-taught” and if she can’t solve the problem, she gets IT support who are contracted to the school to deal with the problem.
She and her husband, a consultant winemaker, had been thinking about when they were going to retire for some time, but the Covid-19 lockdown made them decide to “just do it”.
While her last day was Friday, her husband will retire at the end of the year.
“I kept telling them every year when we would have our little meetings and appraisals; you’ve got to tell me when I’m losing it’ because you can stay on in a job too long and you’re not actually doing the job as well as you should but it’s hard to tell people that.”
They have no specific plans in place but would like to travel “a bit more” when able to do so.
With two daughters in Wellington and a son in Auckland, and grandchildren in both places, they plan to visit them more often.
Mrs Ward says she will look back on her time at Sacred Heart College with “fond memories” and has lifelong friends as a result.
“I have loved almost every minute of it. I mean we’ve had stressful times – whenever somebody rings up and says there is no network, it’s very stressful as you're rushing around trying to find out what’s wrong, but on the whole, it’s been great.”
Principal Maria Neville-Foster thanked Mrs Ward for her decades of service and said she would be missed.
“Technology is vital in a modern-day school and Alison has been pivotal in keeping our systems going.
“Alison has been a joy to work with, a constant calm in any storm, a wonderful friend and it has been an honour to have had her for so long. I wish her and Evan a very happy and peaceful retirement and many wonderful days enjoying their grandchildren."